Mudita Journal

Partisanship vs. Personal Integrity

November 28, 2007 · Filed under: Current Events, Intellectual, Personal, Politics

I wrote the following in response to comments from Ajasen and Austen on my post about the insanity of Bush hatred. The subject is interesting enough to me, however, that I’m promoting it to its own post.

Austen:

I think you provide a good rationale for being angry at Bush. But hatred is a completely different ball of wax. Hatred is more personal, more emotional, more visceral.

Anger can, under some circumstances, be a sign of moral discernment, of sensing the difference between right and wrong and reacting accordingly.

Hatred, on the other hand, is often a sign that your ethical scruples are on vacation, that you are now being governed by unchecked emotion.

You are now dangerous — intellectually, if not physically — and the object of your hatred damned well better be a moral monster, not just someone who has made bad decisions and with whom you disagree.

As a libertarian-minded person, I’ve got plenty to be mad at Bush about. But disagreeing with someone’s beliefs and actions is not the same as hating them, and I think that’s a distinction held in place only by our own allegiance to integrity.

I don’t believe for a minute that the rampant Bush hatred going around is the direct result of his actions. There has been a very deliberate and sustained campaign, by liberal partisans, to stir up Bush hatred since the contested 2000 elections.

And it has continued to be the case ever since. Just to take one small example, a while back, many congressional Democrats called for Bush to increase the number of troops in Iraq. Before long, Bush increased the number of troops in Iraq — and then some of those same Democrats criticized him for it bitterly.

It’s like watching high school students gang up on one another. Nothing the other guy can do is right, is worthy of praise. It is not moral discernment; it is a blindness to moral discernment.

You are no doubt right that Bush’s stature and power cause him to be hated (or loved) more than we would an ordinary man. And yet, on some level, does our integrity not require that we judge him by the same human considerations that we would judge a relative or neighbor or acquaintance?

Why should we allow a man’s title to warp our basic moral sense of him as a human being? Why does holding public office mean that he is no longer deserving — and we no longer capable — of the same compassion and understanding we would extend to a friend?

Ajasen:

You write, “I daresay that those liberals who hate Bush do so for the same reasons that you think he’s a decent man: his political actions. They mostly disagree with them (and therefore ‘hate’ the man), you mostly agree with them (and therefore feel him to be a kindred spirit).”

Er, let’s check this out. One of the people I like best in the current election cycle is Barack Obama. He seems thoroughly decent, intelligent (with occasional bouts of naivete, perhaps), and likeable.

If there is anyone whose political policies are diametrically opposed to my own, it is Barack Obama.

From a policy standpoint, Rudy Giuliani is about as close to me as anyone in the field. And yet, on a personal level, I’m frankly undecided about how much I like him. I have been slower to warm up to him than many of my friends have been. I find myself gravitating more towards Thompson, for the time being, even though he has a religious streak that is not to my liking.

In light of this new information, would you care to revise your theory about why I like George Bush? From a policy and political actions standpoint, George Bush usually frustrates the hell out of me.

But that is just my point…. My purpose here is to highlight the fact that partisanship obscures our basic human perceptions of another person. It turns us into haters who see everything through even more murky filters than usual.

Our integrity, as people, requires us to be aware of our own filters and make sure that we’re not sacrificing our own moral discernment.

If you think George Bush is a fundamentally decent person who has made some rotten decisions, then say so and buck the stupid memes being promoted by your liberal friends.

On the other hand, if you can’t see his decency — if you can’t see that he holds himself to higher personal standards than someone like that Democratic darling known as Bill Clinton — then I submit you are blinded to a real opportunity to be a human being yourself.

UPDATE: Linked by InstaPundit. Thanks, Glenn.

  • Bill

    Brilliant, Joshua. Eloquently written, unassailably balanced. This is one of the fairest, most level-headed assessments of the political arena I have yet read. Well done, my friend!

    I am a conservative both morally and politically. I find much to like about George Bush. But I have grown increasingly worried about his actions in some areas, and lack of action in others. I recently discovered the new Patrick J. Buchanan book “Day of Reckoning” How Hubris, Ideology, and Greed Are Tearing America Apart” and now it all makes sense to me. Now I know what it was about Bush that made me uncomfortable, even when (philosophically) I wanted to support him. I no longer can.

    Yet I will not succumb to the anger and bitterness out there. I will not become so blind in my anger (as most liberals are) that I lash out, refuse to see truth, or fail to find the good in the man. I do not believe Bush is evil. I do not believe he is intentionally deceiving anyone. I believe he is a sincere man horribly misguided and imbued with too much power.

    As far as the candidates goes, Congressman Ron Paul is the most constitutional out there. I have yet to come across a position he’s taken, or a statement he’s made, that I disagree with. He’s been married to the same woman for 50 years. He’s never been accused of scandal. He’s an OBGYN and a Republican Congressman who used to hang with Ronald Reagan. He’s in favor of very limited government (as were our Founding Fathers). He’s a hard-money man who thinks paper money and the Federal Reserve are taking America to the brink of ruin. I could go on and on about Ron Paul. Sure, he’s a long shot. But he’s someone I can believe in with my whole heart. I feel good supporting Ron Paul. I know it’s the right thing to do.

    There’s a sticker that’s famous around these parts (because the slogan written on it was created by a nearby pastor): Love Wins. In today’s world love, like oil, is a scarce commodity. These daus. there’s way too much hatred, especially in the political arena. Your blog entry was amazing for its depth, yet refreshing in its deftness and lightness of touch.

    I could take a lesson from you.

    And I think I will.

  • Austen

    I agree there’s a visceral Bush hatred out there, which is crazy, unfair, and counterproductive. I wouldn’t want to defend anyone in ~that~ crowd, and your points are well taken. But I admit I’m not sure where “intense dislike of someone for the wide-ranging damage they’ve caused” ends and “hate”, in some not dehumanizing or irrational but still angry, aggrieved, and potent sense, begins. Seems to me you can, say, “hate” your boss, as a boss, for being a dangerously incompetent boss who never admits to mistakes, and still sympathize when his cat dies. Maybe that’s a sloppy usage of the word, but English (like emotions) is sloppy, and it’s all I meant. And I think it’s all that ~most~ of the 3/4 of Americans who disapprove of the job he’s doing mean when “hate” and “Bush” happen to escape their mouths in the same breath. “Yeah, he’s a good husband and father; that ain’t the point.”

    Bush seems a decent, well-intentioned man, and yes I think we should recognize his humanity and extend compassion to him. But compassion and judgment are not at odds. His good intentions should be ~a~ factor, but not anything like a ~major~ factor in our assessment of his presidency (I think Bush would actually agree with that, as far as it goes) — ’cause good intentions are cheap. Lenin had good intentions. Decisions, actions, consequences do matter more — and much, much more in Bush’s case vis a vis the average Joe, because he’s been president. It’s not the title, it’s the vast ~power~. Thousands, millions of lives, have been affected by his decisions.

  • JorgXMcKie

    Austen, I think you’re missing a larger point. Opposition to Bush policies is apparently being driven more by ‘hate’ than by rational thought. I suspect that at least some of Bush’s policies are good ones (from a rational viewpoint, at least. I’m not claiming either support or opposition personally). I further suspect that even Jimmy Carter (who was not so roundly hated during his term) had an occasional policy that made sense. (After all, even a blind sow finds an acorn once in a while.)

    Even professing ‘hatred’ for Bush when one really means ‘extreemly strong dislike’ of his policies and decisions tends to short circuit or totally cut off rational discussion. I have colleagues who apparently are totally incapable of discussing *any* Bush policy rationally (and I teach in a Poli Sci dept). Everything they say is highly emotionally laden, almost to the point of being spittle-flecked and covered in foam.

    Perhaps this is not hatred, but it sure could pass for it in dim light.

  • Richard Cook

    Bill

    I really like some of Paul’s positions, but, his foreign policy is stright out of 1796. He has a distubing tendency to apply the flawed analogy of “if you just treat people the way you want to treated all this war and terrorism and stuff will be over.” The fact that he thinks we can be isolationist today positively scares me. I do not hate the man, just think is position on that issue is more appropriate for a much earlier era

  • John Blake

    As Yeats said, “An intellectual hatred is the worst.” Once descend to ideology, invariably blinkered and self-serving, by definition one takes leave of rational faculties, falls prey to delusions of grandeur whereby personal prejudice trumps every real-world contingency.

    Bush is hated, first, because he shows up retro-Lib reactionaries as attitudinal poseurs. Absent “decent respect for opinions”, one resorts to the ad hominem, escalating to calumny and vituperation as if obscenity, profanity were a mere game.

    Second, though Leftist ideologues strenuously deny the fact, at root their public prescriptions are perversely personal, designed solely to validate their flawed selves (as Eric Hoffer saw) by seizing collective political power at all cost, by any means. This entails –lord help us– an aesthetic dimension, whereby monolithic Statism becomes a pyramid surmounting the dynamic, shifting sands of free-market economies in ideas and principles as well as exchange relationships.

    Indeed, this seems an age-old phenomenon of human temperament. But the time for 20th Century mass-movements stemming from 19th Century determinism is long past. Santayana perceived but half: Those who ignore experience, history, the past, are not merely condemned to repeat it, but doomed to perish on the very pitchforks they so fecklessly brandish against inevitable growth and change.

  • Ted

    Bush is more popular than Congress.

    Yet there is BDS and there is not CDS

  • stan

    Krauthammer nailed it. “Republicans think Democrats are wrong. Democrats think Republicans are evil.”

    Liberals hated Reagan passionately. They hate Clarence Thomas viciously. They hated Newt Gingrich. And they hate George Bush despite the fact that Bush has a long history of reaching out to Democrats in Texas, he tried to reach out to Democrats when he got to DC, and he has never responded in kind to the viciousness directed at him by Democratic officials and their supporters. The hate Republicans because they start out thinking of them as evil.

    Reagan was the most effective president of his century, especially because his major achievements came despite the opposition and hostility of Congress, the news media, and those who shaped the culture.

    Bush has faced a hostility and viciousness that even Reagan never confronted. His brilliant economic policies will be admired years after he has gone. His foreign policy will have to be judged by history, but considerable benefits have been realized already and will likely far exceed the costs.

    Anyone whose facts are limited to the reporting of the MSM is either stupid or ignorant. Those willing to look at ALL facts have a much better understanding of the pros and cons.

  • Anonymous Coward

    Clinton’s virtues are Bush’s vices (eg: claiming Iraq had WMD and supported terrorism, being Commander-in-Chief without serving in combat, etc).

    That being said, there was plenty of Clinton hatred during the 1990s.

  • http://www.muditajournal.com/archives/469.php Mary in LA

    Anonymous Coward says:

    > That being said, there was plenty of Clinton hatred during the 1990s.

    True. I personally despise former President Clinton for his lack of ethics and two-facedness. But not to the point of dehumanizing him! I felt sorry for him when his dog Buddy was hit by a car and killed. If President Bush were to lose a pet under similar circumstances, I greatly fear that the left half of the blogosphere would erupt in cheers and vulgarly expressed wishes that Jenna and Barbara might be next.

  • GK

    I agree. I voted for Bush twice, and still like him (albeit less than I liked him in his first term).

    While I did not approve of Clinton, I NEVER wished him physical harm or took by disapproval to a level of personal hatred. But we have leftists hoping for Bush’s assassination. I never, ever got anywhere close to that level of dislike for any elected Democrat.

  • Fritz J.

    All too true Mr. Zader. It is to the point that normally honest people are willing to lie and even invent imaginary griefs simply to bash Pres. Bush. Even when you can present a myriad of factual evidence to the contrary, they will not accept it. They are so wrapped up in Bush hatred that they have lost their own moral values, yet I suspect that if you told the same types of lies about them they would be outraged. The unfortunate fact is that they are no longer rational when it comes to anything to do with Pres. Bush as exhibited with their immediate switches in position each and every time Pres. Bush changes course. A rational person would celebrate having brought about such changes, but they immediately switch and then attack the very things they advocated.

  • kwo

    I obviously don’t know Pres. Bush personally, and therefore don’t know what type of person he is. But his administration has not been “decent.” Rove was Machiavellian, Rumsfeld and Cheney have been rude (“F— you Senator”), and everything has been slathered with secrecy. I’m glad the Bush administration is coming to a close. Even so, I couldn’t bring myself to vote for Kerry (“I voted for it before I voted against it”) in ’04.

  • Anonymous Coward

    Oh, I was one of those Clinton haters during the 1990s too (and still am). But I think the anger should probably have been more directed towards his supporters — including the main stream media — which let him get away with lies like “Worst economy in 50 years,” and the Democrats & “feminists” who decided that the sexual harassment laws they demanded post-Clarance Thomas & Tailhook shouldn’t be applied to their guy.

    See http://www.reason.com/news/show/30591.html

    As justified as the hatred of Clinton is/was, it was counter-productive in the end.

    The people who rightfully complain about Bush’s stance on civil liberties were more than happy when their guy was doing a lot of the same things (FBI files, Clipper Chip, police brutality against minorities at Waco, etc.).

    If Bush had said crap like this [http://tinyurl.com/bln3j ] two weeks after the terrorist attack, the Clinton Cultists would hate him even more (if that’s possible). Instead, back in 1995, they — including the main stream media — couldn’t lap enough of it up:

    …My fellow Americans, we must respond to this threat in ways that preserve both our security and our freedoms. Appeasement of organized evil is not an option for the next century any more than it was in this century. Like the vigilant generations that brought us victory in World War II and the Cold War, we must stand our ground. In this high-tech world, we must make sure that we have the high-tech tools to confront the high-tech forces of destruction and evil.

    That is why I have insisted that Congress pass strong anti-terrorism legislation immediately — to provide for more than 1,000 new law enforcement personnel solely to fight terrorism; to create a domestic anti-terrorism center;…

    …I would like to say something to [those of you] who believe the
    greatest threat to America comes not from terrorists from … beyond our borders, but from our own government.

    I believe you have every right, indeed you have the responsibility, to question our government when you disagree with its policies. And I will do everything in my power to protect your right to do so.

    But I also know there have been lawbreakers among those who espouse your philosophy….

    …The people who came to the United States to bomb the World Trade Center were wrong….

    …If you treat law enforcement officers who put their lives on the
    line for your safety every day like some kind of enemy army to be
    suspected…you are wrong….

    …How dare you suggest that we in the freest nation on Earth live in tyranny….

    …[T]here is nothing patriotic about hating your country, or
    pretending that you can love your country but despise your
    government…..

  • http://assistantvillageidiot.blogspot.com Assistant Village Idiot

    I have long maintained that much of the hatred of Bush flows from two non-rational sources. One is a cultural, almost tribal defense of the right sort of Arts & Humanities people, who believe they deserve to be held in highest esteem. The Business & Technology backgrounds of Bush and many of his people are a cultural insult to the A&H Tribe. Even when Bush reads Camus they can’t believe he really “understands” it. When they hate his accent, his state, and the like, they betray that they are merely preferring their tribe over his.

    Secondly, and relatedly, after Clinton’s election in 1992 the Boomer liberals felt they had finally come into their rightful place. Long before there was a Florida recount, way back to the ’94 elections, there were bitter recriminations that conservatives were somehow misleading everyone in some unfair, PR fashion.

  • http://www.becauseitstrue.org Bailey Yankee

    For me the main point of your thread is that hatred leads people to view everything through that prism. Therefore, people like my BDS friend will see a newsclip of Bush hugging a girl whose family home was wiped out by a disaster and said, “What a creep.”

    They cannot acknowledge his humanness nor his potential for doing good. Everything he does must be bad. This leads to totally illogical reactions to policy. The actual policy doesn’t matter. To them the source of the policy is what counts. That’s just wrong.

    Also, I concur about Clinton. I didn’t like him much at all after he lied on television. But when he did something right, I could at least acknowledge it.

  • Anonymous Coward

    PS – Whatever the merits and demerits of either view, a lot of the Bush hatred and Clinton hatred was probably driven by addiction to self-righteous indignation.

    http://davidbrin.com/addiction.html


    I want to zoom down to a particular emotional and psychological pathology. The phenomenon known as self-righteous indignation.

    We all know self-righteous people. (And, if we are honest, many of us will admit having wallowed in this state ourselves, either occasionally or in frequent rhythm.) It is a familiar and rather normal human condition, supported — even promulgated — by messages in mass media.

    While there are many drawbacks, self-righteousness can also be heady, seductive, and even… well… addictive. Any truly honest person will admit that the state feels good. The pleasure of knowing, with subjective certainty, that you are right and your opponents are deeply, despicably wrong.

    Sanctimony, or a sense of righteous outrage, can feel so intense and delicious that many people actively seek to return to it, again and again. Moreover, as Westin et.al. have found, this trait crosses all boundaries of ideology. …

  • Kathy

    I have nothing to add to these wonderfully articulate posts – just want to thank you for helping explain BDS. I think you have nailed it. It’s like sufferers of BDS have lost all their humanity, all sense of decency, and their moral compasses. You have explained it beautifully. I do actually have a question, perhaps better suited in a totally different blog site, but: will people with this malady ever be emotionally and mentally right again? Personally I doubt it because I don’t think they know how deranged they have become.
    Once more, thank you~

  • http://kraorh.livejournal.com/ kraorh

    If you think George Bush is a fundamentally decent person who has made some rotten decisions, then say so and buck the stupid memes being promoted by your liberal friends.

    Amen! Just tonight, I had dinner with a member of the faculty who is a very, very liberal feminist, and several other graduate students, and it’s always difficult to know how to handle the assumption that everyone present, save for me, holds, that Bush and the Republicans are evil. I generally try to make comments that are subtle, and that make those present rethink their assumptions, even though I’m hardly a fan of Bush’s policies. Much of the Bush/GOP hatred comes, I think, from the fact that many of these people are surrounded by people who agree with them down the board, so they tend to get a little too smug, and assume that with so many smart people around them agreeing with them, that the rest of America who voted for Bush must just be stupid, and Bush himself an evil pied piper who leads them astray. If there were just a handful more conservatives and libertarians, who could challenge their assumptions from time to time, they might begin to rein in their rhetoric.

    (To give you an idea of where these people stand ideologically, one person mentioned a brother who now photographs, rather than hunts, deer, and how glad she was that he had changed his ways. I started to point out that in Wisconsin, we actually need hunters to cull the size of herds, otherwise the deer overpopulate, starve and get chronic wasting disease. Horrified by my suggestion, everyone pounced on me, saying that it would be far more humane and just if we could instead capture deer with tranquilizer darts and get them spayed and neutered. As it was, I was probably the only non-vegetarian there.)

  • Spot

    I agree too. The hatred seems so deep and irrational that I end up defending Bush almost every time he comes up (at least when I am in Ma), which is pretty weird since I disagree with the majority of what he seems to have done. I fear opening a hornets nest, but I also am baffled by the certainty people possess about the war in Iraq. They seem to know both just how things would have gone if we hadn’t invaded, and how things will be now that we have, & I find it very hard to discern either.

    Anyway, great post.