November 11, 2005

WELL, THE HATEMAIL HAS POURED IN after my earlier post on Bush's speech. For the record, though, I didn't say (and don't think) that anyone who opposes the war is unpatriotic. (In fact, only antiwar people seem to keep raising this strawman). But the Democratic politicans who are pushing the "Bush Lied" meme are, I think, playing politics with the war in a way that is, in fact, unpatriotic. Having voted for the war, they now want to cozy up to the increasingly powerful MoveOn crowd, which is immensely antiwar. The "Bush Lied" meme is their way of getting cover. This move also suggests that their earlier support for the war may itself have been more opportunistic than sincere, which I suppose is another variety of unpatriotism.

This bit of hatemail, though, seems to carry the flavor best:

Did you ever really think you'd be the kind of person who would be calling dissenters from a right-wing, gay-bashing, anti-evolution, incompetent war-making administration "unpatriotic"?

I'm not sure where evolution or gay rights come into this (I've "dissented" on those points myself, after all), but I think this illustrates that the "Bush lied" issue has more to do with anti-Bush sentiment than with anything having to do with the merits of the war.

But it's not "dissent" that's unpatriotic, something I've been at pains to note in the past. It's putting one's own political positions first, even if doing so encourages our enemies, as this sort of talk is sure to do. And that's what I think is going on with the sudden surge of "Bush Lied" stuff from Congressional democrats.

Of course, outrage over questioning of patriotism is kind of one-sided. You can say that Bush and Cheney started the war with a bunch of lies to enrich their buddies at Halliburton, and that their supporters are all a bunch of chickenhawks on the White House payroll. But that's different because -- because Bush is anti-evolution, and doesn't support gay marriage! Or something.

UPDATE: Thanks to the speed of the blogosphere, John Cole has responded to Kevin Drum's rather misleading quotation of my earlier post, before I even noticed it.

I suspect Kevin left out my bit about Democratic politicians pandering to the antiwar base because, well, it's obviously true and it kind of spoils his point.

John gets this part right:

Painting as unpatriotic those individuals who change their opinions simply for political reasons is wholly appropriate, and that is what Glenn stated. Reynolds is not, as Kevin Drum would have you believe, simply calling anyone against the war or anyone who believes that the the reasons used to go to war were inaccurate ‘unpatriotic.’

See, it's not so hard if you actually read the post. Jeff Goldstein has related thoughts.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Richard Samuelson emails:

The response to your posts is interesting. One question that might be interesting to ask. To what degree to your critics believe that patriotism is a good thing? To what degree do they believe it is proper to support one's own country ahead of others?

How to criticize one's country responsibly is a very interesting question, particularly with regard to an ongoing war. On the one hand, it is one's duty as a citizen to support one's country when it is engaged in a war. Even if one opposed the war at the start, it is one's job in a democratic republic to show faith in one's fellow-citizens, and give them the benefit of the doubt on the rightness of the decision. On the other hand, a good citizen has a responsibility to criticize the government when he finds it to be misguided.

I wonder if the passion behind the rhetoric here is existential. If this war is justified, it raises doubts about whether the world will ever become war-free. For that reason, it raises fundamental questions about the possibility of true progress in any grand sense. If this war is justified, it might mean that patriotism will always remain a virtue in some circumstances, because the world will always, in some ways, be divided between us and others. It might be, in short, an attack upon the implicit universalism of so much modern ideology. Giving that up might be too high a price to pay. Hence it's easier to dismiss the war as fundamentally corrupt from the start.

I don't know, but it's surprising the extent to which people who routinely make the Halliburton and chickenhawk slurs seem to require much greater delicacy from others.

MORE: Tom Maguire:

In any case, I believe there is a substantial difference between "Your false charges are undermining the troops" and "Your criticism is undermining our troops".

OK, I understand that for purposes of debating this point, war critics will have to insist that *all* their criticisms are perceived as false. However, that is simply not so. For example, a war opponent who argued that this war would not go well without international support and a specific UN resolution is entitled to that opinion, and I don't see how it could be proven to be either true or false. Consequently, I don't see how the specific passage offered by the Times could be viewed as an attempt by Bush to stifle that particular dissent, or to question that critic's patriotism.

But I am gloomily resigned to having it explained to me.

The Democrats do seem to be finding traction with the new approach. The old talking point - "I would have spoken out against the war, but Karl Rove and Bill O'Reilly would have been mean to me, and Arnold might have called me a girlie-man" - lacked a certain John Wayne quality.

Whether the new talking point - "I couldn't see through Bush's lies" - takes hold depends on just how empty-headed various Dems want to appear as they abase themselve before their base.

Heh. Indeed.

MORE STILL: Reader Dan Farmer emails:

How is the constant repetition of, ‘Bush fooled me, I didn’t know what I was doing!’, help the Democrats? How will they stand up to the perfidy and guile of our real enemies and sometimes allies? Maybe someone can work that into a winning campaign slogan, but it’s beyond me. How about “We’re Dumber than Bush!”?

That'll sell.

STILL MORE: Josh Wills emails:

Only one question comes to mind when I read your post on the hate mail you received in response to your comments on "unpatriotic" congressional Democrats- still nicer than the hate mail you got for your (still blasphemous) barbecue post?

Oh, the barbecue hatemail was much worse. But the spelling was better.