[Roundup: political controversies]
I just posted the following remark in reponse to a flood of derogatory comments about the phrase "God's country" on Randy Paul's Beautiful Horizons blog, a left-liberal take on events in Latin America. What prompted it was a Republican convention delegate from Iowa who invoked said term in scolding the protesters in New York about their "lack of patriotism."
Thank God (!) for Miguel's comment to balance all the rest. There was probably a tinge of bigotry in the Iowa delegate's remarks, but Randy and others totally misconstrue the expression "God's country." It means any place with endless verdant pastures and forests unspoiled by human hands (and machines). I'd be tempted to call the Yungas of Bolivia "God's country." True, the chemical-saturated mega-farms in the Midwest today are becoming less of a pristine Eden all the time, but if you'd ever been to the Field of Dreams you might understand from whence such sentiments derive. It doesn't mean that The Bronx (for example) is hell. Likewise, you would have to have lived in both rural and urban settings to see how much people really "love thy neighbor as thyself" in each environment. There are certain similarities between NYC and Iowa in terms of community spirit, but there are also huge differences. Perhaps the touchy feelings about patriotism, faith, and community on both the urban and rural sides of the Great Divide have their origins in the dual meaning of "country." Lighten up, y'all!
Overall, I was quite pleased by the Republican Convention, though some speeches were too harsh, especially Zell Miller's. President Bush's speech was among his finest, which is to say "good," though he got bogged down in policy details. That's the price he had to pay for having been vague about his plans for a second term up till then. The concluding part was appropriately humble and almost contrite about his personal shortcomings and past mistakes. It probably won't change very many voters' minds, but it at least served to reassure those (like me) who sometimes worry that he is too deaf to critics. He got the expected bounce in the polls, but that is probably only temporary. It is too late for him to come out with the kind of brutally frank assessment of our situation in the war on terrorism that might convince fence-sitters. As a result, I expect the campaign to be bitter and the election to be close.
Gay conservative Andrew Sullivan has given up on Bush and the Republican Party, and not just because of the exclusion of gays from the convention stage. (Dick Cheney's daughter was apparently nowhere to be seen.) Sullivan interprets the convention platform and speeches as indicating that Bush has definitively forfeited his credentials as an economic conservative:
The whole package was, I think, best summed up as a mixture of Bismarck and Wilson. Germany's Bismarck fused a profound social conservatism with a nascent welfare state. It was a political philosophy based on a strong alliance with military and corporate interests, and bound itself in a paternalist Protestant ethic. Bush Republicanism is not as authoritarian, but its impulses are similar ... the only difference between Republicans and Democrats now is that the Bush Republicans believe in Big Insolvent Government and the Kerry Democrats believe in Big Solvent Government. By any measure, that makes Kerry - especially as he has endorsed the critical pay-as-you-go rule on domestic spending - easily the choice for fiscal conservatives.
Ouch! As election day approaches I will be taking a good hard look at what Bush says and does to see whether Sullivan was right. If he was, then it may be time to start supporting the Concord Coalition once again.
The death toll in Beslan stands at 324, and will probably climb much further. Ralph Peters, in the New York Post, draws the appropriate trenchant conclusions from the slaughter of innocent children in southern Russia:
If Muslim religious leaders around the world will not publicly condemn the taking of children as hostages and their subsequent slaughter -- if those "men of faith" will not issue a condemnation without reservations or caveats -- then no one need pretend any longer that all religions are equally sound and moral.
When I praised Bush for "taking the high road" by distancing himself from the Swift Boat Vet ads on August 23, I should have acknowledged a bit of disingenuity on his part: he never believed that the McCain-Feingold bill would end fund-raising sleaze in the first place. But on the very next day, E.J. Dionne escalated the disingenuity race in the Washington Post when he called on Bush to:
tell the inappropriately named Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to stop smearing Kerry's service record and urge his big money contributors to stop bankrolling the distortions.
It's too bad he can't even hint at acknowledging that the negative ads from "527" groups like MoveOn.org are far worse in terms of accuracy and questionable funding. I'm still reserving judgment about the Swift Boat Vets, though I did take a look at the book by John O'Neil, Unfit For Duty, and it appears convincing at first glance. It claims Kerry was an antiwar activist in college as early as 1966, whereas in the interview he did with WRC-TV in 1971, he said he didn't change his mind about Vietnam until he went there in 1968. He used to claim that he served on two tours in Vietnam, but in the first tour he was on a destroyer in the South China Sea. If you want the true facts, here are links to Kerry's 1971 testimony to Congress and an apparently impartial chronology of Kerry's career. If you are interested in how Kerry has flip-flopped on Saddam Hussein, WMDs, and all that, take a look at: Kerry on Iraq.
More leftist merriment: Banana Republicans, "How the Right Wing Is Turning America Into a One-Party State." A Project of the Center for Media and Democracy." So we are a "one-party state" now?? Last I checked, the election was still up for grabs; I guess that reveals the mentality of folks who used to have perennial control of Congress and came to feel they were entitled to permanent majority status. It IS true that the country has become more polarized since "W" took office, but the reasons for that are less clear. Bush's critics consistently fail to point out specific examples of what he has done to cause this. The President is rated as likable by an overwhelming majority of American.
But wait, there's more, from the CyberCast News Service (via InstaPundit):
U.S. Rep. Major Owens, a New York Democrat, warned a crowd of feminist protesters that the Bush administration is taking America "into a snake pit of fascism."
I don't know about the CyberCast News Service, but you can find similar extremist language on Rep. Owens' Web site. Oh yeah, well take THIS: Communists for Kerry (via Donald Luskin's Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid blog.)
On a more serious note, Larry Diamond, a political scientist with the Hoover Institution who served as adviser to the Coalition Provisional Governing Authority in Iraq, wrote a sharply critical analysis of the U.S. pacification strategy. As I've written before, democracy has been oversold by the Bush administration -- and by virtually every U.S. administration since Woodrow Wilson. Democracies per se are not necessarily more peaceful, liberal republics with limited governments and divided powers are. (For more, read Rummel.) I've seen him at an APSA conference or two, and he is definitely in the top tier prestige-wise -- and he knows it. I missed the Chicago meeting this year, but Daniel Drezner was there, and led a panel on political blogging. (Andrew Sullivan was absent, however.)
Finally, John Thune has recently taken a small lead in the polls and just may just beat Tom Daschle, according to this story from gopusa.com. DUMP DASCHLE!