Sunday, August 08, 2004

Confessions of a Bush Hater

Recently, via Roger L. Simon, I came across this fascinating article from the August 2004 issue of Esquire by admitted Bush hating journalist Tom Junod. In his article, Junod has the moral and intellectual courage to ask the one question most Bush haters dare not ask: what if George W. Bush is right? Here is an excerpt:

As easy as it is to say that we can't abide the president because of the gulf between what he espouses and what he actually does , what haunts me is the possibility that we can't abide him because of us—because of the gulf between his will and our willingness. What haunts me is the possibility that we have become so accustomed to ambiguity and inaction in the face of evil that we find his call for decisive action an insult to our sense of nuance and proportion.

The people who dislike George W. Bush have convinced themselves that opposition to his presidency is the most compelling moral issue of the day. Well, it's not. The most compelling moral issue of the day is exactly what he says it is, when he's not saying it's gay marriage. The reason he will be difficult to unseat in November—no matter what his approval ratings are in the summer—is that his opponents operate out of the moral certainty that he is the bad guy and needs to be replaced, while he operates out of the moral certainty that terrorists are the bad guys and need to be defeated. The first will always sound merely convenient when compared with the second. Worse, the gulf between the two kinds of certainty lends credence to the conservative notion that liberals have settled for the conviction that Bush is distasteful as a substitute for conviction—because it's easier than conviction.


We were attacked three years ago, without warning or predicate event. The attack was not a gesture of heroic resistance nor the offshoot of some bright utopian resolve, but the very flower of a movement that delights in the potential for martyrdom expressed in the squalls of the newly born. It is a movement that is about death—that honors death, that loves death, that fetishizes death, that worships death, that seeks to accomplish death wherever it can, on a scale both intimate and global—and if it does not warrant the expenditure of what the self-important have taken to calling "blood and treasure," then what does? Slavery? Fascism? Genocide? Let's not flatter ourselves: If we do not find it within ourselves to identify the terrorism inspired by radical Islam as an unequivocal evil—and to pronounce ourselves morally superior to it—then we have lost the ability to identify any evil at all, and our democracy is not only diminished, it dissolves into the meaninglessness of privilege.


We might as well credit the president for his one great accomplishment: replacing but with and as a basis for foreign policy. The world is a better place without Saddam Hussein, and we got rid of him. And unless we have become so wedded to the politics of regret that we are obligated to indulge in a perverse kind of nostalgia for the days of Uday and Qusay, we have to admit that it's hard to imagine a world with Saddam still in it. And even before the first stem-winder of the Democratic convention, the possibility of even limited success in Iraq has reduced the loyal opposition to two strategies: either signing up for the oversight role they had envisioned for the UN, or else declaring the whole thing a lost cause, in their own war of preemption.

Of course, Iraq might be a lost cause. It might be a disaster unmitigated and unprecedented. But if we permit ourselves to look at it the way the Republicans look at it—as a historical cause rather than just a cause assumed to be lost—we might be persuaded to see that it's history's judgment that matters, not ours. The United States, at this writing, has been in Iraq fifteen months. At the same point in the Civil War, Lincoln faced, well, a disaster unmitigated and unprecedented. He was losing . He didn't lose, at least in part because he was able to both inspire and draw on the kind of moral absolutism necessary to win wars. Bush has been unable to do the same, at least in part because he is undercut by evidence of his own dishonesty, but also because moral absolutism is nearly impossible to sustain in the glare of a twenty-four-hour news cycle. In a nation incapable of feeling any but the freshest wounds, Bush cannot seek to inspire moral absolutism without his moral absolutism becoming itself an issue—indeed, the issue. He cannot seek to engender certainty without being accused of sowing disarray. And he cannot speak the barest terms necessary for victory in any war—that we will stay the course, through good or through ill, because our cause is right and just, and God is on our side—without inspiring a goodly number of his constituents to aspire to the moral prestige of surrender.

The article is entitled "The Case for George W. Bush". Please read it all.


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