Thursday, February 16, 2006

Conservatives or Cultists?

James Taranto answers that Glenn Greenwald blog post that's been getting so much attention. Greenwald writes a post almost as long as one of mine, but though his target is the supposed lack of coherent ideology among Bush-backers, his thrust is this:

Now, in order to be considered a "liberal," only one thing is required--a failure to pledge blind loyalty to George W. Bush.

Taranto takes a patient approach to this, and points out that Greenwald offers scant evidence to back up his perception. So Taranto goes out and tests it:

We e-mailed Bruce Bartlett, a friendly acquaintance, frequent correspondent and author of a forthcoming book called "Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy," which drew favorable notice in the New York Times earlier this week. We asked him if anyone on the right has called him a "liberal" owing to his criticisms of Bush. "Not really," he said. "The worst that people have said is that I am an opportunist seeking to curry favor with liberals by bashing Bush or something like that."

Greenwald cites several conservative pundits and bloggers who he claims are "authoritarian cultists"--i.e., blind followers of Bush. In at least two of these cases, Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin, we can rebut his assertion off the top of our head: Coulter opposed--harshly--the nomination not only of Harriet Miers but also of John Roberts. As for Malkin, Google "immigration" and "Bush" on her site and you'll see she's anything but an uncritical follower of the president. (Greenwald also calls them extremists, and we won't argue--but that's a different criticism.)

And yet he notes there's probably an inevitable tendency in a two-party system to force people into uncomfortable ideological positions for the sake of a -- perceived -- greater good.

To some extent, too, the pro-Bush sentiment on the right that so upsets Greenwald is a product of the anti-Bush fanaticism of the left. There is a sort of Newton's Third Law of politics, which was at work during the previous administration as well. People on the left who reviled Bill Clinton's policies in such areas as trade, welfare and capital punishment nonetheless backed him, and supported him fervently when Congress impeached him.

And, he might have added, the number of committed feminists who bit their tongues and stood by Bill Clinton, as the president most likely to advance their agenda, even while he revealed himself as a serial cad and masher of the type they despise. Taranto's quote, with a couple of noun changes, would apply as well to them:

For most conservatives, Bush is not perfect but he is far better than the alternatives that were on offer in 2000 and 2004.