Friday, January 27, 2006

Getting personal

Here's a fundamental difference between Democratic politics and Republican politics. When the Democrats disagree with the Republicans on an issue, they criticize the issue. When the Republicans disagree with the Democrats on an issue, they criticize the Democrats. With the Republicans, politics is personal.

Some examples.

Senator John Kerry announces that he's in favor of filibustering Sam Alito's Supreme Court nomination. He criticizes Alito's opinions on key issues, and argues (convincingly, IMHO) that Alito's future decisions are likely to be harmful to a variety of civil rights. Do the Republicans counter Kerry's point-by-point critique of Alito's views with a similar point-by-point policy rebuttal? Of course not. Instead, they start firing away at Senator Kerry, on a deeply personal basis. Kerry's deluded, Kerry's out of touch, Kerry's too French. They don't criticize his views; instead, they demonize him, personally.

Decorated and universally respected Congressman John Murtha comes out against the Iraq war. He criticizes the Bush administration's management of the war, treatment of U.S. soldiers, and lack of a clear exit strategy. Do the Republicans counter Murtha's point-by-point critique of the Bush administration's performance with a similar point-by-point policy rebuttal? Of course not. Instead, they start firing away at Congressman Murtha, on a deeply personal basis. Murtha's out of touch, Murtha's a soldier hater, Murtha's a traitor. They don't criticize his views, they demonize him, personally.

Former VP Al Gore speaks out against the Bushies, and the right wing shouting class scream that Gore is having a "meltdown." Harry Belafonte speaks out against the Bushies, and he too is said to be having a "meltdown." Patriots and critics alike are called treasonous when they raise their voices in protest. Never are their points addressed; the only response is to slander the messenger, without ever responding to the message.

And so it goes. Anyone who criticizes the Bush administration or its policies is slandered as a looney or a traitor, called out of touch or anti-American or something worse. Reasoned criticism is countered by vicious personal attacks. And the name-calling isn't limited to Democrats; even rogue Republicans who don't toe the party line (such as Senator John McCain) quickly find themselves the victims of the right-wing smear machine. It's despicable.

This is what politics has come to in America. Or, at least, this is what Republican politics has come to, and what the so-called liberal mainstream media tacitly endorses. Patriots like Kerry and Murtha are "Swift-boated," their patriotism questioned and their honor despoiled. They aren't allowed the courtesy of having their views heard and responded to; the only response is a vicious smear campaign.

This is, for no other reason, why the Republican ruling class must be driven from power. Political discourse must be more than nasty name-calling. Governing must be more than the crushing of one's enemies. Issues should be addressed, respectfully and thoughtfully; criticism should be answered, professionally and dispassionately. There is no place in our political and government life for schoolyard bullying; these sorts of personal attacks should be reserved for the truly despicable among us -- perhaps, indeed, for the right-wing thugs masquerading as public servants in the Bush administration and the Republican-led Congress.

But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.

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