Is ‘Bush hatred’ irrational?♦
Take this simple test
In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed column, the law professor Peter Berkowitz complained that liberals’ irrational hatred of George W. Bush has “made rational discussion of politics in Washington all but impossible.” (See “The Insanity of Bush hatred,” Nov. 14, 2007.) Berkowitz, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution (read: conservative think tank), told a harrowing tale of being repeatedly besieged at academic dinner parties by “loud, seething, in-your-face” liberals demanding, “What’s irrational about hating George W. Bush?” and then refusing to let Berkowitz change the subject he had raised in the first place. And you thought Abu Ghraib was a rough place.
Berkowitz is of course correct when he observes, “Like all hatred in politics, Bush hatred blinds [the hater] to the other sides of the argument, and constrains the hater to see a monster instead of a political opponent.” Berkowitz is further correct in asserting that “tolerance, generosity and reasoned skepticism are hallmarks of the truly liberal spirit.” Yet nowhere in his essay does Berkowitz address his original question: Is “Bush hatred” irrational? Berkowitz just assumes that it is.
This is surprising because a simple and obvious test could answer the question. To wit: Remove Bush from the equation altogether and consider instead the appropriate rational response to a hypothetical but analogous situation.
That is: Let us assume that a hypothetical candidate is awarded the presidency of a hypothetical country in a disputed election that he appears to have lost. Let us further assume that, instead of reaching out to his opponents, the new president co-opts them by launching a war under a false pretext. Then let us assume that this president portrays the enemy in this war as “the greatest single threat to our way of life,” yet neither the president nor the war’s supporters in his administration, the Congress or the media volunteer themselves or their relatives to fight in it. And let us also assume that this hypothetical war causes tens of thousands of deaths, exacerbates the problems it was supposed to solve, and inspires the country’s enemies while alienating the country’s allies.
Finally, let us further assume (highly unlikely, I admit) that this president’s misleading rhetoric persuades Peter Berkowitz himself to quit academia and head for the front lines, there to suffer the loss of several vital limbs or organs.
In such a hypothetical situation, what rational posture would Professor Berkowitz recommend to those who must bear the burdens of such a war? Tolerance? Generosity? Reasoned skepticism? Respectful disagreement? Christian forgiveness? Ironic detachment? Wry bemusement? What?
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