Thursday, August 19, 2004

Infantalizing Bush

Yet another excellent column issues from the pen of Dahlia Lithwick. Why is she the one who's the guest writer for the NYT while Mo Dowd is the staff columnist?

A glance at the top 150 ads selected by MoveOn.org for its recent political advertising contest, "Bush in 30 Seconds," similarly reveals the extent to which childishness is woven into the current Bush-bashing. While children have long been used in political ads to represent the future, many of the MoveOn entries use them to satirize the actual candidate. Several of the proposed anti-Bush commercials use kids to condemn the president for unsophisticated thinking, for an infantile worldview, for the fact that his daddy purchased his every big break and for the fact that he is desperately beholden to the wealthy and powerful grown-ups surrounding him. The clear message is that Bush is more a child than an adult.

What's wrong with continuing efforts to characterize Mr. Bush as a not-particularly-smart third grader? For one thing, it plays to every stereotype of liberals as snotty know-it-alls who think everyone in a red state is anti-intellectual or simple-minded. It answers name-calling from the right with name-calling from the left.

These assertions also insult anyone who voted for Mr. Bush in 2000. Rather than offering an argument for Mr. Kerry, they merely disparage swing voters, who may be tempted to defect to the Democrats over the war or the economy, by sneering that they voted for a kid - and a dumb kid at that.

One of the most enduring memories from the Bush-Gore debates in 2000 was Al Gore, all sighs and eye-rolls, trapped in what must have felt like the middle-school playground fight from hell instead of a presidential debate. Everything about Mr. Gore's demeanor signaled that he felt he was giving a punk kid a much-needed scolding. Which missed the point: a lot of very smart people voted for Mr. Bush in 2000 because to them, he represented a return to honesty and morality. Dismissing him as a stupid child, and these voters as stupid-children-by-association, is no way to win them back.
Well said. Too many liberals who are usually quick to emphasize the importance of the carrot as well as the stick fail to apply the same reasoning when it comes to dealing with those they ostensibly seek to persuade, and even when the waverers start to come their way in spite of the revolting bile they spew, they do their best to snatch defeat from the jaws of an undeserved victory by gloating in the most juvenile and uncharitable fashion possible.

Even as I've found myself ever more dismayed by the Bush administration's policies, there have been any number of times when frankly childish liberal triumphalism has made me feel like saying "Actually, I'll be backing him after all, just so I can have the satisfaction of watching you eat your words." What's especially ridiculous is that so many of the very same people who go in for the "Bush is a spoilt simpleton" language are also the ones who start spewing insults like "brownshirt wingnut f*ck" or "braindead rethuglican" whenever anyone brings up facts that are inconvenient for their positions