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.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Bush supporters just want to help

The spirit of Christmas places an emphasis on good will, kindness and charity to others. And one can't help but notice that this spirit is changing the acrimonious nature of our domestic political debates, at least for the moment. For the holiday season, Bush defenders have placed a temporary moratorium on their patriotic campaign to depict Bush critics as terrorist-loving subversive cowards who hate America and want it to lose. In its place, Bush supporters are engaging in acts of great charity towards Bush critics by trying to show them the error of their ways, in order to help them do better.

You see, Bush supporters want Bush critics to do better. They wish that Bush critics would stop it with all of these self-destructive, deranged ideas (defined as criticisms of George Bush’s foreign policies and terrorism-related domestic policies) because the country needs a healthy two-party system. But what we have now is one healthy party and one filled with traitors and crazies. And Bush defenders want to help. They really do. Because America would be so much better off if we had serious, responsible, successful opposition to George Bush rather than the subversive, demented insanity which we have now.

And how to accomplish this? How can Bush opponents improve themselves? These wise and caring Bush supporters have the secret, and, in an act of great kindness, they have decided to share it:

Give up criticisms of George Bush’s foreign policy. Just stop objecting to what he is doing and start consenting to his foreign policy agenda and all of his policies which are justified in the name of terrorism. To succeed, Bush opponents must be like Joe Lieberman, one of the few responsible, serious Democrats to discover the secret to success: agree with everything the President is doing, praise him as obsequiously and reverently as possible, and stand proudly behind him. If only Bush critics would do that, things would be so much better for everyone – especially for Bush critics.

The always kind Bill Kristol, for instance, took the opportunity this week to say that he wishes so very much that Bush critics would see the error of their ways and become a responsible and serious opposition force -- by no longer opposing what Bush does and no longer objecting to his law-breaking:

Was the president to ignore the evident fact that FISA's procedures and strictures were simply incompatible with dealing with the al Qaeda threat in an expeditious manner? Was the president to ignore the obvious incapacity of any court, operating under any intelligible legal standard, to judge surveillance decisions involving the sweeping of massive numbers of cell phones and emails by high--speed computers in order even to know where to focus resources? Was the president, in the wake of 9/11, and with the threat of imminent new attacks, really supposed to sit on his hands and gamble that Congress might figure out a way to fix FISA, if it could even be fixed? The questions answer themselves . . . .

What is one to say about these media--Democratic spokesmen for contemporary American liberalism? That they have embarrassed and discredited themselves. That they cannot be taken seriously as critics. It would be good to have a responsible opposition party in the United States today. It would be good to have a serious mainstream media. Too bad we have neither.

Obviously moved by this spirt of generosity, the typically combative and rambunctious Bush-loving tough-guy, Ace of Spades, discarded his rough facade to expose his sensitive, caring side by revealing that all he really wants for Bush opponents is for them to do better:

After the 2002 midterms -- sheesh, that seems like it was almost three years ago or something -- William Kristol offered his opinion that the Democrats had, basically, gone crazy. Hatred of Bush and frustration at being frozen out of power had simply driven them batty.

It's stuff like this -- sort of predictable, you know, that Americans aren't going to sweat eavesdropping on terrorists without warrant -- that really bears Kristol out. Time and time again, the Democrats have had the opportunity to be statesmanlike, prudent, wise, and, as an added bonus, on the safe side of issues in political terms.

Time and time again they have rejected this opportunity in favor of opportunistic shrillness. Although I suppose the "opportunistic" part may not be correct, given the fact that they consistently seem to take the wrong side of the issue in terms of popular politics.

The Internet has not been kind to Democrats. Sure, the dextrosphere is knocking down their liberal spirit squad in the MSM, but that's small potatoes compared to what the sinestrosphere is doing to them. The scary-smart advice of Kos and Atrios -- "fight, fight, fight-- fight on big issues, fight on small issues, fight on trivial issues, fight when right, but especially, at all costs, fight when you're wrong, just to thwart Bush" -- is really not working out so well for them, is it?

Also joining in this charitable Save the Democrats campaign is the acid-tongued Anchoress, who, triggered by her belief that Americans don't care if Bush breaks the law, sincerely laments what Bush opponents are doing to themselves and offers a little holiday prayer that they will come to their senses -- for their own good:

Smart Democrats might finally start denouncing the Times’ disclosure of classified information. They might vote to put the Patriot Act back in place. It’s pretty clear -to me, at least - that my neighbor is not an anomaly.

It occurs to me that over a year ago I was writing about Democrats and the NY Times seeming to be spinning out of control - it’s only gotten worse. It makes me very sad. We need a healthy two-party system, not this madness.

And here is the considerate and caring Stanley Kurtz, offering his helping hand in The Corner:

The Democrats will never shake this image of weakness. It’s set in stone, and for exactly the right reason: the Democrats really are weak on national security issues. Everyone knows that the party’s base is pacifist. They want the war on terror to just disappear so that attention will turn back to domestic issues. Ironically, had the Democrats embraced Lieberman’s policies, we would probably be focused on domestic issues right now. Consensus on foreign policy would force politics back to the areas where the Democrats believe they are strong. It’s the smartest strategy for the Dems, but they can’t pull it off because their base really is caught up in the Vietnam syndrome.

And Kurtz again, graciously warning the Democrats about the trouble they are making for themselves by failing to embrace the noble example of Very Good Boy Joe Lieberman:

So much for the bad news. How about the good news? Well, it seems to me that the Democrats are in some serious long-term political trouble. It's too late for Peter Beinart to restore the Democrats' "fighting faith." Instead of purging, the Democrats are busy purging Joe Lieberman. I can't believe anyone thinks that reports of secret sniffing for nuclear bombs will do anything but help the president.

And finally, we have Hugh Hewitt and Glenn Reynolds, speaking from their summit and sharing paternalistic and solemn disappointment in Bush opponents due to their failure this year to become more "responsible," a failure which Reynolds sadly laments is going to hurt them so very much:

HH: How about the left side of the blogosphere this year, when it comes to politics? Has it grown wilder, or more responsible, Glenn Reynolds?

GR: Mostly wilder. It's been interesting. Back before the 2004 election, Henry Copeland, who runs the Blogads network, and who is a really smart guy, said to me that if Bush loses, your blog traffic will more than quadruple in the coming year. But you probably won't enjoy the sentiments that are unleashed. And of course, Bush won, and I think you've seen that happen to the left side of the blogosphere. Some of the lefty blogs have really grown in traffic, but it's mostly pretty angry traffic. It's Sith traffic. It's dark side traffic. There's a lot of anger there. And while I've been encouraged to see a few relatively moderate and sensible comments from the likes of Markos Zuniga of the Daily Kos, overall, I think that the lefty blogosphere has been sort of an anger focusing echo chamber that's probably bad for the Democrats, if they want to win.

I hope Bush critics are appropriately thankful for this advice, which is dispensed with the purest of motives by people who want nothing but the best for you. They have the secret for how you can put an end to your sufferings and failures and miseries and they have taken the time to let you in on it. All you have to do is think and act more like them – and stop criticizing George Bush.

This is all based on illusion. Quite obviously, Bush supporters have come to think of the 2000 and 2004 elections as repeats of the 1972 and 1984 elections, where Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, respectively, slaughtered George McGovern and Walter Mondale in smashing landslides. They seem to have convinced themselves that Bush won similar landslides against Al Gore and John Kerry, and that this is conclusive proof that lopsided majorities are in agreement with George Bush’s foreign policy actions, such that anyone who criticizes those actions must have an electoral death wish. Many Democrats have internalized this same set of premises.

But it’s all pure fiction. Despite running against two incredibly poor and stiff campaigners, George Bush tied in 2000 and barely won in 2004. And public opinion polls conclusively show that a solid majority of Americans oppose the crowning jewel of Bush’s foreign policy – our invasion and occupation of Iraq. And as the instinctive support for the President generated by the shock of 9/11 fades into the past, more and more Americas have lost faith in Bush’s foreign policy approach and even in his anti-terrorist policies.

Far from there being some sort of broad, mainstream consensus that George Bush is right on foreign policy, there is a serious divide on that issue. And the trend is for more and more people to migrate from support for George Bush’s policies to opposition to them. Both substantively and strategically, then, this would be the worst possible time for Bush critics to follow the advice of Bush lovers by softening even further their opposition to Bush’s policies and behavior, or even worse, to cynically support them.

A real opposition party opposes the majority party with clearly articulated principles. Most importantly, it serves as an aggressive watchdog against the abuse of power by the party in control -- power which the Founders, and countless political philosophers, understood has the inherent tendency to corrupt. This preening concern for a vibrant opposition party that we are hearing from Bush lovers – which they tell us can be achieved only by giving up all but the pettiest and most inconsequential vestiges of opposition to George Bush – can be easily recognized as the self-serving farce that it is. A true two-party system and a meaningful opposition party requires real opposition, and most of all, it requires a steadfast vigilance against corruption by the party in control.

To insist that the opposition party must relinquish and abdicate its watchdog responsibility is to turn the opposition party into an empty, impotent gesture – a worthless symbol – that props up the false appearance of opposition to the President, but which is devoid of any actual substance or force. That's the America of 2002 -- their time of unchallenged glory -- and they are clamoring for a return to it.

Despite the lovely holiday hands of help being extended by Bush supporters, that is the real objective – to convince Bush critics that their only hope for salvation lies in following the example of Joe Lieberman by just accepting the rightness of George Bush and falling into line behind him. It may sound like slavish passivity and defeat, but they are here to tell us that it’s really for everyone’s own good.

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