Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hopelessly Devoted

Glenn Greenwald has an interesting post up at Salon.com about the difference between conservatives and liberals when it comes to, as he calls it, “the lock-step uncritical reverence – often bordering on cult-like glorification – which the ‘conservative’ movement devoted to the “Commander-in-Chief.”

An entire creepy cottage industry arose – led not by fringe elements but by right-wing opinion-making leaders – with cringe-inducing products paying homage to Bush as “The First Great Leader of the 21st Century” (John Podhoretz); our “Rebel-in-Chief” (Fred Barnes); “The Right Man” (David Frum); the New Reagan (Jonah Goldberg); “a man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius” who is our “Big Brother” (John Hinderaker); and “the triumph of the seemingly average American man,” the supremely “responsible” leader who, when there’s a fire, will “help direct the rig to the right house and count the kids coming out and say, ‘Where’s Sally’?” (Peggy Noonan).

Mr. Greenwald’s point is that you’re not seeing such cringe-producing (not to mention barf-making) slavish devotion to President Obama. There may be a few columnists and bloggers out there who still think he can walk on water, but there isn’t the concerted choir of angelic voices praising every move he makes, and he’s even had to endure some push-back from members of his own party on Capitol Hill.

In the case of the Republicans’ Soviet-style of praise for their leader, whoever he is, it can be interpreted in a couple of ways. The first is that in the case of someone like Ronald Reagan, they truly believed he was the Savior Incarnate, sent to rescue us from the clutches of the Evil Empire, and they truly believed — and still do — that his touch and presence was blessed. Questioning his policies or decisions amounted to blasphemy, and anyone who did — even slightly — was branded as a traitor. The intention was to banish all opposition and leave the Democrats with having to explain why they hated America.

Naturally they tried to use this technique with George W. Bush, but it was pretty clear from the git-go that they were doing it more as a cover for the obvious fact that Mr. Bush was no Reagan in terms of vision or even the ability to put together a coherent paragraph. Even before he took office, Mr. Bush was being mocked for his syntax, mispronunciations, and affected phony Texas accent. So it was imperative on the part of the conservatives that he be elevated to the same level as his predecessor (skipping over his father) and given the full Tabernacle treatment to insulate him from the onslaught. No matter what he did, said, or tripped over, the right wing would protect him, and even when it came to having to twist themselves into pretzels to make sense of his logic, they had his back. They did it for what they believed to be the greater good: securing a permanent majority for the Republican Party and K Street. There is, however, another disturbing possibility: they actually believed that George W. Bush was as brilliant and miraculous as they said he was. If that doesn’t creep you out, what will?

The biggest difference between conservatives and liberals is that the liberals have no problem whatsoever knocking their own. There are plenty of observers from the left — myself included — who have no problem calling out President Obama on something when they disagree with him. It may seem counterproductive, but in the end, they usually get some semblance of their act together enough to elect a good president every now and then and actually accomplish some things in Congress. As Abraham Lincoln once noted, “no matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens.” And given the Republicans’ recent rounds of circular firing squads involving everyone from Michael Steele and Rush Limbaugh, Meghan McCain and Ann Coulter (and Laura Ingraham tossing in a pie or two), not to mention the continuing adventures of of Michele Bachmann, they may be taking a page from the Democrats’ playbook.