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.

Monday, May 22, 2006

What the WSJ and Instapundit really mean by "the Angry Left"

One could spend every day highlighting the contrast between the pious moral standards preached by many Bush supporters and the lowly character smears and political filth they peddle. But sometimes their hypocrisy is so severe that it makes one's head spin, and at least I have great difficulty ignoring it even when an argument can be made that it should be ignored.

This weekend, there was much petulant hand-wringing on the Right over the terrible breaches of etiquette and civility exhibited by the New School students against the great war hero John McCain. National Review's Rich Lowry, for instance, wrote multiple posts protesting the students' behavior, and decried their conduct as "amazing" and "incredible" because McCain is a "war hero."

Lowry sermonized against the student's conduct even though, as I pointed out in a post on Saturday, Lowry said nothing about the continuous mockery by the Bush campaign of war hero John Kerry's war wounds and military service, including the waiving of purple band-aids at the Republican National Convention, nor did Lowry condemn the ongoing attacks on the patriotism and courage of war hero Jack Murtha. And Lowry specifically defended the invocation of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein in commercials against wounded combat veteran Max Cleland, dismissing complaints about such attacks on Cleland's commitment to the nation's defense as mere "whining."

Lowry responded today to my post by claiming that I "kind of misse[d] the point" of his post. The "point," Lowry claimed, is that heckling someone during a speech is just "rank incivility," and should be condemned any time it's done. Rather than missing the point, that was the point I made -- that it's a completely perverse "civility" standard which holds that it's fine to attack a war hero's patriotism, impugn their allegiance to the country, question their courage, and mock their war wounds -- as Bush supporters routinely do -- but that it is somehow intolerable to heckle them while giving a political speech.

That is the same twisted form-over-substance preaching which causes mainstream journalists to overlook constant Right-wing accusations that "liberals" are subversive, mentally ill traitors who belong in prison -- nothing angry or uncivil about any of that -- but they find a vulgar word in an e-mail to be proof that the Republic is about to collapse because of the death of civility and the "Angry Left."

Pumping this theme further, The Wall St. Journal today published an Editorial helpfully explaining to Democrats that their behavior towards John McCain was going to cause them to lose more elections:

But the ugliness of the New School crowd toward Mr. McCain reveals the peculiar rage that now animates so many on the political left. Dozens of faculty and students turned their back on the Senator, others booed and heckled, and a senior invited to speak threw out her prepared remarks and mocked their invited guest as he sat nearby.

So, that's the behavioral standard that Bush followers are advocating. The greatest sin against civility is to boo someone while they give a political speech, and those who do that show that they are deranged and "angry" and are therefore acting at their own peril.

Last week, Democratic Rep. Lacy Clay of Missouri delivered the Commencement Address at the University of Missouri. Unlike McCain, who spoke in favor of the war, Clay spoke against the war. He also criticized The Commander-in-Chief. According to Gateway Pundit -- who describes the event with giddy celebration -- this is what ensued:

Representative Lacy Clay Jr. gave such a hate-filled speech last Saturday morning at the University of Missouri St. Louis campus that he had to stop three times during his talk because the boos from the crowd had drowned him out! But unlike Murtha, Lacy Clay needed security to escort him from the building after he was through with his Bush-bash!

So pro-Bush students heckled Rep. Clay's speech and were so disruptive that the Congressman actually needed security to escort him out of the building for fear that his physical safety would be endangered. Does that show that the Angry Right is deranged and is jeopardizing their chances to win elections? No, it shows the opposite. This incident also shows how deranged the Angry Left is.

According to Instapundit -- who cited the Gateway Pundit post and said that "a Hateful anti-war speech by Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MO) . . . provokes a near riot" -- this episode "[s]eems to illustrate the point made in this WSJ editorial about the Democrats' penchant for self-marginalization and self-destruction." The WSJ Editorial to which Instapundit cited condemned the heckling and booing by the New School students of McCain's speech. But to Instapundit, that same Editorial also shows that Democrats are acting stupidly and angrily when they give commencement speeches and are heckled by Republican students to the point where they need security to be escorted out.

Gateway Pundit also points out how hateful Jack Murtha is, because he, too, has been giving anti-war speeches -- including at Commencement ceremonies -- where he forces Republican students in the audience to heckle, walk out and act disruptively. How come Rich Lowry wasn't decrying the terribly uncivil conduct towards war hero Jack Murtha? At least according to Instapundit's rationale, it's because it is the anti-war speeches themselves that are hateful -- not the student's understandable reaction -- and so the speech and the speaker are to blame for provoking the disruptive behavior of those patriotic pro-war students.

So, to re-cap the rules: (1) When a pro-war politician gives a pro-war speech as part of a graduation ceremony, and students in the audience heckle and boo him, that shows how Deranged the Angry Left is -- because they heckled a pro-war speech. (2) When an anti-war politician gives an anti-war speech as part of a graduation ceremony, and students in the audience heckle, walk out and even riot, that also shows how Angry the Left is -- because they "provoked a near riot" by pro-war students.

One last point that can't go unnoticed: part of the WSJ Editorial that Instapundit quotes warns that Democrats are going to be in big trouble because they are "sneering at our war heroes." That is almost too much hypocrisy to stomach, even for Instapundit. Who has "sneered at war heroes" more viciously and continuously than Bush supporters -- from Jack Murtha to John Kerry to Max Cleland to the war critic Generals? Sneering at war heroes was one of the principal tactics of the Bush re-election campaign and has been a reliable tool to attack and smear any war hero who speaks out against this administration.

Virtually on the same day, Bush followers are arguing that the Left is deranged and angry because: (a) they boo Republican commencement speakers and because (b) they cause Republican students to boo them and riot at commencement ceremonies. When the likes of Instapundit and the Wall St. Journal Editorial Board rail against the "Angry Left," what they mean are "people who oppose the war in Iraq and criticize the Commander-in-Chief." As long as Democrats remember that that description includes the vast majority of Americans, they should have no difficulty ignoring this pious hypocrisy, which always deceitfully masquerades as an oh-so-earnest effort to help Democrats do better in the upcoming election ("if only you would be more like Joe Lieberman and stop criticizing the war and the President, you wouldn't be perceived as so angry and you'd have a much better chance to win").

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