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November 16, 2003 Opinion

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On getting beyond self-righteous hate and holier-than-thou posturing...
On Wednesday the 12th you would have found this in the New York Times.

Hold the Vitriol
Nicholas D. Kristof  
   [ ...if you click the link here you need to register with the Times. ] 
Considering the savagery with which the Snarling Right excoriated President Clinton as a "sociopath," blocked judicial appointments, undermined U.S. military operations from Kosovo to Iraq, hounded Vincent Foster and then accused the Clintons of murdering him, it is utterly hypocritical for conservatives to complain about liberal incivility.
But they're right. ...
It seems this Kristof fellow wrote the item on how polarized we have become.  He argues the Bush haters - the angry liberals - are as bad if not worse than those who attacked Bill Clinton for all those years.  I'm not sure I agree with Kristof that those who think Bush is a dangerous fool are becoming "so rabid that Ann Coulter will seem normal."
Perhaps so.  I guess we shouldn't pick on the Bush guy.  He's doing his best.  What more can you ask?  (I have some answers to that.)
But a key Kristof excerpt is this argument below - that the nation is in a the middle of a new "Great Awakening."  We are so religious and pious a nation now that the secular Democrats don't have a chance of getting elected to anything - or more precisely don't have a prayer.  They persist in believing that "evolution" business is true, for example.
See this:
The most striking cleavage is the God Gulf, and it should terrify the Democrats. Put simply, liberals are becoming more secular at a time when America is becoming increasingly religious, the consequence of a new Great Awakening.  Americans, for example, are significantly more likely now than in 1987 to say they 'completely agree' that 'prayer is an important part of my daily life' and that 'we all will be called before God on Judgment Day to answer for our sins.'
The Pew survey found that white evangelicals are leaving the Democratic Party in droves.  Fifteen years ago, white evangelicals were split equally between the two parties; now they're twice as likely to be Republicans.  Likewise, white Catholics who attend Mass regularly used to be strongly Democratic; now they are more likely to be Republican.
Since Americans are three times as likely to believe in the virgin birth of Jesus as in evolution, liberal derision for President Bush's religious beliefs risks marginalizing the left.

Eric Alterman in his MSNBC column "Altercation" replied to the claim of "hatred," arguing that those of us dissatisfied with Bush are not at all like those who worked so hard, year after year, to prove Bill and Hillary Clinton were guilty of murder (Vince Foster) and drug running and rape and all the rest.
He points out
1.) Bush haters talk about policy not personality.
2.) Bush haters support the country and its soldiers in wars they    believe to be misguided
3. ) Bush haters do not accuse the president of drug-running and murder ... and he has six more points. 
The last of his thirteen points on the Clinton haters is this: "Clinton-haters were addressing themselves to a president who was honestly elected, and by the way, boasted a 68 percent approval rating on the day he was impeached."
Ah well. 
There is a lot of talk in the air as to who hates whom, and much talk about religion.  (Say, if we're going to have a theocracy at some point soon, do we get to burn witches again?  Far out!)
Well, all the talk of hate and religion is troubling.  But then I came across something that was way beyond that.  The claim that the whole business with this holier-than-thou righteous remaking of the middle east is irrelevant, passť - it's just so... last year.
Okay, I like to stay ahead of the curve, but this fellow I came across is way ahead any curve on the horizon.  He says the "American Empire" is over - done - decaying before our eyes.  And he seems to have this new book to be published next year about the upcoming new age of international community or whatever.  Weird.  And I was under the impression we were just getting started in this business of changing the world!
Well, he'll eat his words when we oust the government of Hassan in Syria and occupy that country - and when next we overthrow the government of Iran and occupy that country - then overthrow the government of North Korean and kill Kim and occupy that country - then oust Hugo Chavez and his crew in Venezuela and occupy that country - then get rid of Castro and send all the Republican campaign donors in Miami down to occupy that country.  Then there's that new lefty labor guy, Lulu as he's called, running Brazil, and we need to replace him.  This fellow here doesn't get it.
Or maybe he does.  It is an odd view.  Rumsfeld, Cheney and Wolfowitz would just laugh at this.  "Although no one in Washington has noticed it yet..."  No kidding.  "The macho declaration of pre-emption is already passť...."
Really?  Well, here's the problem.  The reelection of Bush depends upon just that.
GOP will trumpet preemption doctrine
By Anne E. Kornblut, The Boston Globe 11/12/2003 

WASHINGTON -- Faced with growing public uneasiness over Iraq, Republican Party officials intend to change the terms of the political debate heading into next year's election by focusing on the "doctrine of preemption," portraying President Bush as a visionary acting to prevent future terrorist attacks on US soil despite the costs and casualties involved overseas.

The strategy will involve the dismissal of Democrats as the party of "protests, pessimism and political hate speech," Ed Gillespie, Republican National Committee chairman, wrote in a recent memo to party officials....

There's a conflict here.  Should be an interesting campaign.
And here's the "outside the box" fellow:
Criticizing the U.S. empire is not enough
Amitai Etzioni
The International Herald Tribune  Thursday, November 13, 2003   
The writer is a professor at George Washington University.  His book From Empire to Community will be published next year.
Key excerpts:
Now that the American empire is collapsing around our ears, it is the turn of those who favored a multipolar world - and one in which the United Nations plays a key role - to show that they can do better.
Although no one in Washington has noticed it yet, the days of the American empire are numbered. The notion that one can govern the world by military might has found its limit. It is now widely understood that the United States cannot take out the North Korean regime because some of its weapons of mass destruction are in caves, beyond the reach of bombs. Trying to use force against North Korea might cause the deaths of millions of South Koreans, which forces the United States to pursue negotiations, despite noises to the contrary. The macho declaration of pre-emption is already passť.
Moreover, the U.S. armed forces are stretched thin in Iraq and Afghanistan and the American public willingness to accept more casualties and costs is rapidly fading. Far from going it alone, the United States is courting allies and friends, hat in hand, to share the burden of nation-building in these two countries. Washington felt forced to go pleading with the United Nations to grant its blessing for what needs to be done. Although it has obtained a UN resolution, it will not provide much relief in terms of funds or military forces.
All this is a long way from the posture of unilateralism, yesterday's neoconservative battle cry. Indeed, the negotiations with North Korea are taking place in close collaboration with several other key nations - Japan, Russia, China and South Korea. It is less clear how Iran's nuclear program is going to be dealt with, but this situation, too, seems to be moving in a multilateral direction.
Finally, nation-building is not working. When the United States was unable to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and when the preinvasion claims of Al Qaeda connections proved to be hard to sustain, the Bush administration chose to rely more and more on what had previously been a sort of an afterthought: that the United States was out to liberate Iraq and turn it into the first shining prosperous and democratic Arab republic, a model that would change the whole Middle East. In reality, the United States has had a hard time pacifying central Iraq, and the rest of the country is run by mullahs (in the south) and Kurdish warlords (in the north), mirroring the state of Afghanistan outside of Kabul. This last rationale for the American empire is not holding either.
So what is this fellow suggesting?  Click on the link, or wait for his book next year.  That the book's title is From Empire to Community suggests something.  And that "something" is not likely to impress our current leaders.
Some of us believe we live in a community.  Others point out "community" has the same root as communism, and for them independence and self-reliance is all.  Which view will prevail?

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November 16, 2003