Tuesday, March 11, 2003

TNR's Spicy Liberal Side: While agreeing with the administration over the war, New Republic's editors are clearly pushing for ways to backhand Bush at the same time, perhaps to keep their liberal street cred (which is gone; Iraq is an article of faith in the liberal "street"). Here's one of those stories, Michelle Cottle's look at Bush and god. It's a masterpiece of insinuation, implying that, because Bush is a praying-to-Jesus-type, he must be under the impression that Jesus is feeding him the right answers, like some divine crib-sheet on mid-East policy. Not only that, but Cottle implies that Bush is gambling on what Jesus tells him: "It bears noting, however, that Bush is not the only devoutly spiritual fellow talking to God about Iraq--and not everyone seems to be getting the same answer ... With the stakes so high, I envy ... the president [his] certitude -- though not half so much as I fear it." To top it off, the piece is written with a snide, mocking superciliousness about certain types of faith, the kind of tone that imperial apologists used when referring to the aborigines of their colonies (or that Maureen Dowd uses when discussing the benighted GOP). "George Bush and Jesus are pals," she begins, going on to call Bush "Crusader-ish," "getting lifestyle advice from God."

Here's her payoff pitch: "Even for those who accept the basic premise of a proactive Almighty Father, it's probably unsettling to think that W. is charging into battle with the blind confidence that God will of course help him emerge victorious -- just like he helped Bush kick the hooch and become a better father." This is a flippant, arrogant, and illogical way to steer the argument; it's also ridiculously self-satisfied. Let me translate: "Even those of us who believe in god (the real one, you know, not the fruitcake version of Wahhibism or, worse, Pentecostal Christianity) think that Bush's belief in god is whacked out and dangerous." Let me be blunt to Cottle on two points: First, I'm an atheist, so I don't much give a rat's ass. I generally abide by Camille Paglia's defense of religion of all types (as long as the religion is keeping its hands to itself); it's the religious ones who are always drawing distinctions between what's silly belief and not-so-silly belief. Second, I don't recall Bush saying that Jesus told him to build a better Iraq, gave him the Cliff Notes to how this Mesopotamian thing all works out, or anything remotely like that. I wonder how the hell Cottle figured all this out when Bush has said no more on the issue than a) he does pray, and b) he thinks that liberty is god's gift to all people (care to disagree?). This is a standard case of "My imaginary friend is a thoroughly reasonable thing to believe in; yours is nutty."

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