Cider Press Hill

A house divided

Monday, 1:55 pm

Robert Novak wrote a column that appears in today’s Washington Post, called Hagel’s Stand. In it, Novak says that Hagel just returned from his fifth visit to Iraq. He spoke on the record to Novak and says that Iraq is coming undone and growing weaker by the day. We need to start pulling back some troops and we have a very large mess—thanks to people like Elliot Abrams. (Welcome to reality, Mr. Hagel.) Novak puts a lot of faith in what Hagel says because, well, Hagel is a Republican. In fact, Novak devotes the last paragraph of his column to reminding the party faithful of Hagel’s bona fides.

These judgments come from someone credited with rebuilding Nebraska’s Republican Party and who has earned a lifetime conservative voting rating of 85.2 percent from the American Conservative Union. Hagel represents millions of Republicans who are repelled by the Democrats’ personal assault on President Bush but are deeply unhappy about his course in Iraq.

I think the inescapable point that Novak is making is this: If a respected Republican says it, we should pay attention. Never mind that Democrats and independents across this country have been saying the same thing for quite some time.

When a respected Republican says it, we should pay attention.

Even lefty blogs are noted for quoting Republicans when they stray off the reservation. As if the Republican’s words give weight to the argument they’ve been making for years now. When a Republican says it, that lends gravitas and affirmation to the same argument they’ve (we’ve) been making for the last 3 years, at least.

But such are the times we live in.

And that, I believe, is going be one of George W Bush’s enduring legacies. He and his faithful so divided this country that policy arguments were no longer considered on the basis of merit—they were considered on the basis of which party faithful said it. That was calculated, intentional, encouraged—and they accomplished that division with ease. All the right ingredients were in place for it.

Now that a few of the Republican faithful have begun to stray off message, that division may become more muddied. It’s still a powerful force in the minds of many, particularly the media, when assessing issues. And I think it’s becoming a source of confusion for a good many people in this country. Perhaps the media more than anyone.

It was a dangerous experiment that worked very well. I hope that, collectively, we will eventually have the hindsight to recognize what that calculated and orchestrated division in the people wrought. It was and is still dangerous. Fact and truth are never the province of one ideology over another. When we discard intelligence (brains) based on party allegiance, we are only half a nation and you know what they say about a house divided.

Posted by Kate on 04/3007 at 01:55 PM

I take a little bit different take on why so many are pointing out that Republicans are coming out in larger and larger numbers to vocally condemn the war and other current scandals involving Mr. Bush.  I don’t think “lefties” think that this somehow strengthens the arguments they’ve been making for years; rather, it is important to point out because it is very difficult for them (the Republicans) politically to strongly buck the tide of the president, and it is noteworthy that it has taken many of them this long to face themselves in the mirror.

To his credit, Chuck Hagel has long been an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq, and was never a friend of GWB (remember, he supported McCain in 2000 long after Bush had been anointed by the GOP, and has been critical on many issues since 2001).  Also, though it pains me to say it, Novak has always been rightly against this war too (though that’s about the only thing he’s gotten right - but credit where credit is due).

What annoys me more, is that with every new scandal, many lefty bloggers harken back to some Clinton scandal, as if to show the hypocrisy of the Republicans’ current behavior, while implicitly absolving Clinton of things for which he should not be absolved.  I don’t think the scale or harm of the Clinton scandals approach anywhere near the same level as those of this current administration, but I wish people (lefties, especially) would leave Clinton out of it.  We don’t need to resurrect those scandals to somehow point out how terrible the high crimes and misdemeanors of the Bush regime are.

Posted by dk on 04/30  at  08:57 PM

Yes, I agree that left leaning blogs are quick to point out when a Republican strays from message. As you say, it is difficult for the Republicans to buck the tide. When they do so, it’s worth noting and supporting. Many a thank you note has gone out in such cases. They need to know when Americans of either party (or independent) approve of what they do. But, I still think that there is a tendency for some to frame arguments in Republican terms. I think it might almost be an unconscious reflex. Because for the past few years the party-faithful Repubs were the only people being listened to. Anyone who wasn’t a Bush supporter was discounted as anti-Bush, anti-American, treasonous, etc. Even some of the former Bushies have been taken to the woodshed by the administration and its supporters (and media) over the years. (Paul O’Neill, Richard Clarke, and Gen. Shinseki being among the earliest cases and Tenet being but the latest.) But it’s much more pronounced in the mainstream media.

I am sure that Novak is quite aware of that or he wouldn’t have felt the need to remind his readers of Hagel’s Republican credentials. Either that or he was making an important announcement that Republicans now have permission to put distance between themselves and the administration—in his Novakian kind of way.

What I have found odd, though, is that Hagel hasn’t been attacked by the administration in the same way others who have strayed have been. Hagel has been making noises for a while now and he’s handled like fragile glass by the media. And no one else seems to pick on him, either. I’ve been watching him to see where he goes. He’s definitely been interesting lately.

But the point still stands...the Democrats can talk until they are blue in the face (and have) and they are either ignored or relentlessly harassed for being defeatocrats, dumbocrats, or anti-American (Max Cleland, anyone?). Or their words are taken so out of context as to bear little resemblance to what was actually said (Jack Murtha, anyone?). It’s not until a respected and connected Republican speaks that everyone listens. I think the press might positively choke if they had to print the words ‘respected’ and ‘Democrat’ next to each other. That has got to stop.

As for Clinton. I also wish everyone would stop talking about him. He isn’t the president nor the focus. What he did or didn’t do doesn’t have anything to do with what this president should be able to do. As my mother actually did say to me, “If Carol jumped off the bridge, would you do it, too?” That’s what dredging up Clinton brings to my mind. The president we have now offers more than enough to talk about.

On the other hand, I kinda wish Bush would get caught with his pants down, because that seems to be the only valid cause for impeaching a president these days.

Posted by Kate on 04/30  at  10:20 PM

How funny.  I still hear the “if so-and-so jumped off the bridge, would you?  Some things never change… Great come back.  :0 That’s why I love this blog.

Posted by dk on 04/30  at  11:08 PM

Also (I know, I’m hogging your comments space) your second observation hit home.  My 70-year-old mother retired last year as a nurse.  She’s a life-long Democrat, but she told me that (even in “progressive” Wisconsin) during the last couple of years, she felt uncomfortable talking about any politics at work, because she was made to feel “disloyal” and “suspect” for not towing the Bush line.  That’s scary, and I agree, it has to change.

Posted by dk on 05/01  at  07:10 PM

It really seems to me that most of the references to Clinton seem to come from the “right” as they try to sluff the President’s responsibility for each and every thing that seems to go wrong (or gets reported anyway) in this administration. Or else it’s from the MSM as they bend over to be “fair and balanced” to the administration and the talking heads that are pushing todays talking points.

I suppose it could just be I’m reading the wrong reports…

Posted by Gary Boyd on 05/01  at  07:31 PM

dk, no one who comments here is hogging comments space. smile

I’ve also felt the same sting as your mother over the last few years. It’s a ghastly feeling. There are probably many similarities to what people felt during the McCarthy era. We seem prone to repeat our mistakes without ever learning from them.

But I believe it was the fruit of a successful propaganda campaign. It was obviously encouraged by the administration. Every time Dick Cheney opens his mouth, he’s accusing someone of being a rotten American and terrorist supporter. After hearing it repeated and repeated and repeated for several years, it works its magic on the national psyche. These people can’t leave soon enough. They’ve done terrible damage to us.

Gary, I agree with you, too. It comes from both sides, but predominantly from rightwingers as far as I’ve been able to tell. A lot of times, I think the more liberal blogs get caught in the trap of trying to endlessly refute the claims made by those who simply love to distract conversation from the issues at hand. I don’t know what the eternal fixation is with Clinton. Especially since we’ve got Nixon in our history. Of course, the wingers don’t like to talk about him. And yet, Bush makes Nixon look like a piker. He could only have dreamed....

Posted by Kate on 05/01  at  09:11 PM