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What Passes for Argument Among the Bushites

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In response to the recent publication (in the Baltimore Sun) of a piece in which I argued that the presidential oath of office is a message to us, the American people-- about how the defense of the Constitution is the key to safeguarding all our other blessings-- a man wrote me an email with the subject "the Constitution."

Said the gentleman (I will leave out his name, as his email was sent to me privately):

"Where were you when Bill Clinton was selling out America for a little Chinese gold? He certainly wasn't deterred by such a nuisance as an oath, evidenced by his willingness to perjure himself. Where were you then, Andy?"

Here is my response:

Your very brief and challenging message to me is very rich in one respect-- in how well it demonstrates how effectively the dishonest forces that have taken over America have taught a great many Americans to deal with --without really confronting in any honest way-- criticism of those forces.

The first point that your message illustrates is how well the Bushites have taught people to assume that every attack on them must be purely partisan in its motivation. It can't be that people have genuine values and principles that compel them to object to the dark doings of the Bushites. If someone attacks the Bushites, just question whether they might possibly have been willing to criticize someone from THEIR SIDE if they'd done something comparable.

Let's forget about how little you KNOW what I did or did not criticize in the last Democrat to be in the White House. The real issue here is how unprecedented the current president is in his assault in the Constitution. I've said many times that I would hope --and I do believe-- that if a Democratic president were to be as lawless as this one, I'd rise up in similar outrage and concern for the fate of our republic. But setting aside what I would do, all that needs to be done to show the real flimsiness and dishonesty of such attempts to reduce legitimate criticism to mere partisanship is to cite what was said in a recent interview I conducted with Bruce Fein, the very conservative jurist who served previously in the Reagan Justice Department.

Mr. Fein is not only a conservative, he also voted for Bush in both 2000 and 2004, before he saw how serious the problem of this Bushite assault on the Constitution really is. When I asked him how he saw the lawlessness of the Bush administration in comparison with past incidents of presidents abusing their power, this is what he wrote: "Everything in life is a matter of degree, and while FDR, Nixon, McCarthyism, and Clinton were occasionally lawless, Bush is systematically so. Thus he is the greater danger. The rule of law can survive a beating once every five or ten years; it cannot survive beatings every five or ten minutes."

One cannot very well dismiss such an observation as mere partisanship, can one?

The question "where were you when so and so did such and such" doesn't go very far to confront the problem of this administration's assault on the Constitution if the such-and-such is in no way comparable to what's going on now.

A second point that might be made here is that what the Bushites have taught people here is really to accuse people if what they themselves are guilty of-- in this case guilty of putting partisanship ahead of everything else. As Bruce Fein went on to observe: "In retrospect, I think the Bush administration from the outset believed their loyalty was to their own power or the Republican Party, not to the Constitution or country."

I won't take the time here to illustrate how typical this tactic is --of accusing one's adversaries of one's own sins-- or to go into how much throughout history that practice has been revelatory of moral and spiritual darkness. It even goes beyond the hypocrisy that Jesus was so strong in denouncing.

Another defect that the Bushite forces have helped to encourage in their followers, and that is on display in your message, is to turn every inconvenient truth into an occasion for character assassination.

Your message says nothing whatever about the point that I made. It just attacks me, the messenger. Presumably, you think it is an adequate response to my argument about the Constitution being under assault to establish that I am some sort of a hypocrite. Even if I were a hypocrite, of course, the Constitution would still be under assault, and we would still need to do something about it. But you seem to think that casting aspersions upon the messenger can substitute for dealing with the message.

Now where have we heard that before! Think of this whole Plamegate scandal. The real scandal there is that when someone came forward to say that the president had been misleading the country about a supposed quest by Saddam to acquire uranium in Africa, the administration didn't think it necessary to deal with the substance of this very serious charge. They didn't bother to address the question of whether they were lying to the country by speaking contrary to the evidence they themselves had been presented with by various experts. No, what they did instead was to try to demean the person --Ambassador Wilson-- who'd gone public with his story about the Bushite deceptions.

The only reason we're still talking about this particular instance of Bushite lies is that the WAY they went about applying their usual practice of character assassination turned out to involve exposing an undercover agent of the CIA. But the deeper scandal is the fundamental dishonesty of how they took us into that war, and the compounding of that dishonesty by substituting (usually groundless) personal attacks for an honest discussion of the substance of the issues involved.

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
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