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.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Are Bush critics labeled "liberal"?

As most readers here will recall, there were numerous responses -- not all of them friendly -- to the post I wrote a week ago (entitled "Do Bush Followers have a Political Ideology?") regarding the dynamics which motivate Bush followers, and specifically the way in which loyalty to George Bush the Leader takes precedence over allegiance to any recognizable political principles. The following day, I wrote a reply to the bloggers who responded critically to that post.

Since that time, replies to my original argument have continued to be posted, including from Ramesh Ponnuru at The Corner, James Taranto at Opinion Journal, and the former Religious Right-activist-turned-ostensible-Democrat Bull Moose. I haven't replied to any of those posts because none of them said anything particularly new that wasn't already subsumed by the other posts to which I did reply. And, none of them was actually willing to opine on whether they believed the dynamic I described was pervasive or even extant, opting instead to nitpick at the margins without venturing an opinion about the argument itself. As a result, there was little to reply to.

But an odd and somewhat alarming development is now prompting me to address a couple of these arguments. The generally well-behaved adult Tom Maguire has spent the last several days frantically jumping up and down, throwing food and crying out for attention -- both on his blog and via e-mail to me -- because he seems to think he has a really impressive reply to my post which I have ignored. For each of the last three days, he has written a series of increasingly childish, amazingly shrill, and attention-demanding rants which purport to reply both to my original post and to a post written about my argument by Peter Daou.

I intended to ignore Tom's antics, but the "argument" he keeps repeating was the same one made in a marginally more constructive way by Ponnuru, Taranto and others. That, combined with the fact that I have been sent multiple links which thoroughly negate the argument, led me to conclude that it would be worthwhile to reply.

To the extent that an argument can be discerned, Tom is claiming (as did Taranto) that the examples I cited of conservatives being labeled "liberal" as a result of anti-Bush blasphemy -- I cited John McCain, Chuck Hagel, George Voinovich, John Sununu, Bob Barr, and Andrew Sullivan -- are, for one reason or another, not really compelling examples of that trend. Tom, as well as Taranto, exhibit a good amount of intellectual cowardice by purposely refusing to say whether they actually dispute the existence of this phenomenon or whether they simply think that I provided insufficiently clear examples of it. But they claim that the examples I provided were poor and that the links I included for these examples did not support the overall claim.

Based on this premise, Tom has issued what he boldly calls his "challenge" -- the "challenge" that he's been claiming I (along with Daou) have been evading. It's this:

OS - if Messrs. Greenwald and Daou, or their supporters, could find real evidence of Cult leaders actually re-labeling Bush critics as "liberal", that would advance this seminal effort and deepen our understanding of this important work.

Let’s see how intellectually honest Maguire and Taranto are. Following are a series of very clear examples of Bush critics having their conservative credentials revoked and/or being branded a "liberal" because they criticize or dissent from The Commander-in-Chief -- a dynamic the existence of which Maguire, Taranto and (implicitly) Ponnuru all denied as their only response to my argument:

Rush Limbaugh - November 11, 2005:

It's one thing to have a sizable minority like the Democrats stand in your way, but it is just unacceptable when a tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of Republicans in Congress also rear up in opposition and join the liberal Democrats to derail an agenda. At some point that has to be faced. It has to be faced because these RINOs, these moderates, are undermining our agenda on taxes; they are undermining our agenda on spending; they are undermining our agenda on oil drilling, and they are undermining the war on terror -- and I'll give you some names. You want some names? Here they are: Olympia Snowe, John McCain, George Voinovich, Mike Castle, Christopher Shays, and about 30 to 35 others.

I don't care if they're Republican liberals or Democrat liberals, they're still liberals. They're not "moderates." Don't hit me with that. There's no such thing as a moderate. A moderate is just a liberal disguise, and they are doing everything they can to derail the conservative agenda, and they've been frustrated, they haven't been able to do anything about it because conservatism has been so strong. This propaganda attack on the president has weakened him.

Does that count? Here is Rush Limbaugh calling McCain, Voinovich and Snowe -- along with anyone else who opposes the President - "liberals." Why? Because their "attack on the president has weakened him."

Article from The Washington Post, July 1, 2005

A consultant who monitored news and talk programs on public radio and TV found that liberal and anti-administration views were widespread, but critics said the consultant's work was itself biased and riddled with errors.

The consultant, Frederick W. Mann, was secretly hired last year by Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the agency that disburses about $400 million in federal tax funds to public broadcasters. In recent months, Tomlinson has criticized National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service for an allegedly liberal bias and has pushed PBS to add programs with a more conservative tone. . . .

[Sen. Byron] Dorgan pointed out that "red-blooded" conservatives such as Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and former congressman Bob Barr (R-Ga.) were classified as "liberal" and "anti-administration" apparently for briefly expressing views that differed from administration policy.

Does that count? Here is a consultant hired by the Bush appointee Tomlinson calling Sen. Hagel and Bob Barr "liberals." Why? Because they "express(ed) views that differed from administration policy" (h/t Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger Report).

Newsbusters, February 6, 2006

Citing liberal Republican Senator Arlen Specter as his authority on whether President Bush's actions were “illegal,” and with “Invoking the 'I' Word” on screen beneath a picture of Bush, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann opened his Monday night Countdown program.

Does that count? According to Newsbusters, it's an example of outrageous left-wing media bias to even talk about the criticisms of the President made by Sen. Arlen Specter because Specter -- who just ensured the lifetime confirmation to the Supreme Court of John Roberts and Sam Alito -- is just a "liberal."

Conservative blogger "Rousseau" - November 1, 2005

Andrew Sullivan is a liberal. I would like to make it clear that anyone who could say that above quote will always be on the liberal side, and frankly most Democratic politicians couldn’t afford to say anything that questioning of the war and its current director.

Does that count? "Andrew Sullivan is a liberal." Why? Because he said something "that questioning of the war and its current director," the Commander-in-Chief.

John Podhoretz, February 12, 2006

And accusing me of being either a liberal or in a liberal bubble or being manipulated by the liberal media for saying that it's a big deal when the vice president shoots somebody isn't a rational response to what I've said about the Vice President's hunting accident.

Does that count? John Podhoretz -- John Podhoretz -- is called a "liberal" by National Review readers because he criticized Dick Cheney's handling of the hunting incident.

Beginning with Tom Maguire, will the individuals who denied the existence of this phenomenon – or who hid behind the inane tactic of claiming that the examples I provided were inconclusive - now acknowledge that this cultish practice of excommunicating people from the conservative cause for criticizing or dissenting from the Leader is pervasive and quite common, not to mention creepy and disturbing?

Since these posts were written, Digby posted an analysis of exactly the manner in which Republicans have sacrificed ideological principle for power, accompanied by a prediction (already coming true) that, as Bush becomes more unpopular and his Presidency is recognized more and more as a failure, "conservatives" will disclaim him altogether as one of their own on the grounds that he was the antithesis of real conservatism (a point also made, in a slightly different form, both by Dave Neiwert and Atrios). As Digby explained:

But, of course, the modern Republican party is not conservative by any definition of conservatism. I'm not even sure it's ideological at all, but to the extent it is, it's radical. Yet the allegedly conservative party has enthusiastically supported a president who believes that you can wage wars, lower taxes and expand government all at the same time. That's not just radical, it's magical. And they can hardly raise their heads even today to oppose an administration that is radically expanding the police powers of the federal government.

And, as I noted in my reply post -- and as Maguire, Ponnuru, and Taranto all ignored (because, really, what can be said about it?) -- no less a conservative shining light than Bill Kristol has acknowledged the shameful fact that Bush became the "movement and the cause" for conservatives. Isn't it a little bit difficult to dismiss an argument about Bush as the by-product of leftist deranged hatred when Kristol himself is making the same argument? (I pointed this out to Maguire in an e-mail reply, and ennumerated five independent substantive arguments in support of my position which he pretended did not exist, only for him to post twice more in which he cheaply mocked my position without so much as acknowledging those arguments in support of it).

Anyone who pays even minimal attention is aware of multiple examples of solid conservatives being labeled "liberal" because they criticize George Bush -- which is exactly why those pretending to reply to my argument never actually denied or addressed the central argument, opting instead to hide behind the cheap tactic of quibbling with excerpted phrases in order to cast the appearance of replying. But since they contested the examples I provided and asked for more, I wanted to oblige. I look forward to their responses.

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