Monday, January 31, 2005


Why the triumphalist right wing is so objectionable

They have no idea what the arguments are even really about.

Iraq had its elections yesterday, and they seem to have gone better than many observers feared they would. Turnout was high, many Sunnis voted, and there was relatively little violence and intimidation. How effective the new Iraqi legislature will turn out to be is not something we can predict. What kind of constitution they write, whether the Sunnis will join in fully, and whether the Kurds will be satisfied are also things we will have to wait to see.

I'm very glad the elections went off as well as they did. I predicted violence and chaos, and I'm glad to see that didn't really happen. This is just the first step toward making Iraq a free democracy, and there's a lot more to do. But this is a good step.

However, to hear the right wing commentators spin it, it's not about Iraq at all. It's about the almighty George W. Bush and his unstoppable conquest of the hearts and minds of all humans on Earth.

Bill O'Reilly bitched about how all the "left-wing blogs" were silent about the relatively smooth elections, as if we had wanted things to go badly there instead of merely predicting that the elections would be marred by violence and intimidation. Of course I can't speak for all "left-wing blogs", and if any liberal was truly hoping for chaos in Iraq, I say without any mitigation, Shame on them.

However, I doubt that there are too many liberals lamenting the smoothness of yesterday's elections, today. Because we know what the real issue is here: Iraq. Not Bill O'Reilly, not even George W. Bush.

O'Reilly whinged that his strawman "left-wing bloggers" were silent on the occasion of a big defeat for them and, by implication, a big victory for George W. Bush.

Except, it's nothing of the kind. This is not a victory of any kind, big or small, for George W. Bush. This has nothing to do with George W. Bush. This is about Iraq and the Iraqi people. This is about their transition, we all hope, to real democracy. For anyone to make this, even slightly, about George W. Bush is to feed the dangerous cult that is growing up around the president. Much of the right-wing is being swept into a rash of almost idolatry with regard to George W. Bush, an unseemly and rickety scaffold of hype and hagiography that puts Bush and his needs, his triumphs, his vision at the center of everything. These people are laying all their hopes and dreams on this flawed, shallow man. He is so empty, he can be filled with almost anything. It's pathetic, to see veterans worship a draft-dodging deserter. To see hard-working men and women so enamored of a man who has not worked a day in his life, who failed at everything and was endlessly bailed out by rich friends, and who sneers at their values by hanging out with nobody but the wealthiest, most selfish Americans.

What the left finds so objectionable about George W. Bush is not just his policies - it's the fact that the man himself is so obnoxious, so snide, so trifling, so lightweight. There was no candidate on the Democratic side who had such a cult. Even the Big Dog himself, Bill Clinton, as much as he is admired by most Democrats and truly loved by some, is worshipped by none. Nor should he be. Nor should any President. The closest the Democrats have come is Kennedy, and that's more for the extinguished promise and the man's undeniable attractiveness than for his achievements. George W. Bush is a smirking, squinting little man, hardly the physical equal of John F. Kennedy, let alone his rhetorical and oratorical rival. And he has accomplished nothing. Whence the veneration and worship?

In any case, what is going on in Iraq is, first and foremost, about Iraq. If George W. Bush truly gave even the tiniest shit about Iraq, he would take a low profile and let it be about Iraq. And, to some extent, he is. And, to that extent, I give him some credit. Would that his idolatrous followers would emulate him and understand that this isn't about him, it isn't about them, it isn't about conservatives getting yet one more chance to bash liberals over something the liberals didn't even say or argue. Not everything is about America. No wonder the rest of the world hates our right-wingers.
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