Bush Derangement Syndrome

Austin on Fire

For those that do not yet know, a man named Joseph Andrew Stack flew and crashed a plane into an IRS building in Austin, TX. His lengthy suicide note makes clear that his act was politically motivated –  Though the Department of Homeland Security has said that this, at least so far, has nothing to do with terrorism, as surely as the sun will set this evening, those who disagree with or oppose the political views of Mr. Stack will call it an act of domestic terrorism and seek to assign responsibility to everyone who shares some of his opinions or at least has the nerve to speak them publicly. Pro-lifers ought to know this routine by now – hysterical screeds that essentially argue guilt by association or even agreement, new calls for expanded police powers, and though they don’t apply in this case, restrictions on second amendment rights.

I condemn what Mr. Stack did. For right now, our political system is broken and wounded, but it is not dead. We still have a Bill of Rights, and especially a first amendment through which our freedoms of association, speech, and to petition government with our grievances is still in tact. Unfortunately both sides of the political spectrum – and which one is arguing this depends solely on whether or not “their guy”, Obama or Bush, Republican or Democrat is in power – seem to think that the basic idea of the Declaration of Independence is either outdated or immoral. That basic idea that governments can go too far and that the people have a right, and a duty, to resist them when they break their end of the social compact. Though the level of resistance offered today by Mr. Stack (whose soul I shall pray for) was wrong, at least under these conditions, that which is offered by the American citizens who will undoubtedly and unjustly be tarred with the same brush is.

So I want to take this opportunity to not only repeat what most people already believe – that violence in this context and reckless individual behavior are wrong – but to stand firmly in defense of the first amendment right of the tea party movement, and all political dissent, to exist. To reject the double-standard that says “protest is patriotic when the other party is in power, but dangerous extremism when my party is in power.” At least on this blog, I hope we can agree on these issues.

Update: Two things are worth adding to this piece. 1) The media, and especially the leftist blogs, did immediately try to associate Stack and his actions with the tea party movement. 2) Stack was not a member of the tea party movement, as the first link shows.

George Weigel on Narratives & 'Bush Derangement Syndrome'

In an essay entitled A Campaign of Narratives in the March issue of First Things (currently behind a firewall for non-subscribers), George Weigel writes:

Yet it is also true that the 2008 campaign, which actually began in the late fall of 2006, was a disturbing one—not because it coincided with what is usually described in the hyperbole of our day as “the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression” but because of how it revealed some serious flaws in our political culture. Prominent among those flaws is our seeming inability to discuss, publicly, the transformation of American liberalism into an amalgam of lifestyle libertinism, moral relativism, and soft multilateralism, all flavored by the identity politics of race and gender. Why can’t we talk sensibly about these things? For the past eight years, no small part of the reason why had to do with what my friend Charles Krauthammer, in a nod to his former incarnation as a psychiatrist, famously dubbed “Bush Derangement Syndrome.”

Raising this point is not a matter of electoral sour grapes. Given an unpopular war that had been misreported from the beginning, plus President Bush’s unwillingness to use the presidential bully pulpit to help the American people comprehend the stakes in Iraq, plus conservative aggravation over a spendthrift Republican Congress and administration, plus that administration’s failure to enforce discipline on its putative congressional allies, plus public exhaustion with a familiar cast of characters after seven years in office, plus an economic meltdown—well, given all that, it seems unlikely that any Republican candidate could have beaten any Democrat in 2008. Indeed, the surprise at the presidential level may have been that Obama didn’t enjoy a success of the magnitude of Eisenhower’s in 1952, Johnson’s in 1964, Nixon’s in 1972, or Reagan’s in 1984.

Still, I would argue that the basic dynamics of the 2008 campaign, evident in the passions that drove Obama supporters to seize control of the Democratic party and then of the presidency, were not set in motion by the failures and missed opportunities of the previous seven years but by Bush Derangement Syndrome, which emerged as a powerful force in American public life on December 12, 2000: the day American liberalism’s preferred instrument of social and political change, the Supreme Court, determined that George W. Bush (the candidate with fewer popular votes nationally) had, in fact, won Florida and with it a narrow majority in the Electoral College. Here was the cup dashed from the lips—and by a court assumed to be primed to deliver the expected and desired liberal result yet again. Here was the beginning of a new, millennial politics of emotivism (displayed in an astonishing degree of publicly manifested loathing for a sitting president) and hysteria (fed by the new demands of a 24/7 news cycle).

[Emphasis Mine]

I think this analysis gets things exactly backwards.

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