Wednesday, January 11, 2006


The labels that people use to refer to others in printed media are amusing, especially in America, where we have a two-party system. I found this on NRO's the Corner:

"In his Fred Thompson interview, Matt Lauer felt compelled to note that Alito is an ultraconservative. [But] You wouldn't catch Katie Couric telling C&B that Hillary's an old-fashioned liberal wing nut."

I don't know about the rest of you, but when I think "UltraConservative" I picture some sort of robot stomping around and vaporizing things with its laser eyes (while probably cutting our taxes.) Another fun adjective is "hard," as in the hard left or hard right; in a Bill O'Reilly column one time he used it three times. That's a pretty damn unyielding left!

Seriously, though, Alito's not all that conservative, and Hillary Clinton's not all that liberal. (Don't confuse "soulless" and "expedient" with liberal.) In America our politicians and public figures tend to fall on a pretty narrow spectrum, unlike in Europe, where you really could have, say, a radical environmentalist running against a Neo-Nazi. We all disagree about abortion, and capital punishment, and gay marriage, and a whole host of other issues, and so do our elected leaders, but I really don't think we have all that many maverick politicians in office right now. Right?


At 1:43 PM, Blogger StandingOutInTheCold said...

Thats the beauty and downfall of our current two party system -- most politicans' personal beliefs are irrelevant. All that matters is whether they vote Republican or Democrat, and usually they vote according to the party they are in. Other than the party they vote with most of what politicans say is just rhetoric to get them reelected. You almost never see anything extreme introduced let alone voted on in Congress. So, you can almost justify voting party line, although I think it makes you a lazy bastard who doesn't deserve the vote.

At 1:55 PM, Blogger RedHurt said...

I agree, except in the case of Howard Dean and Al Gore, who are radical-wing hard-nut ultra-leftists.

See you at Lenin's tonight. Has anyone told Jacks?

At 8:52 AM, Anonymous minor prophet said...

The "narrow spectrum" observation is basically true. But GWBush is a true maverick. His often repeated argument that he can do whatever he wishes because he is "commander in chief" implies that we have ceded control of the country to the military.

I won't try to stir things up by calling him names because of that, nor will I say that he has done great harm--we could dispute that endlessly. But, plain and simple, "I can ignore the letter of the law because I am commander in chief" is an argument I have never heard a president make before.

Conservatives have a talking point for this, I know, they go back to Lincoln. Fine. I don't know of a 20th century president who made that claim. Not saying they didn't do bad things, mind you. But did any of them say to anyone's face that they could do whatever they wanted because they were commander in chief? Seriously--think about the implications of that.

At 8:56 AM, Blogger Mair said...

When I hear the word "Ultra-conservative", I think of homeschoolers running around in denim and flannel, with long, frizzy hair and a fanny pack!

At 11:48 AM, Blogger CharlesPeirce said...

I don't know, minor prophet--it would take a lot to convince me that GWB's abuses of executive power are greater than those of Reagan or LBJ. That doesn't justify or excuse anything he's doing--but I see him as continuing an essential element of the American presidency. Right?

At 12:11 PM, Anonymous minor prophet said...

Charles, my point is not the size or scope of Bush's abuses but this rationale of his--"commander in chief." It's chanted by him and his people.

I don't want to hijack your thread into a Bush bashing/defense thing when you started somewhere else. But you did start with language! Has any modern president used this rationale for his abuses? Assuming they are abuses, of course. I think they are, but that's not really my point. When has our country been governed by a commander in chief instead of a president? That's my question. As I understand it, we are governed by a president (with the other branches), to whom the military answer. That makes him the commander in chief, but it is a secondary role. Bush seems to be saying that he is the head of the military, to whom the executive branch of the government now answers. Isn't that perfectly backwards?

At 12:26 PM, Blogger CharlesPeirce said...

Threads usually don't get hijacked unless someone starts justifying the Iraq war--any takers?

Well, MP, your point seems to be that it's not that the size and scope of Bush's actual abuses are any worse than those of past presidents--it's that his rhetoric/justification sets a dangerous new precedent, right? He's accountable to no one? We'd want to look at how Nixon, LBJ, Reagan and Clinton justified their own actions--to what authorities they appealed. I haven't studied the presidency enough to know, and Clinton and Bush are the only presidents to have been in office when I understood enough about politics to pay attention. Thoughts, anyone? j. morgan, have you read any relevant books--like, "Justifying their abuses: from Nixon to Bush, with a new afterword on W's dangerous new precedent"? I've heard that one's good.

At 12:39 PM, Anonymous minor prophet said...

Indeed, Charles. That's my question. People don't even have to agree that what Bush is doing is dangerous. I admit I think it is. But when has this rationale been used before? And how is it not an inversion of the American relation of the military to the state?

The Roman Republic used to elect military dictators to head the state in times of war, right? As I see it, we elected Bush president, not military dictator (using that word technically, not pejoratively, don't want any Republican heads to explode), and he is claiming this new thing for himself.

At 5:10 PM, Anonymous minor prophet said...

Charles, I should add that I think your original point, "we all disagree... and so do our elected leaders" was well made. People on either the right or the left who look at an elected official and are shocked, dismayed and alarmed to find that official has views directly opposite their own, need to remember that so do 50% of their fellow citizens.

It's easy to look at an elected official, disagree with him, and start picturing him floating off on an iceberg. But are we willing to put half our of our country on the iceberg with him? Realizing we might not want to do that helps us lighten up.

I have always had a fondness for Orrin Hatch, for example, because of his friendship with Ted Kennedy. Hatch is a little more than he seems(so is Kennedy).

That said, I stand by my comment about Bush. I think his governance is actually tearing down the comity where we had opposing viewpoints, used a lot of strong rhetoric but could still respect and get along with each other like Hatch and Kennedy.


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