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Friday, October 15, 2004

What's so wrong with Bush?

The contributors to the New York Review of Books count the ways. Highlights of their ten-page, 13,400-word series of essays:

Princeton philosopher K. Anthony Appiah is appalled by President Bush's utterly false pretense of being a "man of his word":

In this President, then, we have a self-described "uniter" who has nominated a succession of right-wing ideologues to the federal bench; a man who has invoked his commitment to "fairness" as he continues to transfer the cost of governance to people further down the income scale; a man who has spoken of "humility" and "honesty" even as, by arrogance and false statements, particularly about Iraq, he and his administration have undermined American credibility in the world. And still his supporters avow that George W. Bush is a man of his word.

Bard College professor Ian Buruma, co-author of Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies, bitterly notes that President Bush has turned away from the very things that the rest of the world admires about America:

Going to war against states without any evidence that they are part of the terrorist threat, while invoking Munich, Chamberlain, and Winston Churchill, does not look like a sensible strategy. Turning the US into an armed fortress, making it harder and harder for foreigners to enter the country, is the opposite of defending an open society. Legal sophistry in defense of torture casts a dark stain on the White House. Harassing harmless campaigners for causes not popular with the current administration damages not only the beauty but also the substance of the American idea of freedom.

Harvard human rights scholar Michael Ignatieff has bad news for people who think a rapid American withdrawal from Iraq (under Bush or Kerry) would lead to peace:

As the news from Iraq worsens, Kerry may be tempted to promise an exit from the quagmire and quietly jettison his commitments to a democratically elected government in Iraq. Yet holding firm on his intention to sustain an electoral process is vital. Those who opposed the war have good reasons to feel vindicated by the horrible turn of events in Iraq. Their problem is that if America abandons its commitment to helping Iraqis fight for a democratic outcome, through the end of 2005 and into 2006, this betrayal will transform the occupation's many failures into an unforgivable crime.

Thomas Powers writes about Karl Rove's Machiavellian campaign strategy:

[Bush] is so self-assured, defiant, and determined, and those waging his campaign are so aggressive and insulting in their attacks on Kerry personally, that voters are in danger of being swept away by the drama of the President's defiance. This High Noon brand of politics is apparently the brainchild of Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove. The idea is to raise the temperature of campaign rhetoric beyond norms of civility, in the hope of driving all the thousand important public issues into the background, and thereby forcing voters to see, and compelling them to accept or reject, only the image of the grinning Texan standing tall in his shirtsleeves, spitting on his hands, and challenging the flip-flopper, as he challenges the world, to step up or run home to mama. Some might describe Rove's High Noon politics as the gamble of a desperate campaign running on empty, but Rove could quote H.L. Mencken in defense, who said that no man ever lost a nickel by underestimating the intelligence of the American people.

Ouch! And while we're feeling morose, here's Oxford University political philosopher Alan Ryan on the absurdity of feeling protected by Bush:

The claim that reelecting President Bush will make the world safer—any part of the world, including the United States—would be laughable if the Iraqi civilian death toll was not 15,000 and rising, if peace for Israelis and Palestinians was not further away than ever, and if international cooperation on everything from global warming to fighting AIDS had not been deeply damaged by the last four years of a know-nothing presidency. If it is a joke, it is in the worst possible taste.

The two most substantive critiques — by Brian Urquhart and Mark Danner — deserve posts of their own.

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 15 October 2004 at 5:42 PM

Previous: 'Trust is covenantal.'
Next: What's so wrong with Bush? Part 2.

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