Monday, August 16, 2004

Anti-Bush Sentiment Seems to be Gaining Momentum

I was struck by three recent anti-Bush tirades, from three very different sources. The first, coming from a certified radical leftist, professor Cornell West, wasn't surprising. But it was, I thought, nonetheless eloquent. The second, from the traditionally cautious and centrist New Yorker editor David Remnick, was surprising in its pungency and directness. And since it was embedded in the opening "Comment," the newspaper equivalent of the lead editorial, it at least implicitly carried the weight of an institutional position. And coming from that singularly distinguished 80-year-old institution, it had special resonance, not unlike the forcefully eloquent (though unsigned) essays by E.B. White during World War II or Jonathan Schell during the Vietnam era.

But the final outburst was the real surprise, coming (unlike the other two) in person, from a guy I've known since childhood, and someone whom I always thought of as something of a cultural, if not political, conservative. As I walked to the Feast in Little Italy this weekend, I passed by Dave Rossi's law office and noticed a sticker on his window. It read "Drop Bush Not Bombs." I've known Dave since we attended Catholic grade school together, beginning in the first grade, and he's now a lawyer and father of eight, who routinely teases me about how I can have such a tiny family. The son of a (now-deceased) manual laborer, "a ditch digger" and immigrant to America, Dave proudly notes, he's something of an unofficial "Mayor of Murray Hill." Even though he lives in Cleveland Hts., he owns lots of rental property in Little Italy, keeps his law office there and just generally keeps a close eye on things. In short, hardly the profile of a doctrinaire left-winger. More like a Reagan Democrat, you might say. So I pointed to his anti-Bush sticker with raised eyebrow. That set him off on a brief rant about Bush & Co. "They think we're so stupid! Like we can't make out they're lying about all of this Iraq stuff, like we were some unsophisticated immigrants like our parents, who had to go ask the priest" for help in interpreting the world. I was taken aback by his unexpected vehemence. And silently pleased, I must admit. After knowing the guy for 40 years, really more as an acquaintance than anything, I felt a new kinship with him. Anyway, here are the other two comments that caught my eye:

'...the nihilistic policies of the current administration represent a different mentality than many previous moments in the growth of the American empire. Even Ronald Reagan believed that he had to disguise his policies with crypto-conservative arguments. That's not true of this administration. They do what they want and then make their arguments after the policies have already been implemented. If they lie, they try to cover their lies until they're caught. It's the Eleventh Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Get Caught.'
--Cornell West, writing in Tikkun Magazine.

'There's a case to be made that it hardly matters how eloquent or effective John Kerry was at the Democratic National Convention last week. What matters infinitely more is that George W. Bush is the worst president the country has endured since Richard Nixon, and even mediocrity would be an improvement. Indeed, if one regards the Bush Administration's sense of governance--its distortion of intelligence in a time of crisis, its grotesque indulgence of the rich at the expense of the rest, its arrogant dissolution of American prestige and influence abroad, its heedless squandering of the world's resources--as worse than the third-rate burglary and second-rate coverup of 30 years ago, then President Bush is in a league only with the likes of Harding, Fillmore, Pierce and Buchanan.'
--David Remnick in the New Yorker


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