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I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Relegating extremists to the fringes

One theme that has emerged among a very specific strain of embittered Bush followers -- exemplified by the likes of Marty Peretz, John Hinderaker, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Althouse and Glenn Reynolds -- is that Al Qaeda and America's other enemies, such as Iran, are celebrating the results of the midterm elections because Democrats are their allies.

To make this claim, they cite a series of playground taunts from Al Qaeda leaders in Iraq and various Iranian political officials mocking President Bush because his party was rejected by Americans in the election and because he lost Donald Rumsfeld. Taking these taunts with the utmost seriousness, these Bush followers claim this to be proof that Democrats are the allies of the Terrorists and/or demand that Democrats take immediate action in response in order to prove that this is not the case.

Ann Althouse asks: "What will the Democrats do to push back against that?" Marty Peretz echoes her "thought":

And Friday, according to an article by John Hemming from Reuters, Khameini that the defeat of the Republicans on Tuesday was a victory for Iran. Let's hope that the Democrats don't make it so.

One way to prevent this from seeming to be objectively true would be to have Nancy Pelosi end her ugly and personal vendetta against Jane Harman as the chair of the House Intelligene (sic) Committee. But, let's face it, it will take more than that. Much more.

John Hinderaker has a whole post with one declaration after the next like these:

I don't think there is any doubt about the fact that the terrorists, world-wide, were hoping for a Democratic victory. . . . And the spike in violence in Iraq prior to the election was generally understood as an effort by the terrorists to help Democratic candidates. . . .

Do the Democrats feel at all sheepish at having their victory hailed by al Qaeda? Do they feel any pressure to demonstrate to the American people that they are not a de facto ally of the terrorists? Not as far as we've noticed so far.

But when the Democrats stop celebrating, they may want to pause long enough to consider a simple question: Why are the terrorists so happy that they won? . . . . . Strategy Page has a closely related analysis; read it all:

Now, the stage is set for al Qaeda to win a major victory. It was a simple matter of getting the American media to ignore the battlefield victories while accentuating al Qaeda's attacks. What could not be accomplished on the battlefield – an American retreat from Iraq – was instead achieved in American newsrooms.

I think that's right. And the Democratic Party, to the extent that it exists independendly (sic) of the mainstream media, has been an accessory at every step of the process.

There is no point in bothering to refute any of this because it is so vile and just plain stupid that it is self-refuting. This was the rhetoric upon which they and their Leader increasingly relied as the inevitability of their loss became clearer, and the more they spew this sort of trash, the better it will be for the country, because with it, they so transparently reveal what they really are.

I note all of this not in order to respond to these "arguments" but instead to note the response to it all from Ed Morrissey, who said this:

It's the kind of stupid rant that makes radical Islamists and their sympathizers swoon with delight, but is filled with hyperbole and crude attempts at psychological warfare and propaganda. They try to play into the mood of their enemies, and they demonstrate their ability to monitor news feeds in their attempts to provoke Americans across the political spectrum. That's one reason why it's a mistake to allow them to succeed, but there are more as well.

Radical Islamists want to divide Americans in order to defeat us. They will play on our differences, stoking the fires of resentment and generating more hatred between us than we have against our enemies. . . . Besides, if we take Abu Hamza at his word about the Democrats, then we have to take him at his word about Bush as well, and about our troops.

The partisan sniping has ceased to be germane. We've already had the election, and the Democrats are in charge -- and they will be for two years no matter what. Obviously, we will watch closely to ensure that they do not surrender to terrorism, but I'm not going to take Abu Hamza's word that they will before their majority session even starts.

They are Americans, and Americans put them in charge, and they have earned the right to show us how they will face the enemy now that they control the agenda. If they fail, I'll be the first to castigate them for losing ground to the terrorists. However, I'm going to base that on their actions, and not on the word of a murderous thug who couldn't care less whether their American victims are Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians, or LaRouchists.

I'm hoping we can find common ground with them now that they have the responsibility to govern. If we can't, then let's criticize them for their actual failures, and not get so intent on grasping at any way to attack them that we start becoming repeater stations for the ravings of genocidal lunatics.

The idea that Al Qaeda and Iran were rooting for the Democrats to win in the midterm elections -- or that they want Jane Harman to be blocked from ascending to the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee because they prefer some more liberal Democratic Congressman -- isn't just malevolent. It's outright stupid and childish -- just as those endless claims as part of the 2004 election that Al Qaeda was rooting for John Kerry were. Digby explained exactly why that is so yesterday in the course of speculating as to why Rumsfeld was not fired before the election:

It is also probable that Bush, Cheney and Rove all believed that any sign they were listening to the opposition would be perceived as weakness by the terrorists which I think is one of their fundamental mistakes in running the war on terror. Like most immature bullies they attach much too much importance to silly schoolyard taunts . . . .

How much do you think Junior hates [hearing Al Qaeda taunts that he fired Rumsfeld and lost the election]? I would guess it bothers him quite a bit, judging from his rhetoric over the past five years.

I suspect they think the world sees things through the same schoolboy lens as they do and truly believed that if their voters saw al Qaeda dissing the Prez before the election they would recoil from their weakened leader in disgust.

Perhaps they are right. And I suspect they couldn't take the idea of Democrats gloating (we are pretty much the same as al Qaeda in their minds) either.

In many respects, we have had a foreign policy over the last five years based on the mentality of the most irrational, insecure 8-year-old playground bully -- hence, the obsession with Al Qaeda's chest-beating proclamations and the increasing identity between the Bush movement and Al Qaeda in terms of both rhetoric and thought process. But I think Morrissey's sober response to his comrades illustrates something important.

Even among those who have been supportive of this presidency, there are differences. I think the country now has a real opportunity to re-define what is acceptable political dialogue and to raise the standard -- even if only a little bit -- for what is deemed to be respectable mainstream views and what is deemed to be extremist, moronic bile.

This election constitutes a rather resounding rejection of the mindless militarism, hysterical fear-mongering, un-American embrace of lawlessness, and adolescent hate-mongering which have fueled the Bush movement. These tactics have been the bread and butter of people like Dick Cheney, Bill Kristol, Marty Peretz, John Hinderarker, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Reynolds, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter and the rest of those who have become intoxicated by neoconservative fantasies of Global, Endless, Glorious Epic War against an endless array of Enemies, real and imagined, foreign and domestic, out in the open and hiding under everyone's bed (or in the Democratic Party and at The New York Times).

There is a real opportunity to relegate that strain of Bush follower -- to quarantine them -- to the impotent fringes, where they belong. And ironically, they are seeking to isolate themselves, as they insist, with the belief-affirming self-delusion that has come to define everything they do, that the reason they lost the election is because they weren't extreme enough.

They believe Americans wanted them to be more militaristic and more ideologically pure. Let them do that. They will quickly become an even purer and more transparent version of what they have been -- the Party of James Dobson, Rush Limbaugh, Bill Kristol and Dick Cheney -- combining rabid, fantasy-based warmongering (both domestically and abroad) with religious and moralistic governmental control, all in one toxic, extremist mix.

It is both tempting and easy to mock all of these earnest appeals to "bipartisanship" that we're hearing. And coming from the likes of George Bush -- even a humbled and defeated George Bush -- such appeals understandably provoke great cynicism, even laughter. And they should. Certain individuals have demonstrated that they are irredeemable, and he is at the head of that line.

But it is also true that the country faces serious problems and to the extent that there are responsible, serious adults capable of working together despite political and ideological differences, all the better. That ought to be welcomed.

But that needs to be pursued in conjunction with consigning the most rabid and rotted elements of the Bush movement to the dustbin (and exposing what they have done is a necessary part of that). They will do most of the work themselves -- they already have, and the more they feel weak and rejected, the more rabid they will get. And they have stubborn allies, including in the national media which has long operated from the premise that they are to be taken seriously, although I think the odor of defeat will help to erode much of that perception.

What is worthwhile is to do everything possible to highlight the differences among them so that their isolation becomes more complete, more quickly. The strain of the Bush movement reflected in the above-excerpted comments has been posing as part of our political mainstream even though they are anything but that, and it's time that they return to the fringes where they belong.

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