Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Remember Conservatives?

While we tend to talk in general terms about a conservative president and a conservative Congress, the reality is we have neither. Genuine conservatism opposes rampant deficit spending, expansion of government and aggressive internationalism, all hallmarks of this administration.

But now, the theo-con president and theo-con Congress have been sufficiently weakened by the consequences of their devastating actions that, much like disenfranchised liberals, disenfranchised conservatives are daring to assert themselves. The Washington Times reports that conservatives want the House leadership battle to address not just the theo-con's unending power-hunger, but also fundamental principles about the party and its philosophical approach to the nature of governance.

Whichever side you're on politically, it seems to make sense to with them luck.



According to the Christian-right WorldMagBlog, former Sen. Gary Hart's latest book is just the latest instance of the left making a grab for the Jesus brass ring. Hart reportedly questions how Jesus would have felt about such presumably right-wing priorities as gun ownership, the death penalty and "foreign adventuring."

The implication, of course, is that Jesus was actually a leftie (a radical leftie, some argue) and that this constitutes an endorsement of many policies favored by the left: Opposition to the death penalty, a strong resistance to "pre-emptive" wars such as Iraq, aggressive assistance for the poor, etc.

But Hart and the left are making a big mistake by playing the Christian right's game. As soon as they credit the question "What Would Jesus Do?" with legitimacy, they've lost. Why? Two reasons. One is the non-Christian assertion that Jesus was just a guy, and one not elected to office in the United States of America, and that if his positions are so clearly the right way to go, they ought to be able to win in the marketplace of ideas without reference to their source. The second is the more important reason, and one that even Christians ought to endorse: That we don't and can not know what Jesus would do, because the one meaningful source of insight on this question -- the internally inconsistent and self-contradictory Bible -- has shown itself through history to be infinitely malleable and interpretable. In other words, as soon as we endorse the concept of crafting national policy based on what Jesus would do, we toss rationality out the door and, with perhaps more fearful implications, open the door to the next demagogue able to use Jesus to sell irrational, anti-Democratic policies. Sound familiar?

Give me a Democrat -- Christian or otherwise -- with the balls to say that we ought to hold our debates in the present, using facts and the insights that 2,000 years of progress have brought to light.


Sunday, January 01, 2006

If What Bush Says Is True...

I've tried in the past to avoid the lazy stereotyping of President Bush. I don't believe I've ever called him stupid or evil. I don't think him stupid or evil -- the left isn't supposed to think that way about people, right? And I've usually thought that his own internal logic held up pretty well, at least, when you accept his premises. But the wiretap tap-dancing has reached some pretty bizarre realms of ratiocination. Look at the questions that arise if we accept what Bush has been saying as true.

He's defended his actions -- most recently today, when the Associated Press asked him about revelations that the National Security Agency, without warrants, listens in on phone calls made to Americans. But his logic makes no sense. And it almost seems as though the media no longer themselves understand logic well enough to pursue the president's line of thinking. Here are some of the questions they should be asking:

If leaking news of this NSA program is a crime, why didn't President Bush order the DOJ to investigate the leak a year ago -- when he knew the Times had found out about it -- rather than only after the Times published its story?

If what the president is doing has been legal all along -- and got a legal boost, as he claims, from the congressional authorization of force -- and the president has always said he'd use every means of combating America's enemies, then is there any reason to think the enemy wouldn't have put two and two together and concluded that, since domestic wiretapping was legal (as the president claims), the government must be doing it?

If the war in Iraq is what's making us safe, why do we still need domestic spying?

And, most troubling, if the war in Iraq is what's making us safe, what happens when we win it?

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