John Gould leaves an interesting, well-put comment at Matt Welch’s blog.
Whether or not you consider MoveOn.org to be “mainstream — which I’d question — there is a marked, disturbing pattern among the administration’s defenders of conflating opposition to the president with some kind of super-leftist, insane “hatred.” Yes, there is “hyperbole” among Bush’s opponents. But hyperbole is hardly a novel thing on the U.S. political landscape. And yes, there are people out there, crazy or not, who “hate” Bush. But what’s up with defenders of the administration like “Dr. Sanity” — or even, I’m sorry to say, Prof. Reynolds — who are less and less able to respond to opposition in any other terms but those of a putative psychology of “hatred”?
I think a lot of this started with the loathesome Charles Krauthammer’s column “Bush Derangement Syndrome,” wherein the neocon writer, a psychologist, only half-jokingly suggested that there was a new “plague” diagnosable by “the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency — nay — the very existence of George W. Bush.” Krauthammer trained his fire on Howard Dean, who clumsily said the conspiracy theory about Saudis warning Bush ahead of time about 9/11 was “interesting.” But he lobbed his extra shells at people like Bill Moyers, who called the GOP leadership a “right-wing wrecking crew.” Even more disingenously, he attacked New York Times columnist Paul Krugman not for anything he said or wrote, but because his British publisher put a picture of an anti-war rally, with Bush and Cheney monster puppets, on the cover of his column collection “The Great Unraveling.” This was proof of Krugman’s insanity, said Krauthammer, because he “attacks the president so virulently” that the British publisher was compelled to use a crazy photo. (I’m not holding my breath for Krugman to make a similar judgment about Jonah Goldberg, but it would be amusing.)
The “Bush Derangement Syndrome” meme, shortened to “BDS,” quickly made rounds around the blogosphere, and Krauthammer’s larger, um, “idea,” kept circulating in the media. The Republican National Committee, in its semi-frequent web videos and frequent press releases, often plays off the idea that Democrats are “wild-eyed” or “unhinged” or otherwise loopy when they criticize Bush. This has gotten them absolutely nowhere of late – Sen. Jon Corzine, who said sending Dick Cheney on the road to stump for Social Security reform was like “sending Saddam Hussein to campaign for democracy in Iraq,” was just elected governor of New Jersey by a 10-point margin – but apparently it’s just too much fun to give up on.
There’s a corrolary to this stuff that has annoyed me even more, though. It’s grouping together all criticism of George Bush or the White House as “Bush bashing.” This phrasing makes all criticism of the White House sound angry and meritless – like the people making the critiques just have axes to grind. But I don’t think it’s done maliciously. It’s probably because the words “Bush” and “bash” are alliterative and make for good headlines or on-air copy. “Gephardt criticizes Bush Medicare plan” is a lousy headline – “Gephardt bashes Bush on Medicare” is a good headline.
There’s nothing to be done about this until we get a new president, and primary voters should take that into account. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney lends himself to a fairly benign alliteration – when people criticize him they’ll “rip Romney” or maybe “rail at Romney.” Same with George Allen – “Clinton attacks Allen” etc.