Friday, June 1, 2007

Bush Bashes His Base

If you are a conservative and/or a Republican then Peggy Noonan's latest column is a must-read. It essentially discusses why the administration has resorted to insulting it's own strongest supporters over the immigration issue, and it's wonderfully written.

In the course of her column she says this:

The White House doesn't need its traditional supporters anymore, because its problems are way beyond being solved by the base. And the people in the administration don't even much like the base. Desperate straits have left them liberated, and they are acting out their disdain. Leading Democrats often think their base is slightly mad but at least their heart is in the right place. This White House thinks its base is stupid and that its heart is in the wrong place.

For almost three years, arguably longer, conservative Bush supporters have felt like sufferers of battered wife syndrome. You don't like endless gushing spending, the kind that assumes a high and unstoppable affluence will always exist, and the tax receipts will always flow in? Too bad! You don't like expanding governmental authority and power? Too bad. You think the war was wrong or is wrong? Too bad.

But on immigration it has changed from "Too bad" to "You're bad."

The president has taken to suggesting that opponents of his immigration bill are unpatriotic--they "don't want to do what's right for America." His ally Sen. Lindsey Graham has said, "We're gonna tell the bigots to shut up." On Fox last weekend he vowed to "push back." Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff suggested opponents would prefer illegal immigrants be killed; Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said those who oppose the bill want "mass deportation." Former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson said those who oppose the bill are "anti-immigrant" and suggested they suffer from "rage" and "national chauvinism."

The problem that Bush presents to conservatives dismayed by his support for a bill that is so obviously awful is that he has been steadfast on four things that are so important to them: The war on terror, supreme court justices, tax cuts, and support for Israel. He's also been right to shun the Kyoto sham and to pursue a missile shield.

His failures - his exorbitant spending, his embrace of Donald Rumsfeld's policy of a lean military presence in Iraq and his inability to articulate a compelling defense of his policies and thus be an inspiring leader for the nation - have been galling, but tolerable. Until now.

As Noonan says, the administration is consciously trashing those who feel that illegal immigration is a calamity for this nation and is opening a breach that will not likely be mended if the immigration bill passes.

The President would have done much better to have taken her advice:

If they'd really wanted to help, as opposed to braying about their own wonderfulness, they would have created not one big bill but a series of smaller bills, each of which would do one big clear thing, the first being to close the border. Once that was done--actually and believably done--the country could relax in the knowledge that the situation was finally not day by day getting worse. They could feel some confidence. And in that confidence real progress could begin.

Bush could have been a great president, but as Noonan points out in a different context, he squandered the opportunity. It's too bad.


More Hitchens vs. Wilson

The debate between atheist Christopher Hitchens and theologian Douglas Wilson continues at Christianity Today with part IV and V.

Hitchens, I'm sorry to report, insists on missing the point. His argument in part IV is that atheists can be good without God. Wilson replies that it is not a question of how atheists can behave, rather it is a question of whether there can even be such a thing as "good" if there is no God.

Think of it this way. You and I disagree on how a word is spelled. How do we resolve our disagreement? We agree to consult a dictionary and accept its authority. Now suppose you say lying is wrong and I say it is not. How do we adjudicate our dispute? Must we not hold our two opinions up to some higher standard of moral authority, a moral dictionary, and see which of our views is compatible with that authority? Yet the problem for the atheist is that there is no moral dictionary. There's no right or wrong answer. Thus each of us is our own moral authority and whatever we think is good is ipso facto right.

Hitchens would reply that our sense of morality is innnate in us, a product of our evolution, but this helps his case not at all. As Wilson points out, just because we have a moral sense is no reason to think that sense is authoritative or that it somehow obligates us to live by it. Why should a moral sense which evolved to suit us for life in the stone age have any bearing on how we live today? Moreover, there is a lot about us - aggressiveness, lust, greed, etc. - which are also innate. Why are these things not morally obligatory? How do we choose between innate tendencies which are moral and those which are not?

Wilson makes this explicit in pt. V:

I have been asking you to provide a warrant for morality, given atheism, and you have mostly responded with assertions that atheists can make what some people call moral choices. Well, sure. But what I have been after is what rational warrant they can give for calling one choice "moral" and another choice "not moral." You finally appealed to "innate human solidarity," a phrase that prompted a series of pointed questions from me. In response, you now tell us that we have an innate predisposition to both good and wicked behavior. But we are still stuck. What I want to know (still) is what warrant you have for calling some behaviors "good" and others "wicked." If both are innate, what distinguishes them? What could be wrong with just flipping a coin?

He then goes on to point out how Hitchens' view leads him to a physical determinism which completely negates the validity of his opinions. If determinism is true then whatever views we hold we hold because of the dance of atoms in our brains and not because of any truth-value inherent in those opinions:

If you were to take a bottle of Mountain Dew and another of Dr. Pepper, shake them vigorously, and put them on a table, it would not occur to anyone to ask which one is "winning the debate." They aren't debating; they are just fizzing. You refer to "language in which to write this argument," and you do so as though you believed in a universe where argument was a meaningful concept. Argument? Argument? I have no need for your "argument hypothesis." Just matter in motion, man.

In other words our thoughts about right and wrong are just chemicals fizzing in our brains as a result of all the chemical reactions that have occured in our brains throughout our lives. They don't correspond to any "truth" about morality at all.

Wilson then adds this:

You praise reason to the heights, yet will not give reasons for your strident and inflexible moral judgments, or why you have arbitrarily dubbed certain chemical processes "rational argument." That's absurd right now, and yet there you are, holding it. So for you to refuse to accept Christ because it is absurd is like a man at one end of the pool refusing to move to the other end because he might get wet. Given your premises, you will have to come up with a different reason for rejecting Christ as you do.

But for you to make this move would reveal the two fundamental tenets of true atheism. One: There is no God. Two: I hate Him.

Read the whole debate at Christianity Today. It's very good - unless you're on Hitchens' side of the argument.