The Right Under Bush vs The Left Under Obama

Ross sharpens his point:

Fallows makes the point, correctly, that most liberals haven’t suddenly fallen in love with the anti-terrorism measures wiretapping and Guantanamo, drone attacks and assassinations that Barack Obama has either accepted or expanded. (“I don’t know of any cases of Democrats who complained about these abuses before and now positively defend them as good parts of Obama’s policy,” he writes, “as opposed to inherited disasters he has not gone far enough to undo and eliminate.”) But what they’ve done instead which many honorable exceptions, obviously is downgraded the importance of those issues, in much the same way that conservatives downgraded the importance of being against “big government” when a big-government Republican occupied the Oval Office.

It wasn’t that most right-wingers explicitly changed their opinions on the wisdom of, say, expanding Medicare just because George W. Bush was championing a new prescription drug benefit: Conservative journals still editorialized against Medicare Part D, and conservative activists stored away the issue as an example of why Bush fell short of the Reaganite ideal. But if you followed the national political conversation from 2000 through roughly 2006, it was clear that most Republican partisans learned to live with spending and deficits that would have inspired, well, Tea Party-style activism if they had been the work of a Democratic administration. And the same thing has happened with many, many Democrats today: They aren’t happy, exactly, that Obama has expanded drone attacks (which are arguably more morally troubling than many “enhanced interrogation” procedures) along the AfPak frontier, but they seem to have downgraded these kind of policies from “grave threat to the very foundation of the republic” to “unfortunate failure that we have to learn to live with, because the Republicans are worse.”

On the last point, I don't believe drone attacks are morally more troubling than torture (if Ross reads his catechism, he'll come to the same conclusion) - and dismayed that Ross would use the Orwellian term, "enhanced interrogation" to justify what the church would describe as an absolute evil. The acquiescence of a movement premised in indivual liberty to the right of the executive to torture anyone he wants is of a different magnitude of betrayal and cynicism than anything we have seen on the left with respect to Obama and the war in Afghanistan (which, obviously, he promised in the campaign to wage aggressively).

Even so, this blog, for example, has clearly opposed the ramping up of the war in Af-Pak, and raised questions about the morality of drone attacks. And, frankly, the reaction of the left-wing blogosphere to Obama's centrism has been highly critical - light years more impressive than the supine silence of the intellectual right as Bush eviscerated every principle conservatives were supposed to uphold. Ah, yes, as Ross says, they "stored away" the criticism until later. Doesn't that tell you everything you need to know about the Washington right's utter lack of intellectual or moral integrity?

Ask yourself: what was the equivalent of the Huffington Post under Bush? Who served the equivalent role of, say, Glenn Greenwald in lacerating the president's policies?

Yes, Bartlett and yours truly qualify but - importantly - we were thereby stripped of any public identity as conservatives. Greenwald is not now derided as some kind of insane whackjob by the left. Where was the right's Marcy Wheeler under Bush? Where were the mass demonstrations from the base - like the gay equality march - that challenged the Bush administration's betrayal of certain principles?At what point did a key Bush supporter, on a key Bush policy, ever write blog-posts with headlines like "The Fierce Urgency Of Whenever" as I have done with respect to Obama.

Where was the Tea Party freedom-fanatics when the president ordered wire-tapping without warrants, the right to seize anyone he deemed an enemy combatant and torture them without due process? Where were the fiscal hawks demanding an end to the spending spree - unjustified by anything close to the kind of depression Obama faced in coming to office? Where was the outrage - not the token credentializing column - when Bush rammed through Medicare D, with parliamentary tactics that were Putinesque?

The notion that the right under Bush showed anything like the integrity of the left under Obama is preposterous. Ross would like to think so, because it would make his own acquiescence to torture, debt, nation-building and unfunded entitlements look particularly craven and partisan. But reality shows no such equivalence, and I say this with great dismay.

The American right has proven itself more cynical, more power-hungry and less principled than any equivalent group on the left in this past decade. No amount of pirouetting now will erase that fact.