Saturday, September 23, 2006

The core of the Bush problem is an extremist worldview

To raise political debate above the name-calling and 10-second sound bites requires intellectual honesty and political courage. Our country has experienced one party rule in Washington on a number of occasions but I am not aware of anything comparable to the one party rule we have seen over the past six years. During previous rule by Democrats or Republicans debate still flourished, Congress took its oversight responsibilities seriously, and the White House was forced to work with Congress. Democrat Senator Harry Truman gained fame by investigating corruption between wartime contractors and the Democratic executive branch. There are no Harry Trumans in Congress today.

There was a brief glimmer of hope when Senators Graham, Warner and McCain stood up to the President’s proposals to disregard the Geneva Conventions. I have not had the opportunity to absorb the details of the compromise reached yesterday but fear the three Senators caved in and we are about to become a nation that officially sanctions torture. Let’s be honest -- our nation has sunk pretty low. The Republican Party controls the White House, the Congress and the Supreme Court. They need to take responsibility for the state of these affairs.

What is at the core of this democratic decline? It is extremism in thought and action. It is a distrust of the democratic system. It is arrogance. It is a circle-the-wagon mentality that automatically kicks in whenever criticism is presented about the current resident of the White House.

Todd Gitlin explores this idea in an opinion piece in today’s L.A. Times. He writes,
…The core of the Bush problem is an extremist worldview. Bush's aggressive
go-it-alone attitude kicked in long before 9/11. "You're either with us or
you're with the terrorists" was just an extension of Bush's rejection of the
Kyoto Protocol (the international global warming agreement) and the
International Criminal Court.

Under Bush, reality had to be bulldozed into submission. Whatever went
wrong in Iraq or Afghanistan, questioning Bush's narrow understanding of the
Islamist danger amounted to appeasement, cutting and running, pining for defeat.
Whatever the economic conditions, the remedies were privatization, deregulation
and tax cuts for plutocrats. On every front, foreign and domestic, liberals were
to blame.

This attitude didn't stop with Bush alone, and it persists unaltered. Just
recently, in this spirit, an e-mail from Republican National Committee Chairman
Ken Mehlman warned that Democratic victories in the midterm elections would mean "government by the far left," "weaken[ing] America" thus: "Impeachment. Cutting and running from the war on terror. Key defense systems dismantled. Tax cuts repealed. Speaker Pelosi."

The logic of this paranoid worldview is a deep and awful thing to confront.
But confronting it is a matter of intellectual honesty.

Today, it's morally mandatory, a matter of intellectual decency, that
Bush's erstwhile partisans rethink both their credulity and their ideology and
ask how they could for so long have overlooked what now strikes them as obvious. "Whoops, sorry about that" and "mistakes were made" — love that passive voice — won't do.

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