Skip to comments.Victor Davis Hanson: On Loathing Bush, It’s not about what he does [Why they hate him]
Posted on 08/13/2004 6:04:27 AM PDT by Tolik
For now Americans seem to be split 50-50 over the reelection of George W. Bush. Such a hotly contested election is hardly new. We saw races just as close in 1960, 1968, and 1976. Had Ross Perot not run in 1992 and perhaps even in 1996 Bill Clinton (who didn't receive a 50 percent majority in either of his presidential races) may well have found himself in the same predicament as Gore did in Florida, 2000 struggling to win the Electoral College while losing the popular vote to George Bush Sr.
There are a number of issues in this contest on which reasonable people can differ. If one is out of work or without comprehensive health insurance, then the economy is rocky, to be measured not by historically low unemployment figures but by the number of actual jobs lost or gained. For others more fortunate, by any fair measure of housing, transportation, or consumer goods, the United States has achieved a standard of living well beyond even that of Europe.
One can argue that the post-bellum reconstruction of Iraq was unforeseeably messy and fouled-up. Or, one can argue that it's striking that after a mere three years the United States has liberated 50 million and implemented democratic reform in place of what were the two most fascistic governments in the world all without another 9/11 mass murder.
Furthermore, our troubles with Europe can be seen as either provoking tried and tested friends or lancing a boil that was growing for years as a result of our different histories, the end of the Cold War, and the utopianism of the EU. We could all disagree further about education, illegal immigration, energy policy, taxation, and a host of other issues.
But what is not explicable in terms of rational disagreement is the Left's pathological hatred of George W. Bush. It transcends all contention over the issues, the Democratic hurt over the Florida elections, and even the animus once shown Bill Clinton by the activist Right. From where does this near-religious anger arise and what does it portend?
Let's start with the admission that much of the invective is irrational, fueled by emotion rather than reason. Thus the black leadership uses slurs such as "Taliban" and "Confederacy" against Bush, even though no other president has selected an African-American secretary of State and national-security adviser or pledged so many billions for AIDS relief in Africa. Liberals talk of social programs starved, but domestic spending under Bush increased at annual rates greater than during any Democratic administration in recent history. Just read howls of conservatives who worry about Bush's Great Society-like programs.
On foreign policy, Kerry rips Bush apart but can't say whether he would have gone into Afghanistan and Iraq and is unable to specify how he would have gotten pacifistic Europeans on board. It is common to caricature Ashcroft as some Seven Days in May insurrectionist, bent on overthrowing the Constitution; but given the almost daily arrests of terror suspects in the United States, Kerry cannot tell us how exactly the Patriot Act has eroded our freedoms, much less why it is unnecessary in hunting down potential mass murderers.
What is it about Bush that elicits such hatred, that galvanizes even usually mindless rock stars, self-indulgent Hollywood actors, lethargic ex-presidents and vice presidents, and hypocritical Democratic senators to embrace such canonical fury? Why was the Left content to make fun of Ford's clumsiness, Reagan's forgetfulness, and George Sr.'s preppiness, but now calls George W. a Nazi and worse still? Why are there forthcoming novels and plays that discuss the assassination of George W. Bush? Why did we not get a Reaganwacked, a Reaganworld, a Lies of Ronald Reagan a similar vast industry of paperback pulp equating Reagan with evil incarnate?
THE SOUTHERN ALBATROSS
Bush is a southerner, with a drawl but not one who is either liberal or Democratic. We forget just how rare that is.
In fact, we have not seen a twanged president or vice president who was conservative in over a half-century. The previous rule? A Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Lloyd Bentsen, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, or John Edwards could serve or run for executive national office only on a simple triangulating premise they offered moderate and regional balance to Yankee liberalism and yet did not in the slightest scare the rest of the country with images of a redneck South.
Any unrepentant conservatives from the south former Democrats like a John Connolly or a Phil Graham who sought the presidency quickly faded. Mr. Bush is unusual an adopted Texan who reflects the attitudes and beliefs of most Southerners, and who counts on real political affinity rather than mere regional loyalty for support south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Nixon-Lodge, Goldwater-Miller, Nixon-Agnew, Ford-Dole, Reagan-Bush, Bush-Quayle, Dole-Kemp, Bush-Cheney not a Southern conservative Republican to be found on any ticket, a trend that surely keeps Karl Rove's wheels spinning each night.
For the Left, Mr. Bush is automatically under a cloud of suspicion; he is an unapologetic twanger who likes guns, barbeques, NASCAR, "the ranch," and pick-up trucks. It matters little that George Bush's record on classical civil-rights issues is impeccable, without a hint of the deplorable racism of a younger Senator Byrd, a Lyndon Johnson, or an Al Gore Sr. Every statement Bush drawls out about religion, affirmative action, or abortion is forever suspect sort of what would happen should a Germanic-sounding Arnold Schwarzenegger quite rightly lecture Californians about the need for greater order, efficiency, cohesiveness, and the willpower to regain pride and purpose. Necessary, yes but for some, given his accent, Wagnerian and spooky all the same.
Similarly, Bush's Christianity seems evangelical and literal. It comes across as disturbing to liberals of the country who see religion as a mere social formality at best, useful for weddings and funerals, perhaps comforting at Christmas and Easter of course, but otherwise a potential threat to the full expression of lifestyle "choices."
American politicos like their candidates to be Episcopalian, Unitarian, or Congregationalist, perhaps even mainstream but quiet Methodists or Presbyterians. Baptists of the southern flavor, or anything not found in a New England township, reflect a real belief in the literalness of the Bible primordial ideas that religion is not a social necessity but a fire-and-brimstone path to eternal salvation.
Jimmy Carter came closest to the edge with his talk of being born again. Yet his liberalism, his close friendship with Walter Mondale, and his talk of American pathology convinced the Left that he was just a southern version of a Daniel Berrigan or William Sloan Coffin a little weird, perhaps, but useful all the same in drawing the powers of Christianity into the liberal crusade. In contrast, if Bush evokes the name of God one one-thousandth as often as did Abraham Lincoln or Reverend Jackson, he is dismissed as an unhinged zealot eager to incite a Hundred Years' War with the Muslims.
Critics accuse Mr. Bush of Manichaeism of tough, black-and-white talk about good and evil. They are right. He certainly sounds different from the usual suburban moralist, especially in an age of irony, skepticism, and cynicism. Our era is dominated by pundits, professors, and journalists to whom hip nuance is everything. The Time magazine style of reporting starts off with Theme A, then reverses course half-way through with counterargument B, only to conclude with Theme A lite.
I like David Letterman and Jon Stewart, but like most Americans I can never really tell when or whether they are ever sincere. Not long ago a Frenchman explained to me why he hates Bush, who "thinks linearly" and has no sense of the "problematique." Face it: We are now an information society, with a premium on talk, not action. To suggest that one need not be 100 percent certain but perhaps only 60 percent certain to act is deeply disturbing. And when you add lingo like "bring 'em on," the caricature that Bush belongs on the main street of Gunsmoke rather than in Sex in the City or The West Wing is only strengthened.
Go back to the early 1960s and listen to the accents on shows like Have Gun Will Travel and GE Playhouse and contrast those characters' speech with today's television diction: The former are square, one-dimensional, blunt almost flat and Midwestern in tone the latter speak nasally, their speech drawn out and full of ironic, sarcastic under-the-breath asides, often striving to reflect sophisticated uncertainty, if not camp.
We not only have an evangelical Christian as president in the age or irony, but one who really makes it sound like we have the ability to make choices that are more right than wrong and then act on them. In a world in which our elites can give 1,000 reasons for inaction and not one for resolution, Mr. Bush seems precipitous, unnuanced, one-dimensional, and oh-so-retro.
George Bush is a traitor of the most frightening sort to his class: He is not an ideological tribune like Roosevelt or Kennedy, but someone far worse, who seems to dislike the entire baggage of sophisticated, highbrow society. An Eastern blueblood who initially did all the right things Prep School, the Ivy league, Skull and Bones he then, accent and all, not only went back to rural Texas, but embraced a popular culture antithetical to the preppie, wonkish, aristocratic world of the East Coast elite.
So Bush suffers additional invective not accorded his father, whose cadre of Wall Street stockbrokers, Council on Foreign Relations pin-stripers, and State Department sober and judicious insiders could assure the liberal establishment that, well, here was a man like us who believed in noblesse oblige, sent his kids to our schools, and simply had a smidgeon less compassion for the down-trodden.
But W.? His wife is pure Texas: a closet smoker from a family that does not have lots of money or status not a Kennedy or Kerry spouse replete with loot, connections, and European sophistication. Unlike Teresa, Hillary, or Tipper, Laura has no angst about her own career; she doesn't give sermons about super-womaning as wife, mother, and activist exec. Worse still, Laura Bush is happy, proud, and likes who and what she is.
We don't hear that the Bush twins are like the Kerry offspring at Harvard Med, or slashing through Stanford Chelsea-style, or even like the Gore girls, lecturing the faithful on their father's liberalism. Somehow the purportedly non-New York Times reading, non-NPR-listening, non-Guggenheim-visiting George W. Bush veered off onto the wrong path, and his recalcitrance seems to drive his aristocratic rivals nuts. His antipathy, after all, is one of choice, not fueled by an outsider's envy or prior poverty.
"Pushy" neocons not Shimon Peres groupies advise him on Israel. Bush talks to confident black entrepreneurs, not the elite CEOs of the race industry. He is at home more with ministers in polyester than with elbow-patched, turtle-necked scholars of religion. So it is not just what Bush does, but how he does it that matters so much to the exasperated, out-of-the-loop op-ed boards, Malibu filmmakers, elite newsrooms, faculty lounges, and foundation panels.
In short, the Left hates George W. Bush for who he is rather than what he does. Southern conservatism, evangelical Christianity, a black-and-white worldview, and a wealthy man's disdain for elite culture none by itself earns hatred, of course, but each is a force multiplier of the other and so helps explain the evolution of disagreement into pathological venom.
September 11 cooled the furor of these aristocratic critics, but Iraq re-ignited it. Not voting for George Bush is, of course understandable and millions in fact will do precisely that. But for those haters who demonize the man, their knee-jerk disgust tells us far more about their own shallow characters than it does anything about our wartime president.
And there is a great danger in all these manifestations of pure hatred. We are in a war. And in these tumultuous days, the Left's unhinged odium will resonate with and embolden not only our enemies abroad, but also the deranged, dangerous folk here at home
Victor nailed it.
And all those reasons are why I and so many other people love the guy so much.
There is only one reason why the country is split and divided. Half of the country believes the lies put out by the Democrats and their surrogates. The other half is smarter than that.
Bush defends the Western Civilization the Left seeks to replace with their dystopia.
Wham! All these things the libs hate about W are the very things I love about him.
Put the words to my frail brain I have been looking for. My mother has such hate for this great American Patriot and cannot give me a satisfactory reason "why", other than he stole the election and the economy is so bad (and OJ didn't do it either). I despise that the liberal press has poisoned her mind.
Probably should change my post name now, lest I join the ranks of being double standard.
He is by all accounts an average Joe who happened to be born to the powerful family. He is not a genius or a brilliant self-made man, but he is far from being dumb, he is smarter than he looks, and definitely above the middle. He was quite raucous, but then matured. He is a nice and engaging person. People say that his heart is in the right place. He is sure of himself and is somewhat stubborn. He is loyal to his friends, up to the fault. He is good and decent. No doubt he endears to him so many Americans who by looking at him imagine themselves as having this terrible job and responsibility. He was, looks like, a spoiled brat long time ago as his birthright might have dictated but not anymore. Which is a very refreshing difference from Al Gore (shudder).
He would make a good Freeper, I am sure! He is an Average Joe President! And he is a damn good President. That of course annoys elites to no end, because when we [normal people] imagine ourselves in his shoes, we sympathize with the enormous responsibility he shoulders on, but they, they look down on him, because they are so much above the average Joe, its just hurts them to look at him or, even worse, hear him!
Bump for an excellent piece.
<< [Doctor Hanson] nailed it.
And all those reasons are why I and [Most Americans!] love the guy so much. >>
It's as I have said for 3 years....they DESPISE him because he is a Christian!!! A Practicing Christian.....and they HATE it!
This is it. This is why he'll never get more than 42% of the vote in California - years of Hollywood catechism have taught the masses that such a man can't possibly be anything but a bad guy.
"But W.? His wife is pure Texas: a closet smoker from a family that does not have lots of money or status not a Kennedy or Kerry spouse..."
I was unaware that Mrs. Bush smoked. Jacqueline Kennedy was a chain-smoker, but the press loved her so much that there are virtually NO pictures of her with a cigarette. I don't know if Mrs. Heinz-Kerry smokes or not (and don't care, either)
I am personally acquainted with someone who sat next to Mrs. Jenna Welch (Laura's mom) in church a few weeks ago. Lovely woman, very polite, welcoming to new church members...just a down-to-earth type like most of us here in Texas.
Kind of gives a new meaning to the terms "left" and "right.
Picture the curve of IQ distribution, a bell-shaped (Gaussian) distribution centered on 100.
Conservatives are to the "right" of that center line.
Most Democrats were in complete denial when it comes to the 8 years of Bill Clinton. Could some of their hatred merely be displaced anger at Clinton that has been unfairly projected on Bush?
Very well put.
President Bush is da man!
And so is VDH
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