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Blog Wars: Bush Cultism versus Bush Derangement Syndrome

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"What exactly is Bush Derangement Syndrome? Is it the bitter feeling ordinary Americans feel when they see an administration trampling on civil liberties in the name of protecting them from an enemy it failed to defend against the first time around? (An enemy who must have watched in glee as an American city drowned while the federal government chased its tail.) Is it the outrage at a "leader" who has presided over the collapse of America's reputation? Is it fury at a White House that dishonors our military by launching a war based on blatant deceptions? Is it the resistance to the breakdown of the rule of law? Is it the refusal to wade into the ethical swamp of human rights violations in the name of fighting terror?"

Bush Cultism

Glenn Greenwald's recent post (and his follow-up) about the convoluted worldview of Bush supporters has sparked a fierce intra-blog battle. At its core, this fight is about two distinct mindsets, broadly speaking, the left's confrontational anti-administration stance against the right's supplicant pro-administration stance. I characterized Glenn's post as "seminal" because it captured the philosophical dissonance at the heart of the pro-Bush position.

Greenwald: "The blind faith placed in the Federal Government, and particularly in our Commander-in-Chief, by the contemporary "conservative" is the very opposite of all that which conservatism has stood for for the last four decades. The anti-government ethos espoused by Barry Goldwater and even Ronald Reagan is wholly unrecognizable in Bush followers, who – at least thus far – have discovered no limits on the powers that ought to be vested in George Bush to enable him to do good on behalf of all of us."

I am sympathetic to bloggers like Tom Maguire, under whose skin Glenn's post is lodged and stinging. Nobody wants to be seen as an intellectually dishonest sycophant. But that's exactly where many rightwing bloggers find themselves, apologists for a White House that treats the Constitution as a burden rather than a beacon, as a pest rather than a paradigm.

Barbara at Mahablog attributes this rampant Bush cultism to fear: "In “Bush and the Cultivation of Fear” I argued that support for George W. Bush is built on fear. Even neocon-ism, which on the surface appears to be all about self-confidence and dominance and spreading American hegemony, is an ideology born of fear. I see neoconservatism as proactive isolationism. Foreigners scare us, so we’ll make them be more like us so they’re not so scary."

She touches on a critical source of that fear and on the attendant fury aimed at the left: "I think righties are genuinely baffled when they find others who aren’t as afraid as they are and who aren’t being driven by fear. Like, for example, lefties. They assume we are innocents who don’t understand how dangerous the world is. And I think they’re unhinged. Yes, terrorism is frightening. Terrorists can knock down buildings and kill people. But terrorists can’t destroy America. There aren’t enough terrorists with enough weapons in the world to invade and occupy America. Terrorists can’t destroy the Constitution or cancel our civil liberties. Only we can do that. And fear is driving the more unhinged elements of the Right into doing exactly that."

Bush Derangement Syndrome

The rightwing retort is that Bush's opponents suffer from "Bush Derangement Syndrome," a key symptom of which is an overwhelming, irrational hatred of George W. Bush. Typical of rightwing attacks on the left, it uses the language of insanity and mental defects (case in point: the 'loony left'). As an aside, I've seen a lot of that in response to my challenge to rightwing bloggers to prove liberal media bias. A number of  bloggers ignored my numerous examples of pro-Bush coverage and simply called me a nutjob (or some variant thereof).

What exactly is Bush Derangement Syndrome? Is it the bitter feeling ordinary Americans feel when they see an administration trampling on civil liberties in the name of protecting them from an enemy it failed to defend against the first time around? (An enemy who must have watched in glee as an American city drowned while the federal government chased its tail.) Is it the outrage at a "leader" who has presided over the collapse of America's reputation? Is it fury at a White House that dishonors our military by launching a war based on blatant deceptions? Is it the resistance to the breakdown of the rule of law? Is it the refusal to wade into the ethical swamp of human rights violations in the name of fighting terror? Is it disgust and disbelief at reporters who act as administration stenographers? Most importantly, is Bush Derangement Syndrome a worldwide epidemic? After all, Bush is viewed unfavorably by a majority of the American public, and by a vast majority of the world's inhabitants.

Perhaps Bush Derangement Syndrome is what afflicts rightwing bloggers, eager as they are to defend policies so clearly antithetical to genuine conservatism that it would be grimly amusing if the stakes weren't so high. Members of this administration - hiding behind a tattered veil of self-ascribed nobility - are doing what so many other people in positions of power do: they are abusing that power. And rightwingers who should know better that to enable it do so out of sheer hatred for liberals, a hatred stoked by the Limbaughs and Coulters and Hannitys of this world and exacerbated by lily-livered mainstream reporters who willingly weave rightwing storylines. Meanwhile, Democratic leaders would rather focus-group cheap slogans than grab the bull by the horns and lead America out of this mess.

It's a sorry state of affairs, really.