One of the odd things I have noticed when chatting with various liberal friends is the extent of their visceral hatred for President George W. Bush. I'm not talking about mild dislike…I'm talking about eye-rolling, mouth-foaming disgust for the man.
When I hear these sentiments, I can only think of one question: "Why do they hate him so?"
From my perspective as a libertarian with paleoconservative leanings, I am at a total loss as to identify the great transgressions that Bush has committed which would justify this liberal loathing. In all honesty, I think that they should be thrilled with his performance.
His election campaign and subsequent actions in the oval office remind me most of Supreme Court Justice David Souter. As you may recall, back during Souter's confirmation hearings, we were treated to a hysterical propaganda campaign from the political Left about how Souter was a reactionary Neanderthal. The Democrats in the Senate were gearing up for an ugly battle, which ultimately failed to keep him from the bench.
But look at his record since them! This guy is somewhere to the left of Ruth Bader Ginsburg!
As far as I'm concerned, we are the victims of yet another bait-and-switch scheme with this president. The results leave the Left no reason for griping at all…much less having apoplectic fits about him.
Take, for instance, Bush's record on government spending. The Left in this country generally believes that the path to social utopia is paved with taxpayers' dollars, which should be poured endlessly into a myriad of social welfare programs. They believe that the only things standing in the way of this utopia are greedy rich people who don't want to pay "their fair share."
By what possible measure of Bush's performance could they come away frustrated with the progress towards this goal? Bush's presidency has seen an explosion of non-defense discretionary spending. The rate of growth has been several times that of Clinton's. President Bush's "compassionate conservatism" has translated into a steep increase in overall government spending and a surging government budget deficit.
So…what's the gripe?
Another thing that the Left traditionally loves is grandiose entitlement programs. They long for the good-old days of LBJ when a giant new bureaucracy was created every year or so to administer some great new program. President Bush has achieved passage of the largest new entitlement program since the 1960's. His prescription drug plan was a long-sought goal of the liberals. Now they have it, thanks to W.
Or how about the arts?
The liberals adore lavishing tax money on various Leftist artists who pollute the culture with their nonsensical creations. The "Republican Revolution" of 1994 made the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts one of its main goals. What has Bush's response been? He recently proposed a giant increase in the budget of the NEA. So now we can look forward to even more photographs of crucifixes in urine jars and Madonnas smeared with elephant dung.
And what about illegal immigration?
The Left in this country generally likes massive illegal immigration because it gives them millions of new, impoverished voters who are easily lured by the ideology of socialism and class envy. Instead of making a strong stand to uphold the law and protect America's borders, Bush has proposed a plan which, in essence, would result in a massive amnesty program for illegals. Bill Clinton wouldn't have dared to propose such an initiative.
But the most common gripe about Bush that I hear from my liberal friends concerns foreign policy and Iraq. They claim that Bush deceived the American people and invaded a sovereign nation in violation of international law. They allege that he is a dangerous cowboy who should not be entrusted as commander-in-chief.
Actually, these are sentiments with which I happen to agree. My issue here is that I do not understand this criticism in the larger context of the history of American liberalism.
Let us break the points down:
First, is the "WMD issue." Bush claimed that Hussein's government had them and was in bed with terrorists. No WMD's have been found, and chances are that someone in this administration "cooked up" the intelligence to justify the war for ulterior motives.
While I find this to be repugnant, how is it different from most of the Democratic presidential icons of the 20th Century? Woodrow Wilson lied us into World War I. FDR lied us into World War II. LBJ lied us into Vietnam. Yet all three of these presidents are revered by liberals to this day. President Clinton even bombed a pharmaceutical plant in the Sudan on the same day that Monica Lewinsky gave testimony to a grand jury (though I suppose that we should be grateful that Paul Wolfowitz wasn't around back then, or we'd have probably nuked Khartoum).
Furthermore, the Leftists insist that Bush should have obtained permission from the UN before launching his attack. But President Clinton engaged in numerous wars without international approval…the most spectacular of which was the bombing of Serbia over the Kosovo situation. He had no UN mandate and no significant international coalition.
Bush's Democratic critics further state that a war to unilaterally remove Saddam's government violates norms of international behavior. This overlooks the fact that the removal of Saddam was the stated policy of the Clinton administration, which attacked Saddam once (Operation Desert Fox) with the approval of most of the Democratic leadership in Congress (an attack that occurred, again, without specific UN sanction).
Clearly, the current hatred of Bush's policy in Iraq by Leftist America is not based on principle, but rather political expediency and hypocrisy. The Left is currently engaging in revisionist history. Their newfound love of non-intervention and international law is a day late and a dollar short. In the run-up to this war, the only prominent antiwar voices to be heard anywhere were from the outright communists (ANSWER, etc.) and the libertarian/paleoconservative Right (Buchanan et. al.). Most of the current Democratic presidential candidates were in favor of the Iraq war, as was much of the Democratic Congressional leadership.
In truth, mainstream liberalism today is an ideology of military interventionism. President Clinton launched a variety of military escapades (Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, etc) that were fully supported by the Left. Any opposition voiced from the Right was shouted down as "isolationism."
But despite this hypocrisy, I will go out on a limb and say that barring a truly dramatic occurrence, George W. Bush will probably lose the election this coming November. He will not lose because the liberals hate him (a hatred which is absurd, given his policies), but rather because those Americans who thought they were getting a president who was fiscally conservative, believed in a "humble" foreign policy, desired border control, and wanted a generally smaller government were sold a phony bill of goods.
Many of these folks will stay at home on Election Day. One David Souter in our federal government is enough.
February 27, 2004