Thursday, August 25, 2005

Will: I don't understand the present or the past

George Will writes his Sheehan article today, called "Tone-Deafness Among Democrats." How can someone get so many things wrong in one column?

First, Will digs up the old "hate-filled left" argument, which has grown smooth with overuse.
Many warmhearted and mildly attentive Americans say the president should have invited Sheehan to his kitchen table in Crawford for a cup of coffee and a serving of that low-calorie staple of democratic sentimentality -- "dialogue." Well.

Since her first meeting with the president, she has called him a "lying bastard," "filth spewer," "evil maniac," "fuehrer" and the world's "biggest terrorist" who is committing "blatant genocide" and "waging a nuclear war" in Iraq. Even leaving aside her not entirely persuasive contention that someone else concocted the obviously anti-Israel and inferentially anti-Semitic elements of one of her recent e-mails -- elements of a sort nowadays often found woven into ferocious left-wing rhetoric -- it is difficult to imagine how the dialogue would get going.

He: "Cream and sugar?"

She: "Yes, please, filth-spewer."
Ha ha!

Here's what's weird, though. Sheehan is a gold star mother standing on the side of the road. She's never said that she speaks for anyone but herself. The funniest bit about the whole Will article is that, in the end, it demonstrates the political tone-deafness of the political right. Let's remember that the president was said to be a rough-and-tumble cowboy of a man. "Bring 'em on" and "dead or alive" were examples of this straight-talking toughness. Now he's hiding from someone's mom like a kid who broke a window. I know plenty of people who disagreed with Bush on all kinds of domestic policies, but they felt that he was tough enough to deal with terrorists.

Now, though, he just looks like a pussy.

Will goes on:
Do Democrats really want to embrace her variation of the Michael Moore and "Fahrenheit 9/11" school of political discourse? Evidently, yes, judging by the attendance of 12 Democratic senators at that movie's D.C. premiere in June 2004, and by the lionizing of Moore at the Democratic Convention -- the ovation, the seating of him with Jimmy Carter.
So Bush won't speak to Sheehan because she's called him names. That's sad. Too bad that Clinton had to speak to so many hate-filled fanatics during his tenure in the White House, but, you know, they weren't the nearly powerless mothers of dead soldiers. They were the Republican leadership of the house and senate. The philandering head of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, Dan Burton, called Clinton a "scumbag." Another Republican House member said that it was "obvious" that Clinton was bombing Iraq "for political reasons."

Will goes deeper into the hole he's digging.
If liberals think that such flirtations with fanaticism had nothing to do with their 2004 defeat, they probably have nothing to learn from what conservatives did four decades earlier. But for the record:

In the 1960s, just as conservatism was beginning to grow from a fringe tendency into what it has become -- the nation's most potent persuasion -- it was threatened by a boarding party of people not much, if any, loonier than Sheehan. The John Birch Society, whose catechism included the novel tenet that Dwight Eisenhower was an agent of the Kremlin, was not numerous -- its membership probably never numbered more than 100,000 -- but its power to taint all of conservatism was huge, particularly given the media's eagerness to abet the tainting. Responsible conservatives, especially William F. Buckley Jr. and his National Review, repelled the boarders, driving them into the dark cave where today they ferociously guard the secret of their size from a nation no longer curious about it.

Let's remember the "responsiblity" of Buckley in the 1960s.
"It would be ridiculous to hold the Supreme Court solely to blame for the ludicrously named 'civil rights movement' – that is, the Negro revolt . . . . But the Court carries its share of the blame. Its decrees, beginning with Brown, have on the one hand encouraged the least responsible of the Negro leaders in the course of extra-legal and illegal struggle that we now witness around us..." - June 2, 1964

" is well-grounded that if the entire Negro population in the South were suddenly given the vote, and were to use it as a bloc, and pursuant to directives handed down by some of the more demagogic leaders, chaos would ensue." - 1965
Yes, Buckley mellowed with age, but, just a few days ago, Rush Limbaugh was reminiscing about how Buckley had invited him to a party and welcomed him to the conservative scene when he first arrived from California. Limbaugh isn't a fanatic but Sheehan is? What about the other leading lights of the conservative movement? Phillis Schafly, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Oliver North, G. Gordon Liddy, Michael Savage, Mike Reagan, Dr. Laura, Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter, Bill Bennett, Bob Novak, Tucker Carlson, William Safire and Peggy Noonan all receive the adulation of conservatives and have used much worse language than anything coming from the mouth or pen of Michael Moore or Cindy Sheehan.

Moore says Bush has a too-close relationship with the Saudis? Sheehan calls Bush a "filth-spewer"? How about Safire and Limbaugh teaming up to call Clinton a murderer?

The reason Will's column is so ridiculous is that so-called "movement conservatives" have been defined by their fanaticism since at least 1964 and they have only gotten worse. Now, fanaticism itself defines the Republican party--not a fanaticism based on principle, but solely on partisanship. Honestly, can anyone explain to me what Republicans stand for today besides remaining in power?

It's not smaller government. The Cato Institute found a 33 percent increase in U.S. federal spending during George W. Bush's first term and a 27 percent rise in spending over the past decade for the 101 biggest domestic programs that the Republican-led Congress had vowed in 1995 to eliminate.

Give me something. Anything.

Call Sheehan what you want, but she stands for her view of justice--a view clearly influenced by her deep Catholic faith. She believes that the war was, as Pope John Paul II called it, a "defeat for humanity." She believes that we are losing American lives for no good reason in Iraq. What George Will knows, but won't say, is that a majority of Americans agree with her. In recent polls, 54 percent of Americans said we made a mistake going to war and that it wasn't worth it. Even more Americans say it's made us less safe and that we're losing ground. Over sixty percent of Americans say they disapprove of Bush's leadership in the Iraq War.

Cindy Sheehan continues to say that she stands only for herself and not a movement. Will can cherry-pick names that she called Bush and try to smear Dems with it all he wants, but the truth is that, when you look again at those polls, Cindy Sheehan is a surrogate for the average American. Only someone as tone-deaf as Will would think differently.


Blogger Jeff Huber said...

I've been rereading SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE, and was delighted to see Vonnegut slam Will in the forward as an "owlish twit."

Ho, ho!


1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Say, one other person that Clinton had to deal with:

Randy Shughard's dad, who told Clinton that he was unfit to be commander in chief. No word on whether he was invited back for a second trip.

But that was about Somalia, and we know Clinton wasn't responsible for any of that.

9:09 PM  
Blogger Nitpicker said...

So...What are you saying, Anonymouse? That Clinton was more of a man than Bush is because he meets with people who disagree with him? I agree.

1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't it clear that Bush has met with Sheehan? I thought that had been covered enough for even those hiding themselves from it to have noticed.

You're the one who's selective in his concern for the parents of our deceased soldiers. A disastrous policy in Somalia leaves 18 dead. You deny that Clinton was responible for anything, and you ignore those Clinton ignored.

Say, though, don't you actually agree that Operation Desert Fox was "for political reasons"? I mean, Saddam posed no threat, etc. etc. etc. Except when convenient to some ridiculously partisan and transparent argument.

9:40 PM  
Blogger Nitpicker said...

Actually, a fucking lucky shot at a helicopter led to 18 dead and the Army -- to this day -- still considers that a militarily successful mission. We're 1800-plus dead soldiers into Iraq with no end in sight. What kind of twit could really, honestly think those numbers are comparable?

11:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, Terry, Les Aspin's refusal to allow the proper equipment was the reason that 18 US soldiers died. That, plus a lucky shot.

What kind of person thinks the two are comparable? Maybe a parent of one of the 18? Should we check? (Wait: I forgot--only Gold Star moms who agree with you count! Never mind!)

5:36 PM  

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