I'm a very unusual animal where I come from, sort of like a large reptile or rodent. Just a mild-mannered profession of non-Democratness is very disturbing to the equilibrium. For some reason, it's OK to wax polemic for a half-hour at a time if you are dissing Bush, but non-Democrats must stay in the closet. There's a special exemption for 'Neo-Marxists' who are considered nobly idealistic and kinda cute.
In a similar moment with my cousin recently, I had only told him (after listening to about twenty minutes of Bush-haranguing) that I thought the war was a risky but worthwhile experiment and that establishing democracy in the Middle East was probably the only permanent way to reduce the risk of terrorism for the next generation. He just began screaming at me about every Republican program he'd heard of. For some reason we were off war and on tax cuts in a nanosecond. Actually, he never even let me speak to clarify my views. Seriously. I didn't get a word in edgewise for an hour.
Point being, Tim spins mighty big assumptions about Jane and me from a few comments (in my case, very few in months). "You guys honestly believe Bush has done a great job", he says. Jane and I are far from card-carrying Bush boosters. Neither of us share his views or endorse the GOP platform on abortion, gay marriage, government spending or a variety of personal freedom issues. While we like the idea of a very limited government, we both would prefer a different direction for taxation than the Bush tax cuts. There is plenty of evidence in these pages. Jane has called for Rumsfeld's resignation, and even when I was just starting blogging, I pointed out that Bush was an awful lot like Clinton, lacking firm principles and co-opting the other party's issues.
We have devoted a lot of space to defending the President/administration from over-the-top rhetoric. In some sense we've felt almost forced to. I wonder occasionally whether addressing partisan polemics makes you partisan yourself. That's actually one of the thoughts that's diminished my enthusiasm about posting. I know I'll be backed into some argument where fierce partisans insist that if I don't share their wildly unreasonable demonization of the other side I must be....one of them!.
I'm tired of people who think that businespeople are automatically immoral actors, or that the mere existence of profit or business self-interest signifies a problem. In my experience, the profit motive often protects us from the human instinct to control others when we gather in groups. Without the more objective monetary yardstick, it seems like the unspoken prime directive of groups (read:bureaucracies) is to control others, despite the best intentions of the individuals involved. I sit on a nonprofit board and I've seen it in action.
I endorse the mission in Iraq, which WAS, contrary to much invective, about bringing democracy to the Middle East. Or did I just imagine all the pre-war criticism of the administration being in the thrall of a 'cabal' of Straussian Neo-cons with precisely that mission? You remember, back when everyone thought WMDs were a lock? I understand some people thought Saddam could be deterred. I don't understand people who think it is all about oil or Halliburton. An immense good has been done getting rid of Saddam. It is beyond me why people are so vested in portraying that as entirely venal. Counter-tribalism, I guess.
Given the formidable risks and obstacles undertaken, the situation in Iraq does not appear to be as bad as critics paint it. If we had outlined these conditions as success criteria before the war, many would have been glad to accept them (or bet against them). The desire to make Bush look bad has gotten the better of many folks' judgement, and a high-stakes mission is evaluated in hindsight on distinctly unrealistic terms. Incidentally, I don't think our popularity on the continent is the right indicator for success, they tend to be quite hostile to change. I spent plenty of time in Europe during the Reagan era, and I'm quite pleased he didn't use Continental opinion to keep score.
Given the sea-change in the Republican and Democratic parties over the last 40 years, it's not clear to me how non-politicians can actually harbor such strong us-or-them team allegiances to one party or the other. By definition, if you agreed with one party's platform over the whole time, you've changed your mind on any number of issues. Or you just believe in the intrinsic nobility of one party.
I consider it my duty to keep my mind open through the election, especially since I don't fit in either party neatly (does any thinking person?). The rhetoric is annoying, but most of it is backward-looking. What matters now is what the candidate WILL do. This is hard enough to figure given that the last two presidents have governed in a way entirely dissimilar to their campaign positioning, and these two won't say what's next.
I must admit, it's a weird feeling of power to be able to stun an entire room simply by saying "I was in favor of the war..." then watch the sputtering amazed indignation emerge without a shred of actual argument.
But I just don't think these positions deserve that level of surprise and discomfort.