Saturday, March 08, 2008
The Democratic Party leadership's reflexive anti-Americanism
I'm a conservative. In particular, I'm a hawk on the Global War on Terror, but I'm also a hawk on foreign policy and national security matters more generally. That's obvious to anyone who's even skimmed the surface of this blog, and I make no bones about it. If you're a sympathizer with terrorists and you've been offended by my rhetoric's insensitivity to your point of view, my response is: Great! I only wish that my rhetoric had the power to give you bleeding stomach ulcers.
But my blog's target audience includes people who haven't fully made up their minds; and those who disagree with me but are still capable of changing their minds in whole or part; and those who will continue to disagree with me even after further reflection, including consideration of my arguments and opinions here. Indeed, I'm genuinely delighted when folks from any of those categories leave civil, thoughtful comments here. And in my personal life, wholly apart from this blog, many of my family members and best friends have opinions that are to the left of my own. I enjoy a respectful debate with them all.
That's why I've been pondering for the last several days a comment left here by a real-life friend of mine, a lawyer with whom I used to practice and with whom I still correspond and play poker regularly. As part of an essay comparing Barack Obama to John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, I'd included the following sentence: "Kennedy, at least, was a war veteran, and he came from a Democratic Party that hadn't yet started reflexively doubting, then hating and apologizing for, all things American." To that characterization, my friend left the following pithy question in the comments (emphasis mine): "Do you really believe that the Democrats hate all things American?"
My friend was tweaking me very politely but effectively, knowing that he'd touch a nerve with his question just as I, probably, had touched a nerve in him with my observation: My friend is a life-long Democrat, and yet I would never characterize him as "hating all things American." To the contrary, despite our different political affiliations and outlooks, he and I share an overwhelming number of common values; and even when we differ, I respect his views as being entirely genuine, and as usually having some rational, explicable connections to what he sincerely perceives as the long-term interests of our country (even when I disagree about the validity of those connections). Thus, my reply to him in those comments read:
I don't think all Democrats uniformly hate all things American, no. And I didn't say that. I do think that the current Democratic Party's leadership, though, may be fairly described as self-hating Americans who reflexively blame America first (at least as long as it's led by a Republican president, and never mind whether they voted to give him authority to act overseas or not).
But even now, some days later, I'm not satisfied with that response. Hence this post, as "revised and extended remarks."
I read in the WaPo this morning that later today (Saturday), President Bush "will veto legislation meant to ban the CIA from using waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics and will argue that the agency needs to use tougher methods than the U.S. military to wrest information from terrorism suspects." Dubya's veto is expected to re-ignite "the Washington debate over the proper limits of the U.S. interrogation policies and whether the CIA has engaged in torture by subjecting prisoners to severe tactics." The WaPo report goes on to explain that
[t]he legislation would have limited the CIA to using 19 less-aggressive tactics outlined in a U.S. Army field manual on interrogations. Besides ruling out waterboarding, that restriction would effectively ban temperature extremes, extended forced standing and other harsh methods that the CIA used on al-Qaeda prisoners after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
I haven't blogged very much about the "torture" debate here because I consider the overwhelming majority of that debate, as it's been conducted elsewhere in the mainstream media and blogosphere, to have been a colossal waste of time and energy. For their efforts to be useful, all participants in that debate must employ some common definitions of the most relevant terms, beginning with the word "torture" — and they haven't, and apparently can't. Look at the WaPo lede above, which blithely describes "temperature extremes" and "forced standing" as "harsh interrogation tactics." I must conclude that by the standards of the Democratic Party leadership, I was the frequent victim of state-sponsored torture as a child.
After all, when we misbehaved badly enough to prompt our teachers to cancel the pre-lunch recess period, my second-grade class at North Elementary School in Lamesa, Texas, had to stand silently, sometimes in sub-freezing winds and blowing sand, for a quarter-hour or more in line outside the cafeteria doors before we were permitted inside to eat lunch. Other days, we stood in more than 100°F blazing sunshine. No wonder I bear so many psychic scars — oh, please, someone contact Amnesty International on my behalf! Someone get me ... a lawyer!
(A very few of my readers may miss the snark in the previous paragraph. To re-assure you: Being denied recess was genuine punishment, but many of us, including me, routinely spent much longer walking to and from school in those same freezing, sand-filled winds or under that same blazing sun; and we all would have been perfectly pleased to be outside in them, playing Red Rover or whatever during recess, had we not misbehaved. This was part of a very normal childhood growing up in the Texas panhandle in the early 1960s, a time and place in which the Ward Cleaver family would have fit in just fine.)
So here we are in America as of March 2008, in which a Democratic-led Congress eagerly passes legislation protecting captured terrorists from shivers, sweats, and sore feet — even at the cost of American lives that may well be lost as a direct consequence. Simultaneously, that same Democratic-led Congress cannot bestir itself to pass an extension of previously passed legislation that would have permitted American intelligence agencies to continue to conduct warrantless investigation of foreigners' electronic communications with other foreigners, with both senders and receivers in foreign lands. They would have you believe that the Founding Fathers' intentions were to establish and enshrine the protections of the Fourth Amendment for every digital packet of every foreigner's message to another foreigner that might wander through a fiber-optic pipeline running through American space. Again, American lives may well be lost as a direct consequence. A majority of senate Democrats recognize this, and has tacitly admitted it through their votes to re-authorize. But in Nancy Pelosi's House of Representatives, the higher value is to ensure the continued ability of a tiny number of tort lawyers to continue to terrorize communications companies through reckless, ridiculous litigation.
The Democratic Party leadership's actions and inactions here are both excellent examples of what I originally characterized as "reflexively doubting, then hating and apologizing for, all things American." Their starting and nearly irrefutable presumption is that the Administration and the governmental agencies, military and non-, that we voters have entrusted with our national security are corrupt, incompetent, and abusive — indeed, they presume that our government, and not the terrorists, are America's real enemy. The dangers those American professionals have been charged to protect us from, Congress systematically downplays or ignores. Not only the president from an opposing party, but nonpolitical career professionals and even dissenters from within the Democratic Party (e.g., Joe Lieberman), must be demonized by the Democratic Party leadership and its sycophants in the mainstream media as "abusers of civil rights." And one need not wander far downstream from that leadership to find allied minions and advocates who are eager to apply the word "fascist" with absolutely straight (albeit hate-filled) faces.
My original formulation was indeed overbroad. Pelosi, Reid, Clinton, and Obama et al. don't doubt, hate, and apologize for all things American. Notwithstanding Sen. Obama's resistance to lapel pins, they aren't out burning American flags, for instance. But neither are they condemning those who do so at their anti-BusHitler rallies. All too often, and indeed with increasing frequency as they approach the 2008 election, the Democratic Party leaders are acting reflexively, and irrationally, and indefensibly. Some small fringe of the American public at the very extreme edge of the Angry Left would agree with them that it's better for Congress to prevent terrorist heat rashes and bunions than exploded American bodies. But do not tell me that that's representative of America — not even of most of those who would happily and proudly self-identify as "Democrats."
The Obama campaign in particular demonstrates, and even exceeds, these same tendencies and attitudes. It's not just in Sen. Obama's votes, which have earned him recognition as the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate. It's very explicit: In Barack Obama's and his wife's campaign rhetoric, America as it actually is and has been during their own remarkably privileged lifetimes, they find unworthy of pride. Only America as it can become — one Nation, under Obama — can be worth being proud of.
The Democratic Party is on the brink of nominating Sen. Obama as their presidential candidate. Is it unfair for me, then, to impute his and his wife's beliefs to the members of their party generally?
Good, solid, and intelligent members of the Democratic Party — like my commenting friend — have a reasonably clear choice, I think. Each must ask himself or herself: Do I continue to support my party leaders with my votes and my membership in their party? Or do I abandon them and instead speak out, and vote, in ways that would actually advance American interests instead of undercutting them? I won't doubt my Democratic friends' patriotism if they continue to stand by their party's leaders. But I will continue to doubt the wisdom and even the rationality of those party leaders, and to use this blog to express those doubts as best as I can manage.
Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to The Democratic Party leadership's reflexive anti-Americanism and sent a trackback ping are listed here:
(1) stan made the following comment | Mar 8, 2008 10:16:19 AM | Permalink
There are elected Democrats around the country who refuse to say the pledge of allegiance. Hillary Clinton explained that when she recited the pledge, she was pledging to the country she hoped we would become. Our current country is not worthy of her allegiance.
It was a lifelong Democrat, Jeane Kirkpatrick, who coined the phrase "Blame America First" to describe the reflexively anti-American instincts of the Democratic leadership. And that was in 1984.
It is the Democrats who embrace unrepentant terror bombers who sought to overthrow our government and our constitution.
It is the Democrats who embrace foreign law to inform our understanding of our constitution. It is Democrats who defer to a United Nations composed of dictatorships which openly hate the USA and seek to hamstring us.
And it is the Democrats who tell pollsters that the USA is a negative, malevolent force in the world. That shouldn't be surprising. It is the Democrats who see our country as a racist, sexist, mean-spirited, hate-filled, uncharitable nation whose ugly instincts must be curbed and controlled by ever-increasing laws and regulations.
Of course, the Democrats hate this country. Their policy prespcriptions, foreign and domestic, perfectly reflect their American-bashing rhetoric. Anyone listening to the campaign speeches of Edwards, Obama and Clinton would have no honest choice, but to conclude that they hate the USA. Listen to the way they describe it!
The better question would be -- when was the last time the Democrats acted like they DIDN'T hate America?
(2) stan made the following comment | Mar 8, 2008 10:27:40 AM | Permalink
Anybody want to bet whether this judge is a Democrat?
(3) Old Coot made the following comment | Mar 8, 2008 11:02:04 AM | Permalink
I'd like the names of any prominent Democrats who have repudiated the likes of William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.
(4) JMW made the following comment | Mar 8, 2008 1:59:44 PM | Permalink
As of the beginning of this year, according to polls, fully 75% of Americans think the country "is on the wrong track" -- in spite, of course, of all we have accomplished as a nation in this decade.
So in response to your post -- I'd encourage you to ask yourself, honestly, whether or not the Democratic Party is reflexively anti-American, or whether Americans are reflexively, well, anti-American.
Not holistically so. But, for example, I'm from the Southeast and even there the virtues of military service and conservative values are often outweighed by a "reflexive" xenophobia and opposition to free trade.
The Democrats do play to the apparently widespread skepticism -- fractured as it may be -- about this country in the electorate. They've gotten better at marketing to people's individual and regional prejudices about what, exactly, America is doing wrong.
But they'd have no traction with that strategy if people weren't so pessimistic these days.
JMW: Polls are pernicious things that can be easily manipulated. This morning I shouted at my computer monitor and startled my poor dog, yet again, when reading a WaPo newswriter's supposedly factual statement that based on polls showing that 75% of Americans thought it was a mistake to have invaded Iraq, John McCain is on the "wrong side of public opinion" for the upcoming election. Of course, depending on how they are worded, polls also show large majorities of Americans opposing the idea that America should enable a regional genocide by cutting and running in Iraq — from which I could neatly switch that reporters' premise into an argument that Obama and Clinton are on the "wrong side of public opinion about Iraq."
I certainly agree with you that Americans have become more self-critical than we were in, say, Teddy Roosevelt's day. But I also think that the current Democratic Party leadership has taken that trend far farther than have Americans generally. That's why their campaign staffs are in furious internal debates over whether to campaign for the remainder of the year over the war we're actually winning in Iraq or the economy that hasn't yet gone into a recession.
(6) JMW made the following comment | Mar 8, 2008 6:48:05 PM | Permalink
Beldar: well, the "wrong track" poll has been repeated with quite consistent results over the last few years. I don't think people are more self-critical, they just aren't happy. The 2006 elections ought to be plenty of evidence of that.
I don't necessarily disagree with your point about the Democratic party's leadership. But we, as a nation, put an elitist bitch from San Francisco into power. We swept them in, basically overnight. I just have to suspect the Democratic party is selling what people are buying these days.
It's disturbing. Economically the country has been doing very well for the last five years or so, yet people are unhappy. I know it sounds alarmist, but I really feel like there's some kind of nativist/isolationist/xenophobia coming about that didn't exist a few years ago. It shows in the rise of crackpots like Lou Dobbs, and frankly, in conversations I've had with perfectly intelligent people back home (NC). Not to mention the immigration fervor of recent years.
I don't know what to blame specifically -- but partly I believe it's that when the job market suddenly contracted, the business leadership in this country was very crass about outsourcing and off-shoring jobs to save money. It wasn't the wrong business decision generally. But I do suspect the tone had a lasting impact. That's just my pet theory, though.
When Americans are ready for Republican leadership again, we'll have it -- but right now I'm unsure if people have the basic confidence anymore. Hence the rise of our reflexive "doubters."
(7) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Mar 9, 2008 4:22:44 AM | Permalink
Dear Mr. Dyer: Like you, I find the House leadership's actions regarding the telecom immunity bill quite dangerous. But there's plenty of bipartisan room for concern. Why wasn't this problem addressed during the Republican heyday of 2003- 2006? The GOP Congress was happy in those days to "Let George do it" (literally), while going hog wild on spending, earmarks, and such astonishing fiascos as the Terri Schiavo. Look at the result today: an urgent need that is not being addressed by the current Congress, and was not by a previous Congress that claimed pretensions to national security.
Your second commenter, Stan, is another example of bipartisan foulups. Stan is sore because an elected family court commissioner rejected a 17 year old male's request to join the Marines under a deferred enlistment program. He had to ask the commissioner for permission because he is a foster child. Stan sees this as proof that a Democrat used personal prejudice against the services to thwart the young man and "make a statement." The news reports aren't absolutely conclusive on this point. But I think it likely Stan is right that the commissioner made a poor decision. But he misses the real issue in two ways:
a) Would Stan approve the commissioner's action if the 17 year old had been female and wanting an abortion for an unwanted pregnancy? That, too, is a life changing decision. A California Assemblyman has decided to play to the grandstand by introducing a bill that would allow a foster child to gain permission from a social worker or foster parent. Again, would this be a satisfactory solution if the 17 year old was female, wanting an abortion?
b) Why is the Marine Corps taking such an interest in this young man? From the news stories, it seems likely that he will do well in the Marines. Yet, after all, the problem can be cured by a few months passage: when he turns 18, he can thumb his nose at the commissioner and join the Marines. (It's true that the commissionerk's acton may deprive him of extra pay and benefits that an early enlistement would make. But I take the young man at his word when he says that he wants to serve, that he's not in it for the dough.) Yet the Marines would much rather have him nownownownow.
Because the recruitment goals for all the services are pressing hard. Up to now, the services have been able to meet the quotas needed, but with precious little margin for error. This story is a symptom of a desperate need for fighting men and women that is only just being met. This is not a safe policy in a time of war. There's no plenitude of reserves. The "surge" has been a combination of more soldiers and better tactics. So far, it has done well. But by the end of this summer, the more troops are likely to be out of Iraq. There's no replacements for them. It may be that they won't be needed. That's a dam dangerous gamble to take in these times, comparable to the refusal to pass telecom immunity. Yet Congress, whether Democrat or Republican, will not touch the issue, whether by greatly expanding pay and benefits, or instituting a draft. The draft has become the young person's equivalent of Social Security: it can't even be discussed, let alone acted upon.
So I repeat that there are bipartisan failings. The Democrats may have the edge in reflexive doubting, but the GOP is increasingly hollow in standing for anything but their own grab at the levers of power.
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