Friday, September 03, 2004
Andrew Sullivan On The RNC
Zell Miller's address will, I think, go down as a critical moment in this campaign, and maybe in the history of the Republican party. I kept thinking of the contrast with the Democrats' keynote speaker, Barack Obama, a post-racial, smiling, expansive young American, speaking about national unity and uplift. Then you see Zell Miller, his face rigid with anger, his eyes blazing with years of frustration as his Dixiecrat vision became slowly eclipsed among the Democrats. Remember who this man is: once a proud supporter of racial segregation, a man who lambasted LBJ for selling his soul to the negroes.Here Sullivan parses the speech:
His speech tonight was in this vein, a classic Dixiecrat speech, jammed with bald lies, straw men, and hateful rhetoric. As an immigrant to this country and as someone who has been to many Southern states and enjoyed astonishing hospitality and warmth and sophistication, I long dismissed some of the Northern stereotypes about the South. But Miller did his best to revive them. The man's speech was not merely crude; it added whole universes to the word crude.
But Andy was just getting started:
Another lie: "Senator Kerry has made it clear that he would use military force only if approved by the United Nations. Kerry would let Paris decide when America needs defending. I want Bush to decide."
Miller might have found some shred of ancient rhetoric that will give him cover on this, but in Kerry's very acceptance speech, he declared the opposite conviction - that he would never seek permission to defend this country.
Another lie: "John Kerry wants to re-fight yesterday's war."
Kerry didn't want to do that. Yes, he used his military service in the campaign - but it was his opponents who decided to dredge up the divisions of the Vietnam war in order to describe Kerry as a Commie-loving traitor who faked his own medals. What's remarkable about the Republicans is their utter indifference to fairness in their own attacks. Smearing opponents as traitors to their country, as unfit to be commander-in-chief, as agents of foreign powers (France) is now fair game. Appealing to the crudest form of patriotism and the easiest smears is wrong when it is performed by the lying Michael Moore and it is wrong when it is spat out by Zell Miller. Last night was therefore a revealing night for me. I watched a Democrat at a GOP Convention convince me that I could never be a Republican. If they wheel out lying, angry old men like this as their keynote, I'll take Obama. Any day.
Here's another slur:Mr. Sullivan on the entire tone of the Republican convention:
"No one should dare to even think about being the Commander in Chief of this country if he doesn't believe with all his heart that our soldiers are liberators abroad and defenders of freedom at home. But don't waste your breath telling that to the leaders of my party today. In their warped way of thinking America is the problem, not the solution. They don't believe there is any real danger in the world except that which America brings upon itself through our clumsy and misguided foreign policy."
Yes, that describes some on the left, but it is a calumny against Democrats who voted for war in Afghanistan and Iraq and whose sincerity, as John McCain urged, should not be in question. I have never heard Kerry say that 9/11 was America's fault; if I had, it would be inconceivable to consider supporting him. And so this was, in truth, another lie, another cheap, faux-patriotic smear. Miller has absolutely every right to lambaste John Kerry's record on defense in the Senate. It's ripe for criticism, and, for my part, I disagree with almost all of it (and as a pro-Reagan, pro-Contra, pro-SDI, pro-Gulf War conservative, I find Kerry's record deeply troubling). But that doesn't mean he's a traitor or hates America's troops or believes that the U.S. is responsible for global terror. And the attempt to say so is a despicable attempt to smear someone's very patriotism.
I understand the political need to put a gloss on things. But the surrealism of the rhetoric is, in some respects, an insult to the American people, who deserve a real accounting of where we are. Of all the difficult choices we have to make - in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia - nothing is spoken. There is not even a nod to reality. Just an assertion that only the Republicans have the balls to fight this war. It may well work in the election. But it speaks to the character of our leaders that they prefer bromides and denial to a real accounting and real leadership.A bit on Bush's speech:
I agreed with almost everything in the foreign policy section of the speech, although the president's inability to face up to the obvious sobering lessons from Iraq is worrying. I get the feeling that empirical evidence does not count for him; that like all religious visionaries, he simply asserts that his own faith will vanquish reality. It won't.Given Sullivan's assessment of the above, and his obvious differences with Bush on the issue of homesexual rights (sullivan being Gay himself), it makes this admission somewhat less shocking:
But conservatism as we have known it is now over. People like me who became conservatives because of the appeal of smaller government and more domestic freedom are now marginalized in a big-government party, bent on using the power of the state to direct people's lives, give them meaning and protect them from all dangers. Just remember all that Bush promised last night...I look forward to someone adding it all up, but it's easily in the trillions. And Bush's astonishing achievement is to make the case for all this new spending, at a time of chronic debt (created in large part by his profligate party), while pegging his opponent as the "tax-and-spend" candidate. The chutzpah is amazing. At this point, however, it isn't just chutzpah. It's deception. To propose all this knowing full well that we cannot even begin to afford it is irresponsible in the deepest degree. I've said it before and I'll say it again: 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. It was also jaw-dropping to hear this president speak about tax reform. Bush? He has done more to lard up the tax code with special breaks and new loopholes than any recent president.
I will add one thing more. And that is the personal sadness I feel that this president who praises freedom wishes to take it away from a whole group of Americans who might otherwise support many parts of his agenda. To see the second family tableau with one family member missing because of her sexual orientation pains me to the core. And the president made it clear that discriminating against gay people, keeping them from full civic dignity and equality, is now a core value for him and his party. The opposite is a core value for me. Some things you can trade away. Some things you can compromise on. Some things you can give any politician a pass on. But there are other values - of basic human dignity and equality - that cannot be sacrificed without losing your integrity itself. That's why, despite my deep admiration for some of what this president has done to defeat terror, and my affection for him as a human being, I cannot support his candidacy. Not only would I be abandoning the small government conservatism I hold dear, and the hope of freedom at home as well as abroad, I would be betraying the people I love. And that I won't do. [emphasis added throughout]One less vote for George W. Bush, and one more disillusioned conservative.