2003-07-18 / Columnists

The Rockaway Irregular by Stuart W. Mirsky

Messages from the Internet - Take Two
The Rockaway Irregular by Stuart W. Mirsky Messages from the Internet - Take Two

As noted last week, I have been having a "conversation" with someone on the Internet about some political issues. After someone else posted some rather anti-American articles published abroad, I noted that they were full of half-truths an d innuendos and seemed to be intended to denigrate American policy by delegitimizing the current American administration. I objected to this and noted that there was so much claptrap and malarkey in the articles that it would be hard to respond point for point. A self-avowed liberal reader took me to task for this and so we had a number of "conversations" re: these matters. Herewith part II of our "discussions" (names dropped, of course, with editing for brevity):

Him: The great majority of the people in my circle express the same horror about what Bush is doing to OUR America (as shown in those articles from India). Claptrap and malarkey indeed! Where did you get the permission to say that being anti-Bush is being anti-American? This sounds much like the spin Bush and gang uses to tar anyone who does not agree

with them.

Me: No, you can be anti-Bush and not anti-American. But the articles that were posted merely gave a nod to being "for America", e.g., by liking Walt Whitman, etc. It’s easy to say that one is for America but not for the administration, its policies, etc., but when everything America does or says is subject to half-truth criticisms, then I count that as anti-American. This does not say one cannot oppose the current administration. But it is patent baloney to say, for instance, that Bush wasn’t elected and that he was installed via a coup by a right-wing Supreme Court, as was maintained in the articles. If you hold that view then you have bought into the same nonsense.

Bush did not win the popular vote (though he didn’t lose it by much) but he won the electoral vote which is what counts. Sure Gore brought suit demanding recounts but every recount still gave Florida to Bush. The Supreme Court made a decision to halt the recounts for legitimate reasons, at a certain point, despite the fact that many die-hards opposed this and still hoped that eventually some recount, at some level, would throw Florida to Gore. It was a tightly contested election and the system worked. The recounts had to stop some time and they had been going on for quite a while by the time the Supreme Court waded in (as a result of the legal actions initiated at the beginning by the Gore camp, since, of course, nothing can reach the Supreme Court unless it begins life as a lawsuit at some lower level).

It was within the U.S. Supreme Court’s jurisdiction to make the decision to halt continuing recounts, just as it was within the Florida Supreme Court’s jurisdiction to allow the recounts to proceed initially. If you will accept the Florida court’s ruling as legitimate, why would anyone refuse to accept the legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court’s later ruling? Isn’t it just a matter of sour grapes and not getting the ruling you want? For the record, I supported Clinton while he was in office (though I did not vote for him) because he was the duly elected president, even when he won less of the popular vote in his first run than Bush won in his. One of the things that characterizes a mature democracy is accepting electoral results. It’s absurd to use the fact that this system enabled Bush’s election as grounds to question his legitimacy. When people invoke such half-baked ideas in order to impugn American intentions and policies, I take offense. If they do this as part of an apparently larger strategy of castigating America, I consider it anti-American. Bush may or may not be your idea of a good president. He may represent policies and a viewpoint that you are not comfortable with. In such a case, anyone is free to criticize him and, if you are an American, to vote against him. But he is our president, he was legitmately elected and he is acting to defend this country against some very real threats.

As to what you think Bush is doing to YOUR America, I can only wonder. He has not eliminated freedoms, he has not gutted social welfare programs, he has not even worked to eliminate abortion. He HAS moved aggressively to defend this nation and to lower taxes and he is doing some things, in terms of Medicare for instance, that many of his supporters are very troubled by, which ought to please those who favor greater government spending to provide more services.

I think what is at work here is that at least one part of the American electorate is very committed to a statist liberalism and bitterly resents loss of control of the government to that part that does not support these views. Aparently you identify with that portion of the electorate who resents loss of control to Bush and the Republicans. Well and good. Work for your positions and vote your way back into control of the instrumentalities of government if you can. If you are successful, I will probably try to overturn that, but never by denying legitmacy to a legally elected president, or trying to tear him down. I will advocate for and vote for individuals who represent my viewpoint and against those who represent the views you seem to hold.

For the record, I opposed those who hounded Clinton over his indiscretions though I was deeply troubled by Clinton’s lying to the public on national t.v. and, later, his perjuring himself under oath, even for as apparently minor a transgression as having had sexual relations with a young female college intern in the White House. I actually believed him when he denied "having sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinski," since I did not believe an American president would lie so brazenly to the nation. That he did left a very bad taste in my mouth and made it impossible for me to respect him thereafter.

I do not accept the static viewpoint but I respect your right to hold such views and will be glad to debate them. What I do thoroughly object to, however, is when people conflate their preference for one set of policies over another into a denial of the legitimacy of others’ viewpoints and a suggestion that those who represent those other positions are somehow reprehensible moral degenerates who have no right to run things, even if they’ve been duly elected. Bush may not be a president after your own heart, but he is as legitimate as Clinton was and his intentions do not deserve to be impugned.


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