Bush, Obama, & Ghosts of Hate – UPDATED

“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.” Lincoln’s Second Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862.

I would love nothing better than to be able to stop writing about “left” and “right.” I wish we had a better vocabulary to describe our distinctions, because these words are limiting and off-putting. I am determined, with the merciful conclusion of this abusively long election season, to work diligently at spending less time entertaining these distinctions. But for today, I think it is only fair to note a very important and glaring difference between “left and right” – and in so doing – consider how we may, finally, stop needing to indulge in what is tedious.

Victor Davis Hanson
says Let’s not imitate the left in our opposition. I agree.

It has been wonderful – really beyond wonderful – to consider how differently most of the right has reacted to their defeat than the left did in 2000 and 2004. In the two previous elections, the left responded by calling the other half of the country “stupid,” “morons,” and “Nazis” – Jane Smiley called them “unteachably ignorant” – they indulged in high drama, sniffling “apologies” to the globe, and denunciations of their fellow countrymen as “lying between repugnant and reptile in the dictionary.”

And oh, yeah (eyeroll) George W. Bush was not “their” president.

While you’ll see a few disgruntled extremists on the right say foolish, even ignorant things – and many throwing daggers at the sickening double-standards of the press – they’re not indulging in that sort of dehumanizing (and very adolescent) hate of their fellow countrymen or the president-elect. The reports they’re filing read very differently than those following the Bush wins. They read as grown-up, tolerant, open-minded discourses, not tantrums. There is a willingness to be hopeful, even in defeat.

And there is a determined respectfulness being offered to the winners – people who could not manage maturity and respectfulness in their defeat and who, sadly, are not always managing it in their victory, either.

I’m hopeful that the left – if it takes the time to actually condescend to notice how well it is being treated by the vanquished – might consider that self-indulgent defamation is the lesser way; that such a consideration may inspire introspection, and perhaps the smallest bit of regret for some of their appalling excesses toward the right and toward the American President who did not return hate in-kind.

I’m hopeful. I’m an optimist. I KNOW that the folks on the right – for all of their faults, and both sides certainly have faults – want America to be successful and strong and exceptional and free. I’m hopeful that hugely empowered left will discover that – beyond the feel-goodism of “free social programs” which are never free -they actually, really do want all of those things, too. That they’ll look back on the last 8 years and realize, finally, that their enemy was never George W. Bush. Bush, the guy who never dehumanized them, was only trying serve those corny ideals.

And then, miraculously, we may actually have unity.

Some similar thinking from my girl crush, Donna Brazile:

“The one mistake that we continue to make is that we label people. We say you’re conservatives, liberal, progressive, right wing, left wing. I think people just want to spend one day being Americans. They want to come together around a common purpose, common values.”

I wondered the other day if the catharsis of this election might open up “a vein of generosity” (or at least decency) from the left as concerns President Bush. I have not seen it yet, but I’m going to be optimistic and keep looking.

But maybe it’s enough just to see a little appreciation from the right, to start. Like this, for instance:

I link, therefore, I Err has a little mini-round-up of appreciation for George W. Bush. You’ll want to read it all.

From Alppuccino at Protein Wisdom:

At 10:40, President Bush will keep his streak alive by telling everyone how much he loves America. Just as he always has. And he’ll show everyone how much he loves America by preparing Obama as best he can for the next 4 years.

Read it all; it’s doubtful that Obama’s team will come into the White House finding O’s missing from their keyboards, any rude messages greeting them. And that is how it should be in America, a respectful transition.

Michael Gerson:

Many liberals refuse to concede Bush’s humanity, much less his achievements.

But that humanity is precisely what I will remember. I have seen President Bush show more loyalty than he has been given, more generosity than he has received. I have seen his buoyancy under the weight of malice and his forgiveness of faithless friends. Again and again, I have seen the natural tug of his pride swiftly overcome by a deeper decency — a decency that is privately engaging and publicly consequential.

[In 2005]…the White House senior staff overwhelmingly opposed a new initiative to fight malaria in Africa for reasons of cost and ideology…In the crucial policy meeting, one person supported it: the president of the United States, shutting off debate with a moral certitude that others have criticized. I saw how this moral framework led him to an immediate identification with the dying African child, the Chinese dissident, the Sudanese former slave, the Burmese women’s advocate. It is one reason I will never be cynical about government — or about President Bush.

Jeffery Scott Shapiro:

[The treatment of President Bush] from this country is nothing less than a disgrace. The attacks launched against him have been cruel and slanderous, proving to the world what little character and resolve we have…Our failure to stand by the one person who continued to stand by us has not gone unnoticed by our enemies. It has shown to the world how disloyal we can be when our president needed loyalty — a shameful display of arrogance and weakness that will haunt this nation long after Mr. Bush has left the White House.

Until we fix, within ourselves, our enthrallment with hate for others, simply because they hold differing views, we’ll never pull it together. In 2006 we watched a right-wing blogger be called less than human by a left-wing reader. We’ve seen President Bush being referred to as “the chimp” and “the monkey” by the wits who insisted that ideology trumped having a decent respect for another’s humanity. I wrote about that a little here:

Thus, George W. Bush is “Chimpy McHitler.” Hillary Clinton is “a pig in a pantsuit.” Barack Obama is “O-Bambi.” Cindy McCain, who has exhibited some courage and laudable compassion in her life, is reduced to a “pill-popping beer-frau,” and so forth. From there it is smooth sailing down an ever-descending river of hatred, until we are incapable of seeing anything good in the “other,” both because we have willfully hardened our hearts, and because our hate — especially when it is supported by a group of like minds — feels safe and inviolable.

With that in mind, you’ll want to read this excellent piece over at Conversion Diary, wherein Jenifer ponders pictures from a Nazi-era photo album and wonders, how such common-variety people managed to support and enable such profound evil.

One thing that stands out in all these examples is that the victims of the widespread evil were categorized as something less than human…not only that innocent people were killed or enslaved, but that their humanity was taken away by the societies around them…So here is the advice I would offer to my children, and to my children’s children:

Every decade or so, take a look around the society in which you live, and ask yourself if there is any group of human beings who are seen as something less than human. A big tipoff is if dehumanizing words — terms other than “man,” “woman,” “child,” “baby,” or “person” — are used to describe any category of people.

And if you ever see that going on, you might be in the midst of something gravely evil.

Dehumanizing people begins with baby-steps like name-calling, or the sort of intellectual dishonesty that delights in deliberately twisting the meaning of others in negative and misrepresentative ways. Those are the little gateways to the great evils that come once you’ve managed to thoroughly de-humanize others.

We’ve had 8 years – I’d say 12, really – of people demonizing and dehumanizing others, from both sides, and it is not getting us anyplace good. I believe that the response of most of the right to Obama’s victory is a step toward changing that. But the left has to do their part, too.

Pope Benedict XVI said, “those who hope live differently.” The election of Barack Obama was borne on this word, “Hope.”

If the people who voted for “hope” were sincere, then let them begin, today, to embrace it – and to live differently – without the kneejerk move to hate “the other side.” The right, responding levelly to their defeat, has offered the opening. Will the left take it?

UPDATE: Seems some will. Here is mostly accurate, and apprecited praise from a surprising quarter:

Would America have elected Barack Obama if white Americans had not gotten accustomed to seeing (in succession) two African-American Secretaries of State? I don’t think so. Before Bush, African-Americans were appointed to some good posts but not to our #1 foreign policy job. Two African Americans (one with a pretty odd first name) served as America’s face to the world. That eased Obama’s way. It is not Tiger Woods in whose footsteps Obama is walking — it’s Rice and Powell….Fact is, “W” never gave any evidence of holding racist attitudes…even just the slur the occasionally slips out of the mouth of even our most liberal leaders.

Same with Arabs and Muslims…Bush, after 9/11, never resorted to anti-Arab or Muslim stereotypes. He drew distinctions between terrorists and Arabs…Had he not done these things, Arabs and Muslims might have experienced not just hate crimes but pogroms.

Meanwhile, from Grand Rants:

Here is a man who is regularly compared to Hitler in casual conversation in Leftist circles high and low. His honor has been regularly impugned, his intelligence (or, as the press loves to put it, his “intellectual curiousity”) constantly demeaned, his verbal stumblings consistently mocked, and his accomplishments in office discounted or ignored. He is a man who kept his head down and did his job, despite the slings and arrows hurled at him by fortune made all the more outrageous by nearly the entire Democratic party.

I for one, would like to say thank you to Pres. Bush. For keeping us safe. For watching out for us. For persevering in spite of all the spite. I believe history will ultimately judge you as one of America’s best presidents, and I believe you deserve that judgement.

H/T to Opinionated Catholic, who writes:

The throwing under the bus of the President by even his friends and indeed the base has been shocking to me. Many groups will find out soon enough how they took Bush’s support and advocacy for them for granted, Catholics, especially.

Meanwhile, Jules Crittenden is beginning to enjoy Omerica, Quin Hillyer is saying America is over, kaput, finished, Evan Thomas suddenly finds Obama “slightly creepy” and when you refuse to release medical records, and the press doesn’t care…conjecture begins about your mental health.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • BackwardsBoy

    It’s tough to forgive sometimes, but I know I’m better off when I do. It cleanses the soul.

    Maturity is the hallmark of conservatism.

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  • JohnnyL

    I’ve long used this quote from the writer Robert Heinlein as a guide to avoid tagging people with the usual labels:

    “Political tags—such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, facist, liberal, conservative, and so forth—are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.”

  • themediansib

    A very thought-full post. Hate begets hate, and I have vowed not to go there. I had to make promises to myself in order to get through the next four years with my conscience intact. http://themediansib.com/2008/11/04/what-do-we-do-now-that-obama-has-won/

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  • Joe Odegaard

    Too much negativity at some of the conservative blogs. Whatever we may have felt during the campaign, Obama is the president-elect. Let us hope he does a good job and governs from the center, which is likely. His election is an opportunity for national unity that we should not throw away; remember he is half white too.

    Today I was on the phone with a black lady in the south – it was a business call about some lighting products – I’m an architect – and I could hear the obvious pride and happiness in her voice. It was good to hear it. And though it was a business call, we both said God bless to each other.

    Let us go forward together in this great country.

  • jakewashere

    Wish I could join you in your positivity, Anchoress, but I’ve already heard or read at least four conservative bloggers or commenters loudly proclaiming that Obama is not and will never be their president.

  • http://isthistripreallynecessary.blogspot.com/ mongo30912


    With respect, I read your teachable moment above. This is absolutely fine when dealing with reasonable and reachable people. Regrettably, our opponents in the political realm have not yet reached the level of maturity enabling them to engage in reasoned debate (and, to the best of my reading, even UNREASONED debate would be a step forward).

    Inevitably, they descend after the first intellectual challenge to ad hominem or tu quoque attacks. I am not in the habit of casting my pearls before swine. Teachable moments belong to the teachable; the bully and the villain need to be upbraided, harshly, insistently, and without any indication of backing down. This, unfortunately, is the only language the bully knows. All attempts to engage in reason is interpreted as weakness.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment

    Best wishes,


  • Hantchu

    I don’t think the conservaive were “vanquished”. McCain lost the election, that’s all. No rioting in the streets, no “Up against the wall!”. I would have preferred a Republican president, but the ship of state sails on.

    The maturity and grace of the American conservative reflects well on their parents and first-grade teachers. No higher compliment.

  • Gayle Miller

    We have been totally blessed for 8 years by a great and good President named George W. Bush. Most of us failed to appreciate his greatness; all of us marveled at his consistent refusal to dignify the calumnies by firing back at the pinheads attacking him in childish and despicable language.

    Through these 8 years, my genuine affection and respect for the man has become enormous. I was happy in 2000 when he was elected over the execrable Gore; thoroughly relieved in 2004 when the fraudulent poseur Kerry was defeated.

    We have been blessed by God for 8 years and showed our appreciation for His bounty by ALLOWING the dialogue to be controlled by hateful people. Obama may be our punishment. My prayer now is that, as has happened before, the presidency will be a transformative experience for Senator Obama. That’s my prayer, not my expectation based on his proposed Cabinet nominations! God bless and keep George W. Bush, the United States of America which we all love, and all of us that we remain safe in God’s hands.

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  • Terrye

    I did not hear it but someone said that Bob Beckel was on Fox saying some nice things about Bush.

    I think Bush’s real problems began with the 2000 election and the suspicion that surrounded it and then all of that was compounded by 9/11 and the war.

    I have always respected him and I have felt that he was badly treated, by both sides of the aisle. As if his detractors are in a position to judge anyone. Perfect they are not.

    But today I was watching some children play and it dawned on me that we owe more to them than we owe to our own bitterness and hatred. On one hand, I want to see Obama stumble, on the other I want those children safe and happy.

    That is what all Americans should want.

  • betsybounds

    Backwards Boy, et al.,

    It’s always tough to forgive. What makes it even tougher is the knowledge that we are called upon to forgive when we have actually been wronged–not just when our feelings have been hurt, say, or when we’ve been angered–and when forgiveness has not even been asked. Jesus did that. “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” The example is very difficult to follow. It cleanses us when we manage it; it is an act of sublime humility. It cleanses us even more when we make it between ourselves and God alone.

    I’m impressed with Obama right now, because he has apparently apologized to Nancy Reagan for his careless press conference comment about seances. Whether he actually asked for her forgiveness or merely apologized I do not know, the stories do not say. Nevertheless, it was a gracious act which I, frankly, did not expect. I think better of him for it. Whatever else follows, this was a classy gesture on his part. We shall see what else follows. I’m not optimistic, but I am hopeful.

  • rcareaga

    (I risk being tasked with “lecturing” whenever I hold forth here at length, but it’s a sissy liberal who cringes at such labels, so here goes):

    As others have observed (I will spare you the links), among the online commentariat with substantial anti-Obama constituencies there has been no dearth of venom. For every V.D. Hanson (whose dishes I likely washed at some point when we shared a common campus in the early 1970s) piously advising festina lente there are half a dozen who are less inhibited in their cries of resistance to the coming “thugocracy,” a neologism that appears to have taken root with the nascent Red Dawn Redux crowd. See “Sadly No” or others for examples; it would be discourteous to link directly from here.

    A link that does appear in the post to which I am presently responding suggests that the president-elect is, not to put too fine a point on it, nutso:

    Barack Obama sees himself as a black man raised by his white mother and grandparents. In is book he disuses his feelings about this mater and what seem like the depression resulting from it. Obama suffered from depression and Obama is a schizophrenic individual.

    Yesterday the big talk in political chat rooms was Obama’s yet to be released medical record. Obama may still need prescribed medications for mental related issues. It is suspected that he has not been taking his medications consistently because of several episode at recently campaign rallies.

    A person diagnosed with schizophrenia may demonstrate auditory hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized and unusual thinking and speech; this may range from loss of train of thought and subject flow, with sentences only loosely connected in meaning, to incoherence, known as word salad, in severe cases.

    This video shows classic schizo speech patterns. The Obama campaign has stated that no medical records will be released. Instead, a one-page undated letter from a doctor will have to satisfy reporters on that issue.

    The management here describes this as “conjecture.” I now see that I must henceforth dignify the ravings of a colleague who has bent my ear for eighteen months now with tales of the fortified Wolfsschanze the Bush family has supposedly constructed in Paraguay as “conjectures” rather than “fantasies” as I was formerly wont.

    C’mon, folks. Emotions have run high the past eight years, and obviously the era of kumbaya is not yet upon us. Hard words have been exchanged. I persist in believing, along with a sizable fraction of the 63+ million who voted the way you’d rather we hadn’t, that George W. Bush will have to wait in line not behind Truman but rather Pierce and Buchanan for his rehabilitation in Clio’s eyes. A presumably smaller fraction of McCain’s electorate (given that he, too, ran as the guy who’d clean up The Other One’s mess) will disagree and hold, with the recent WSJ editorial, that the country was not worthy of its forty-third president and first “unitary executive.”

    Apparently there’s been this slightly cloying initiative from the victors. I’d find it a little annoying myself from the losing side, but responses from some of the better-visited blogs on the right have not been uniformly gracious. Again, I’ll leave it for the morbidly curious to seek out the poison.

    Modern domestic elections have been toxic in varying degrees since at least 1964, with the LBJ campaign of that year firing the first shot (the “Daisy” commercial), as Bill Moyers now ruefully acknowledges. The contest just concluded has left a lot of hard feelings on each side, and intemperate remarks on the subject will not be in short supply during the interregnum or, for that matter, thereafter. We do ourselves no favors on the left or on the right to suppose that either faction has a monopoly on reasoned discourse, or that invective and abuse are not to be found in abundance on either side.

    [Hmph....my response got lost, so I'll try again. MY POINT in including that link, Rand, was not to endorse it but to say - with what I thought was transparent snark, but I can never seem to manage transparency with you - that when one does not release medical reports, one opens oneself up to "conjecture," or "invites conjecture" or whatever the hell I said. Rather like Palin deciding she did not need to expose her five pregnancies to public scrutiny and then having to deal with nutters insisting Trig was not her child. Moreover, I linked to ALL OF THESE gracious comments from the right, and I admitted that some on the right could not manage it, but that's never enough. I am at a loss to understand how intelligent people cannot make distinctions between a few inveterates on the right grumbling and the whole left losing its collective mind and managing NO graciousness and a great deal of high-drama (with 8 years of accompanying public hatefulness) after the last two elections. But that doesn't matter, right? What the left does is always excusable and fine and justified and - by any fair comparison - a few days of very slight insanity on the right is considered equal. I'm trying to do the math. A dozen negative bloggers equals 20 million rude Dems. Okay. Got it. I believe folks from your tribe are incapable of even admitting to their overabundance of drama and hate, so why do I even bother to expect a fair exchange? As to the site you linked to, I've been down all day and don't know what anyone else has said about it but after looking at it I can't help finding it a bit annoying...it's rather, "dear 48, we've treated you like shit for 8 years, called you Nazi's and slandered you, mocked you, laughed at you, worked against your value system at every turn and denied that it was possible to ever, ever, ever work with you because you were all unteachably ignorant, but now that we have everything we want, why, we're going to tell you how much we really love you and respect you. Oh, and we're going to fight for your right to your own opinions, too! Really!" Suddenly, when the left wins, "we're all in the same country!" You'll forgive me if I don't buy the "instant love" narrative. How interesting that they even think they need to add that last part. At no point in the last 8 years did any serious person every thing that such promises needed to be made - everyone was bellowing their opinion without concern for threats to that freedom. So, well....that's all just lovely. I guess the rest of us are supposed to be so grateful that you finally loooooove us? They may mean well, but it certainly does come off as condescending and a bit insulting - particularly the folks writing "country first..." As though they'd just thought of that concept. -admin]

  • rcareaga

    “A dozen negative bloggers equals 20 million rude Dems.”

    Really, A, to suggest that the equation lines up even remotely like that is simply silly.

    [Really, Rand? Think back to the hysterics and hate and acting out from the left in 2000 and 2004 - compare that to the couple dozen (if that many) ungracious bloggers on the right. I think you have a convenient memory and do not recall the vitriol that was dished out to us. Do you remember the "How can 62 Milllion people be so stupid?" signs? Do you remember the sad-clown carrying on? Do you remember the lefty blogs spewing nothing but hate bile and vomit after those elections? If I'm so silly, please, don't read me anymore. I've been sick all day, I come on to clear comments and the first thing I read is you unable to even recall how vicious your tribe was - unendingly so - while giving chastisement because relatively few folks on the right (who will get over their loss much more quickly than the left did because they really do believe "country first") need a few days to lick their wounds. Again. Do the math. And yes, that site, now that I've read through it, is insulting. You don't spout hate for 8 years and then, because you finally got the candy bar, turn around and say, "aw, but really I Looooooove you..." That's dishonest. I'm all for people working together. I'm just sorry that the only way it can occur in this country is if the left is given all the marbles. Did you see THIS? That's a right-wing writer taking umbrage on behalf of a president-elect she did not vote for, and at the insult made to him. Can you honestly tell me you can name a single lefty writer who ever EVER managed that for Bush? There IS a distinction. It's a real one, and it has to do with maturity. All the cutesy little "lets be friends" websites in the world cannot compare to that act by THAT writer, and no, no writer on the left gave a shit when Bush was insulted because they were too freaking immature to deal. Oh, and then there is this fellow. The right will defend Obama in a way you people could never in a million years have even thought to defend Bush because as much as the left wanted to pretend that their hate was about "ideology" the truth is it was just a temper-tantrumed HATE. The right truly dislikes Obama's ideology, but they don't hate HIM - they don't hate, period...which is why they'll still defend him as their president. Someday you might get this...I'm thinking...maybe...I mean...it can't be too hard to understand...we all know the left is so much smarter than the right, right? ;-)- admin]

  • Pat_Patterson

    I think the Left, at least in California, has discovered that the referenced “…vein of generosity” means simply to catch a Mormon and open one of his veins. Generously!

  • njcommuter

    There is a difference between saying “This will be a thugocracy” (and providing grounds for the statement) or saying “Obama has socialist roots” (and providing grounds for belief) and saying “Bush is a chimp,” “Bush is an imbecile,” and ” Bush.” The last sentence is a notional imperative; the only fact it states is the rage of the speaker. The second statement is clearly contrary to fact; when GWB graduated college, imbeciles were not given degrees there. As to the first statement, imagine if it were made about Obama. The racial outrage would be justified; the likely violence would not be, nor would the counter-hate.

    As far as ‘left’ and ‘right’, Thomas Sowell offers some thoughts in Conflict of Visions. In my opinion, it’s not up to the standards of his economic books, but your mileage may vary.

  • culperjr.

    My first vote was cast in 1980. Some of my liberal friends (I was 18, so most of my friends were liberal) told me I was crazy to vote for Reagan because “he’s evil and wants to start a nuclear war.”

    Now, after almost 3 decades of this, my liberal friends (fewer in number, but still around) still marvel at the seeming contradiction that I represent. The contradiction is this: I am not wealthy (nor ever likely to be). I work for a non-profit that labors tirelessly for environmental issues. I am a quiet, peaceful person. I do not wear a top hat and twirl my moustache with glee at the sufferings of the poor.

    But I am a conservative.

    The problem my liberal friends have is this: while I think liberals are misguided, they believe conservatives are evil. This is what sets the two sides apart. Sure, some conservatives ascribe evil to their liberal opponents, but I don’t believe it is a widespread phenomenon. This is why hatred for Clinton never took root in respectable conservative circles the way hatred for Bush is almost universal on the left. This is why Biden was treated as a buffoon by the right while Palin was viewed as a monster by the left. He was misguided, she was evil.

    Obama, God bless him, is my president now. I don’t hate him. I don’t like him, but hatred takes too much energy. Energy I will need, if my family is going to keep our heads above water for the next 4 years.

    Feel better, Anchoress!

  • Gayle Miller

    And then there is Barney, the First Dog. Irascible to be sure. But what idiot doesn’t know that you don’t pet a dog that doesn’t know you unless you let him sniff you a little first?

  • pendell

    from the Washington Times: Some on the left are trying to reach out and be conciliatory.

    I’d like to respond to such feelers … while being aware that these good feelings will probably end abruptly when we demonstrate real opposition to Obama’s legislative agenda. That should be on, oh, 22 JAN or so.

    I truly hope some will be able to be more mature, but I’m reminded of a spoiled child — throw a temper tantrum when you don’t get your way, all smiles and happy when you do.

    The real test of whether this is genuine will come the first time we
    stand athwart the course of history and successfully say ‘stop!’ or even ‘slow down!’

    Not betting any money on that proposition.

    Still .. it WOULD be nice if it was sincere.


    Brian P.