Bush Deserves Fair Criticism
There has been a tradition among detractors, since he took office in 2001, of deriding President Bush as unfit for his job. This trend is not confined to the more typical and conventional types of political critiques, but rather is manifested in attacks on the man's intelligence or character. The president has been called an idiot, portrayed as a drug-addict in popular culture, made fun of for his admittedly peculiar handle on the English language, and, in the case of the Michael Moore-ish leftists, essentially said to be an evil man. While I doubt many Americans would agree with the following sentiment, late last week Venezuelan President Hugo Chvez and others called President Bush a "terrorist" and a "fascist." The veracity of these claims notwithstanding, they do more harm than good by detracting from the credibility of the tenable and substantive criticisms of the President.
It is a difficult assertion to make that one should not voice his opinion as loudly and forcefully as he wishes. It is clearly not unreasonable for one to scream bloody murder when faced with an opponent (political or otherwise) who deserves it -- I firmly believe in and support the necessity of standing up to someone who actually is a fascist, terrorist, or a mass murderer. But the simple fact of the matter is that while George W. Bush is many things, he is neither evil, nor a terrorist, nor an idiot. Saying so only detracts from the pointed and honed criticism he deserves.
Dartmouth Professor Marlene Heck once argued in a history course, America's Founders and the World They Made, that James Madison's strongest point was his ability to politely, quietly and completely decimate an opposing argument. His voice was so soothing and his reasoning so sound and deliberate that it was virtually impossible to write him off as an ideologue. He was therefore able to push through, among other things, the Bill of Rights, in his early days as delegate to the Constitutional Convention and Representative simply because he was logical and direct.
Sweeping aside the historical details, there are some generalizations that can be drawn. When side A hears a blabbering idiot from side B, it is easy to retreat further into side A with the conviction that the alternative offered by side B is ridiculous. When side B is reasonable and calculated in its approach to the argument, this route is closed to side A. It has no choice but to refute side B on the merits of its own argument, which makes it much more likely that the correct side will win -- because there will be a candid discussion and debate instead of a food fight. Likewise, if B1 is a voice of reason and B2 shouts over him about how side A is the reincarnation of Attila the Hun, side A will focus on B2 specifically, and retreat into its shell of intolerance.
President Bush holds many beliefs that would undoubtedly have terrible consequences for the American vision of liberty if enacted in legislation. The imposition of religious ideals as law, well-intentioned as it may be, is fundamentally opposed to the vision of life that our Constitution lays out. A rapid increase of the budget deficit is troubling for many reasons, not the least of which is that the 20th century saw a superpower once feared more powerful than even America fall as a result of an inability to keep a deficit under control. An endorsement of a falsely named "free market" whereby corporations are given special treatment is again destructive to American liberalism (lower-case "l" liberalism, not Democratic Party Liberalism). The manipulative handling of national security information could endanger the lives of millions of innocents.
For these reasons and many others, President Bush and the majority Republicans deserve exceptionally high scrutiny in all their actions -- as do the opposition Democrats, for equally important reasons. However, screaming at the top of one's lungs that George Bush is the most recent incarnation of the evil resident in Hitler and Mussolini sweeps the carpet out from underneath of these very important arguments and should therefore be silenced and discouraged.