Why the current style and tone of liberal rhetoric is counterproductive to the political process
The political season is fast upon us.
Some look forward to it. Others will try to avoid it as long as possible, sometimes right up until the time they step into the voting booth. With so much negative campaigning, misinformation and political acrimony, who can really blame them? And therein lies the sad irony of our democracy. The very serious issues that need public airing the most are the least discussed because a candidate is afraid how the opposition will distort his/her position. In place of serious political discourse, we now have elaborate anti-Bush smear productions. Instead of solutions, campaigners outline how much they oppose their rivals, even rivals within their own party. It has gone so far that now candidates and pundits never really outline an issue. They just explain how much they dislike the opposition. In the 2004 campaign, this has evolved into the constituency of “Bush haters”. Here is how pollster Geoff Garin puts it: “There seems to be quite a few of us Bush haters. I have friends who have a viscerally hostile reaction to the sound of his voice or describe his existence as a constant oppressive force in their daily psyche.” He goes on to say the anti-Bush emotion “as strong as anything I’ve experienced in 25 years now of polling.”
Pure hatred by rank-and-file Democrats.
Conservative columnist Robert Novak wrote in an article for Townhall, “Dean’s campaign is a remorseless assault on George W. Bush, far exceeding his opponents’. Humorless and unsmiling, the country doctor with upper-class roots pummels the incumbent president. He has tapped into pure hatred by rank-and-file Democrats of the reigning Republican that I have never seen in 44 years of campaign watching. Not Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan or even Bill Clinton generated such animosity. The other politicians have taken notice and are trying to take full advantage of the political momentum. They accuse the current Administration of unspeakable incompetence, the worst of intentions, and even criminal behavior. Senator Ted Kennedy, knowing his seat is safe, has pulled no punches. In a recent interview Senator Kennedy accused President Bush of planning the war in Iraq for political gain. And he went on to say he was bribing world leaders for their support.
Kennedy labels Iraq war a ‘fraud’, “The Washington Times”
“There was no imminent threat. This was made up in Texas, announced in January to the Republican leadership that war was going to take place and was going to be good politically. This whole thing was a fraud,” Mr. Kennedy said. The senator said a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office showed that only about $2.5 billion of the $4 billion being spent monthly on the war can be accounted for by the Bush administration. “My belief is this money is being shuffled all around to these political leaders in all parts of the world, bribing them to send in troops,” he said.
The case for Bush hatred, “The New Republic, Online”
“The New Republic Online” featured a piece by Jonathan Chait that said nothing more than how and why he hated President Bush:
I hate President George W. Bush. There, I said it. I think his policies rank him among the worst presidents in U.S. history. And, while I'm tempted to leave it at that, the truth is that I hate him for less substantive reasons, too. I hate the inequitable way he has come to his economic and political achievements and his utter lack of humility (disguised behind transparently false modesty) at having done so. His favorite answer to the question of nepotism--"I inherited half my father's friends and all his enemies"--conveys the laughable implication that his birth bestowed more disadvantage than advantage. He reminds me of a certain type I knew in high school--the kid who was given a fancy sports car for his sixteenth birthday and believed that he had somehow earned it. I hate the way he walks--shoulders flexed, elbows splayed out from his sides like a teenage boy feigning machismo. I hate the way he talks--blustery self-assurance masked by a pseudo-populist twang. I even hate the things that everybody seems to like about him. I hate his lame nickname-bestowing-- a way to establish one's social superiority beneath a veneer of chumminess (does anybody give their boss a nickname without his consent?). And, while most people who meet Bush claim to like him, I suspect that, if I got to know him personally, I would hate him even more.
Governor Howard Dean, the man to beat.
Governor Dean is the man to beat so far in the Democratic primaries. One has to wonder how he became the front runner when a few weeks ago he popped off on NPR’s “The Diane Rehm Show” that “the most interesting theory [about 9/11] that I’ve heard so far is that [Bush] was warned ahead of time by the Saudis.” When Fox News’ Chris Wallace later asked him why he made that remark, Dean replied, “Because there are people who believe that.” That’s not much of a standard. Dean asserted that he personally did not believe it – and then added, “But we don’t know and it would be a nice thing to know.”
A miserable failure.
Candidate Gephardt has been one of President Bush’s worst critics. Everyone should recognize his famous campaing slogan, “This president is a miserable failure on foreign policy and on the economy and he’s got to be replaced.” A Miserable Failure is even the name of his campaign web site.
The Democrats don’t limit themselves to campaigning negatively against the Republican Party. Gephardt also took on Howard Dean. He recently aired a campaign ad whose theme is: Don’t trust Howard Dean with your life. The TV ad, aired repeatedly in those crucial primary states, was hardly subtle. With Osama bin Laden’s face filling the screen, a narrator intoned that Americans “want a president who can face the dangers ahead… . But Howard Dean has no military or foreign policy experience. And Howard Dean just cannot compete with George Bush on foreign policy.
When does opposition turn into disloyalty? Recently, Congress passed and President Bush signed into law the, “Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003”. In it, the Congress voiced its sense with the following:
SEC. 3. SENSE OF CONGRESS. (partial list)
- the Government of Syria should immediately and unconditionally halt support for terrorism, permanently and openly declare its total renunciation of all forms of terrorism, and close all terrorist offices and facilities in Syria, including the offices of Hamas, Hizballah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine--General Command;
- the Government of Syria should halt the development and deployment of medium- and long-range surface-to-surface missiles and cease the development and production of biological and chemical weapons;
In light of these strong statements about Syria and its support of terrorism, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), visited Europe and spoke to Syria’s President, Bashar Assad. According to reports in the Houston Chonicle, she was ‘impressed’ with the president and invited him to speak in Texas. “He’s a 39-year-old president who even gave us a picture of him and his children . . .” “Let’s see what he can do. He’s not his father,” a reference to Hafez Assad, who ruled Syria with an iron grip for 30 years before his death in 2000.” It’s hard to understand the representative’s thinking by making nice with Syria. It directly opposes the sense of the Congress and undermines foreign policy.
As rousing as these tactics may be, they do nothing to shed light on the pressing issues of the day. In fact, they obscure the real problems allowing our politicians to pretend to stand for something when in truth they stand for nothing. I don’t know how others feel, but nothing so far garners my respect for the candidates or their positions. I will feel much better when I hear their thinking on such things as:
- furthering the war on terror;
- illegal immigration
- taxes and the economy
- combating narco-trafficking
- the impending social security crisis.
THE PUBLIC VIEW