Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Give Us Barabbas!

The other day I suggested that liberal contempt for Bush distils to two things: His Christian faith and the threat his strong pro-life inclinations pose to Roe v. Wade. The Belmont Club has a slightly different take:

The particular venom with which the Liberals regard President Bush is at heart a reaction to what they perceive as a coup d'etat directed against the carefully constructed edifice of their historical achievements. To understand why the President and individuals like Paul Wolfowitz are described as "illegitimate", one should not, like the man who doesn't get the reference, look to the Florida chads or US Supreme Court decisions. Liberals are not talking about that kind of statutory legitimacy. Rather they are referring to what is perceived as a brazen attempt to negate the cultural equivalent of the Brezhnev doctrine, the idea that certain "progressive" modes of behavior, once attained, are irreversible. In this view, an entire set of attitudes, commonly referred to as "political correctness" and their institutional expressions, like the United Nations, have become part of a social contract, part of an unwritten constitution....James Lileks described the intensity of the revulsion at the barbarians at the gates; not Osama Bin Laden, but rather someone else:

"I ask my Democrat friends what they'd rather see happen -- Bush reelected and bin Laden caught, or Bush defeated and bin Laden still in the wind. They're all honest: they'd rather see Bush lose."

This is surely symptomatic of mental illness. It's a form of insanity that has gripped the left which they seem unwilling and unable to shake off. How else to describe people who would rather see the perpetrator of the 9/11 massacre go free to commit more such crimes if it means the political defeat of George Bush. It's reminiscent of the cry of the mob in Jerusalem two thousand years ago to "Give us Barabbas!" Sick.

True Lies

Bush's critics have been relentless in their allegations that the President lied to us about the reasons for invading Iraq. Al Gore's speech tomorrow will be but the most current example of such accusations about which three things that can be said.

First, as much as they have been repeated there has never to my knowledge been anything to show that Bush deliberately said what he knew to be false in order to mislead the American people. A lie, to be a lie, must be deliberate, and the teller must know, or should know, that what he is saying is false. In the run up to Operation Iraqi Freedom the White House offered as two of several justifications for military action their conviction that Saddam was working on obtaining WMD and their belief that he was aiding and abetting terrorists, including, but not limited to, al Qaida. Both of these, critics allege, were lies.

The evidence at this point in time suggests that the administration may have been mistaken about the WMD, but even if it turns out that they were, being mistaken is hardly the same as lying. Furthermore, if administration spokespersons were mistaken then they were not the only ones who were. So were Bill Clinton, John Kerry, almost every other Democrat, the New York Times, and most of the leadership of Europe. All of the foregoing believed, and told us at one point or another, that Saddam had, or was working toward obtaining, WMD. If his critics are going to accuse him of lying they have a duty to show that what he said was not simply an error, that it was an intentional effort to deceive. This they have not done, nor do they evidently care to. The language of character assassination comes too easily to their lips.

The connection to terrorism which Bush alleged seems pretty clear. Saddam harbored Abu Nidal and al Zarqawi. He allowed terrorists to train at a facility at Salman Pak and he rewarded the families of terrorists who blew themselves up in Israel with stipends of several thousand dollars. There is other evidence which reveals Saddam's relationship to terrorists in the Middle East. Interested readers should check out Stephen Hayes' book The Connection or read this interview of Hayes by NRO.

The finding of the 9/11 commission that there's no evidence that Saddam was connected to the 9/11 attack and the oohing and ahhing that subsequently erupted in the media is a red herring. To suggest that this finding refutes Bush's claim that the Iraqis were assisting terrorists is like arguing that because there's no evidence that Kobe Bryant's agent was involved in the events of which Bryant stands accused that there's therefore no connection between the player and the agent.

Second, the implication that Bush has done something morally offensive by lying (if he did) to the American people is absurd coming from those whose concept of morality is purely pragmatic. The critics of the Bush administration are largely secular men and women who hold to an ethic that declares whatever works to be right. For many of them there is no transcendent basis for morality, there's no God who establishes a standard to which we can repair to see if our behavior is right or wrong. In the absence of such a standard the only meaning that attaches to moral claims like "Bush lied" is a subjective expression of distaste.

In other words, if Bush did lie, then, on the modernist, secular assumption that there is no transcendent moral law, he hasn't done anything really wrong, he's only done something his critics don't like, and why should anyone care about what his critics like and don't like? Unless there is a transcendent moral authority, a God and a divinely ordained moral law, all the moral outrage on display on the op-ed pages of our papers is so much childish ranting. The only people who have solid ground to criticize anyone else's moral behavior are theists.

Third, the charge of lying levelled against Bush is hypocritical because lying and defending lying are tactics leftists and liberals themselves don't hesitate to embrace whenever it suits their purposes. Marx wrote that there is no morality save that which promotes the advance of materialistic socialism. The left shares the Marxist assumptions and agrees with him on ultimate goals. For many on the left, therefore, lying is moral if it promotes world socialism and immoral if it hinders it. Thus the paroxysms of righteousness that southpaw political figures and journalists affect at the very thought that Bush might have lied in order to accomplish a political goal is little else than a cynical attempt to discredit a "capitalist" president in the eyes of the gullible, unsophisticated masses, not something they themselves actually find personally reprehensible.

An excellent example of the left/liberal embrace of the lie as a political weapon opens in our local theaters this weekend. However, before you pay money to see Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 you really should read Christopher Hitchens' devastating review of both the film and it's creator in Vanity Fair. Hitchens is certainly no conservative Republican. He's a former left-wing writer for The Nation who is disenchanted with his erstwhile colleagues' opposition to a war he believes to have been a moral necessity, an important step in the direction of establishing justice in the world. He begins his review with this:

"To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of 'dissenting' bravery"

Then, after having dispensed with the niceties, Hitchens takes the gloves off. Anyone interested in Moore's work in general or this film in particular should read the whole critique. It's a little long, but it's absolutely devastating in its analysis of Moore's integrity and superficiality.