Criticism is Good
No doubt everyone who reads my inconsequential nonsense also has time to devote to real information sources on the Iraq, Bush, and Stuff Like That. So you can go check out some of the links on the right (the right side of this page, that is) for facts and opinion. Hopefully what follows is something new and worthwhile.
Some of the more disturbing outcomes of the Bush presidency have been the undermining of the processes of, and conditions for, democracy in the US. This was the essential theme of an excellent speech by Al Gore a few months back. Amongst other things Gore mentioned the open exchange of legitimate criticism as a necessary precondition to healthy democracy. So whilst is is perhaps unsurprising that a person of the character of Bush would be unable to think of anything he did which he would even regret, let alone apologise for, he is, as a matter of democratic necessity, not above criticism from others. An LA Times editorial hits the nail right on the head. And of course The Onion broke the story last year that Bush Asks Congress For $30 Billion To Help Fight War On Criticism.
So while Bush says ‘criticise me, and the terrorists have already won’, pundits help to legitimise this by going even further. If you criticise, you are actually conducting a ‘soft’ terrorist attack! Just madness.
I witnessed first-hand a variant on the idea that criticism-is-unpatriotic whilst living in the US at the time of the Iraq invasion. The idea that you couldn’t “support our troops” without also supporting the legitimacy of the invasion, seemed to be a widely-propogated meme. I never tracked down the origin, but I suspect it relates to a regulation that apparently prevents serving troops from criticising the actions of their commanders (probably reasonable I guess), and that by some bizarre reasoning this constraint was extended to include the entire country.
So, despite the farcical 2000 election, there seems to be little question about Bush’s popular support. I hypothesise that many people in the US have bought into the notion that supporting Bush at all costs is their patriotic duty (Americans take this very seriously). This is Bush’s biggest strength going into the 2004 election.
I believe the key to defeating Bush is to disassociate him from the troops. Untill you they do this, none of the vast mounds of evidence of Bush failure is going to stick. Ordinary USians need to allow themselves to believe that voting against Bush will not endanger themselves or somehow bring disgrace on their relatives in the military. One in every eight Americans is a veteran. Almost everyone knows someone who is currently or has previously served in the military. Of course the military has been a traditional power base for the Republicans, but I believe what we are experiencing here is a recent phenomenon.
I believe the Democrats understand this strength, and at least partially explains the choice of Kerry as a candidate. Kerry, as an ex-military man, is ideally suited to divide loyalty-to-troops from loyalty-to-president. The Republicans recognise the vulnerability, and of course retaliated with the Swift Boat Veterans nonsense. So while the debate about the past military credentials of each candidate may seem pointless and irrelevant from Australian eyes, the real battle is about the ability to criticise.
At this point I could compare and contrast with the Australian situation. Thankfully there is a vast difference that doesn’t need too much elaboration. At least our PM admits to things he would do differently… right?