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July 31, 2006

Has Anyone Seen My Hope?

Today's epic foray into blissfully fact free punditry is brought to you courtesy of the letter D. Lest this arouse confusion in the readership, this would be the letter D as in Democrat.

Or, if you prefer, D as in "The Rethuglican Party is Doomed... doomed, we tell you, come November".

If foreign policy is more your metier, you may wish to substitute D for the Deeply Entrenched Fear and Loathing that rose from the rubble of the September 11 attacks, fully formed and majestical like Venus from her clam shell; rudely ending the halcyon days of bonhomie when enlightened nations like France and Germany dealt with America openly and honestly. Sadly, it appears that the jig is up.

Now that George Bush has single handedly harshed the pre-9/11 international mellow, we may have to learn to live with criticism from the EU. We realize this may be hard for some to imagine given Europe's long tradition of warmly embracing all things American. But even we cannot put lipstick on this particular pig.

First off, Craig Newmark points to this typically hyperbolic column by David Broder which employs two typically lefty techniques that manage to spin the HVES up every single time: argumentation by employing the illogical extreme and the Anonymous, But Completely Unrepresentative Man On The Street . Broder nearly does himself an injury in his rush to tell us that the RNC is in deep kimchee this fall.

Really? you ask.

The evidence is somewhat underwhelming. Broder's ABCUMOTS, a Southern Republican helpfully described as "one of the founders of the postwar Republican Party in the South" isn't happy with the White House. You have to love the subtle description. Hint: "founders of the postwar Republican Party in the South" is code for former Southern Democrat, a fancy way of saying "Psssst: this guy is a closet racist".

Which brings us to a whole 'nuther complaint about lefty arguments lately: veiled nastiness. We wish - we really do - that more people would just come right out with their insults. It saves so much time, and passive-aggressiveness has never been one of our favorite character traits. If a line of reasoning holds water, it will stand up to scrutiny. Make it, back it up with a well reasoned argument and a few facts and put it out there. Argument by insinuation, however, isn't much of an argument at all. What Mr. Broder has done, neatly, is insinuate his source is some kind of racist by association. And it's the oldest insinuation in the book: Broder tars him by association with Southern Democrats who blocked the Civil Rights Act of 1964. What Broder neatly doesn't mention is that a larger percentage of Republicans than Democrats voted for the Civil Rights Act. And what we can't know (because Broder doesn't bother to tell us) is his source's position on the Act then, or now. Not that this is relevant to the issue under discussion, in any event.

Broder goes on to tell us that his source is angry over the Bush administration's veto of stem cell legislation and lack of support for raising the minimum wage.

As Craig notes, neither of these issues is likely to find much traction within the Republican party, so it's hard to see why this particular source's angst signals trouble for the party in 2008. So far as anyone can tell, he is clearly outside the mainstream. But an observation like that comes perilously close to violating the emotional truths which drive essays like Broder's - he felt storm clouds gathering for the RNC, so clearly they must be.

200px-Liberators-Kultur-Terror-Anti-Americanism-1944-Nazi-Propaganda-Poster.jpg Meanwhile, Thom Friedman has redoubled his efforts to combat the irrational surfeit of optimism that has been gripping the nation recently:

...when we go from a country that, historically, has always exported hope to a country that always exports fear, what we do, and what this administration has done, is actually stolen something from people. Whether it’s an African or a European or an Arab or Israeli, it’s that idea of an optimistic America out there. People really need that idea, and the sort of dark nature of the Cheneys and the Bushes and the Rices, this, this sort of relentless pessimism about the world, this exporting of fear, not hope, has really left people feeling that the idea of America has been stolen from them. And I would argue that that is the animating force behind so much of the animus directed at George Bush.

Once again Mr. Friedman allows emotional truthiness to triumph over historical fact. As if it weren't bad enough that the Shrub stolded the election in 2000 from AlGore and that history repeated itself in 2004 when Hope turned out Not To Be On The Way in Florida. Now that Horrid Man is Stealing Hope from the World. In fact, we're suffering from a veritable Global Hope Deficit. Small children in Third World nations are starving to death from a lack of Hope. And I think we all know who's to blame.

Never mind that antipathy to America is as old as America herself. Why trouble to recall that over half a century ago these words caused little outcry, so commonplace were the sentiments they expressed:

"One nation that manages to lower intelligence, morality, human quality on nearly all the surface of the earth, such a thing has never been seen before in the existence of the planet. I accuse the United States of being in a permanent state of crime against humankind."

The reflexive resentment Friedman struggles to attribute to the actions of the Bush administration in fact predates it and has far more numerous causes than the war on terror. One may be, simply put, simple envy. America represents a behemoth of abundance - abundant health and wealth, abundant military and economic power, abundant ideas; all overwhelming to the smaller, less vibrant nations forced to exist in its shadow:

This anti-Americanism, derived from the writings of the pro-Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger, says that America represents the principle of quantity without quality, a blind dumb massifying force that is crushing culture...
According to the most developed views of anti-Americanism, there is no community of interests between the two sides of the Atlantic because America is a different and alien place. ...

[P]roponents invest differences that exist between Europe and America with a level of significance all out of proportion with their real weight. True, Europeans spend more on the welfare state than do Americans, and Europeans have eliminated capital punishment while many American states still employ it. But to listen to the way in which these facts are discussed, one would think that they add up to different civilizations. This kind of analysis goes so far as to place in question even the commonality of democracy. Since democracy is now unquestionably regarded as a good thing—never mind, of course, that such an attachment to democracy arguably constitutes the most fundamental instance of Americanization—America cannot be a real democracy. And so it is said that American capitalism makes a mockery of the idea of equality, or that low rates of voting participation disqualify America from being in the camp of democratic states.

Again, like Broder, Mr. Friedman completely ignores the incontrovertible fact that anti-Americanism has a long-standing genesis that predates the Bush administration. He wants to believe that America was loved before 9/11, and so he does. He wants to believe that somehow, if we just got "back on course", we would once again be accepted into the international embrace, and so he airily dismisses the facts, concocting a ridiculous vision of the once and future kingdom where even France would grant us moral legitimacy if only we'd straighten up and fly right. No doubt, too, Hezbollah would lay down their rockets if the Bush White House would just show them a little respect:

And you know, part of just showing up, Tim, you know, why did I go to Syria? I haven’t been to Syria in a long time. But, you know, listening. If I found one thing as a reporter—worked in the Arab world for 25 years, as a Jewish-American reporter—here’s what I found. I found that listening is a sign of respect. You know, if you just go over and listen to people, and what they have to say, it’s amazing what they’ll allow you to say back. But when you just say, “We’re not going to go to Damascus, we’re not going to listen to the Syrians,” we—you’re never going to get anywhere that way. I’m not guaranteeing you you’re going to get somewhere the other way, but all I know, you sure increase the odds if you sit down and just listen.

Right, Thom. And maybe the world really is flat, too.

Posted by Cassandra at July 31, 2006 07:22 AM


Well, now. Looking at your link on anti-Americanism, I see it's the same thing we were just talking about yesterday:

By the early nineteenth century, as the principal surviving society based on an Enlightenment notion of nature, America became the target of many romantic thinkers. Instead of human reason and rational deliberation, romantic thinkers placed their confidence in the organic growth of distinct and separate communities[.]
That philosophy, in a word, is nationalism -- just as we were discussing.

Posted by: Grim at July 31, 2006 10:29 AM

Are you put off again that Glenn Reynolds didn't ask you to guest blog at Instapundit, since he's on vacation? :)

I just find this whole kerfuffle hilarious. Most of the Europeans I deal with in business CAN'T WAIT to sell something to those foul "Americans" simply because this is a great market and money can be made.

Discard Friedman and Broder's rantings, they are tied into the "intellegentsia" of Europe, which is just about as useless as ours. It's all partisan blather, really. All those nasty anti-American feelings disapear when money is trading hands, believe me. Anti-Americanism is a convenient stooge to divert people from the real problems of low wealth creation and high unemployment(plus the Islamic immigrant problem) that really plague Europe. It's just so much banter.

I travel to Europe semi-frequently (minimum twice a year), and have only rarely encountered any personal rudeness to speak of, and certainly little to do with my being an American. And I certainly don't have to travel to Europe to find disagreeable political arguments! There are plenty here at home. :)

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at July 31, 2006 12:09 PM

Let me give a plug to one of my favorite authors, Jean-Francois Revel (proof that not all intelligence was guillotined out of the french gene pool during their Revolution). He wrote an excellent book in 2001 or 2002 called, appropriately enough, "Anti-Americanism". The book does an excellent job of explaining the how and why anti-americanism, particularly from the europeans, came to the fore.

Posted by: a former european at July 31, 2006 02:38 PM

Has Anyone Seen My Hope?

Well, the last time I had it I used it to club baby seals.

Did I not give it back?

Posted by: Masked Menace© at July 31, 2006 03:13 PM

If you people cannot be serious I shall have to revoke your commenting privileges.

So there.

Don, I have a feeling you are right. People could not have been nicer when we were in Europe. I think every nation is a bit chauvinistic when it comes to rating other nations - I don't think it is anti-Americanism so much as parochialism. We all think our own little slice of heaven is better than the other guy's patch of turf. After all, it must be, or we'd live over there, wouldn't we?

Posted by: Cassandra at July 31, 2006 03:38 PM

And Thom Friedman is just plain silly. The last time I listened to him was driving down the road in soCal. And I nearly drove OFF the road.

Talk about yer road rage. The man is maddening. Listening to him, I understood why people get addicted to ganja. Forty minutes of listening to his particular brand of blather had me feeling distinctly naustalgic for my collegiate days - I wanted nothing so badly as to light a big old doobie and get completely baked.

Posted by: Cassandra at July 31, 2006 03:42 PM

And yes, the misspelling of nostalgic was intentional. That's my dim-witted brand of humor, but then I'm so anal I'm always afraid people will think I can't spell, or worse that I just can't see (which these days isn't far from the mark).

It's sort of like being stupid and contagious, but in this case, nauseated and nostalgic at the same time. Lame, I know. But then I was always easily amused.

Posted by: Cassandra at July 31, 2006 03:46 PM

You know, the really annoying thing about Friedman is that he TALKS such a good game, and SEEMS so clever, and writes these "oh so clever" best sellers that distill down popular thought, but so much of his reasoning is just sophomoric.
But people like Chris Matthews and Tim Russet (sic: the big potatoe) just eat him up. Is it hypnosis, or a Jedi mind trick?
Frankly, people who think and perceive like our friend AFE are more common in Europe than you might think, it's just that they're too self-conscious to speak up in public. Must be something in the water...

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at July 31, 2006 04:06 PM

You missed (or perhaps you didn't) Chris Matthews' major meltdown last week.The man went completely ballistic on the Don Imus show - it was utterly pathetic. I was going to post about it but it was just too moronic for words. I decided not to waste any more brain cells thinking about it.

He is just unstable. I am convinced his brain is held together with duct tape.

Posted by: Cassandra at July 31, 2006 08:33 PM

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