William Saletan in Slate:
But the important thing isn't the falsity of the charges, which Republicans continue to repeat despite press reports debunking them. The important thing is that the GOP is trying to quash criticism of the president simply because it's criticism of the president. The election is becoming a referendum on democracy.
In a democracy, the commander in chief works for you. You hire him when you elect him. You watch him do the job. If he makes good decisions and serves your interests, you rehire him. If he doesn't, you fire him by voting for his opponent in the next election.
Not every country works this way. In some countries, the commander in chief builds a propaganda apparatus that equates him with the military and the nation. If you object that he's making bad decisions and disserving the national interest, you're accused of weakening the nation, undermining its security, sabotaging the commander in chief, and serving a foreign power—the very charges Miller leveled tonight against Bush's critics.
Are you prepared to become one of those countries?
Personally, I'm waiting for the Democrats to start calling the Republican convention a “hate fest”. But I also don't think the uncharacteristically venomous reactions of usually sober bloggers like Kevin Drum, Matthew Yglasias are all that helpful. I prefer the more nuanced approach of Michael Bérubé.
Update: Yglesias replies (generically):
So a few of the posts I've written lately have been criticized from one quarter or another as “unhelpful.” Either they're too shrill, too elitist, or too whatever. That's all probably true, but to raise a point I've made before, even though I would like to see John Kerry win the election, I'm not employed by the Kerry campaign, nor is the purpose of this site to help Kerry win the election. The purpose of this site is to say what I honestly think about stuff. I'm not going to go all Kausy and become obsessed with random piddling critique's of Johnny K., but if my work sounds elitist that's because I'm an elitist, and that's just the way it goes.
Hmm. The post I picked on said, in full, “Could Liddy Dole have written a speech more calculated to make me despise her? No, she couldn't.” I guess that is elitist in one sense of that word, but not in any sense I would brag about myself.
Note that my original point was that usually Ygelesias is a good read. But he kind of lost it, amidst writing about chasing women in NY. Get him a girlfriend, he'll be fine again.
1 [Update2: Well, that didn't take very long, did it?]
Saletan’s comment says it all. The office of President has the prestige of any monarchy, and it is not a good thing if one cherishes our constitutional republic (where, nominally, two other branches of government ought to have equal prestige).
We are at a crossroads: approximately 45% of voters will cheerfully vote away the freedoms their ancestors died for because their President commands it. And nothing short of a revolution will get these freedoms back–indeed, I don’t think Kerry, should he win, will dismantle the police state apparatus set up by Bush, though he may temporarily slow down the headlong rush toward dictatorship. Power is simply too tempting to throw away its tools, so each president leaves to his successors a little more to work with. I guess it is for good reason that thoughout history experiments with republics have always failed in favor of oriental-style despotism. Sigh.
If Kerry wins the fall election, do you think that all our Republican patriots will stop criticizing him because they want to “support the president”? Or will they go back to being “America haters,” as they were under Clinton in the 1990s? Surely they realize this sword cuts both ways.
A word on our glorious freedoms. The Bill of Rights had to be pushed on the First Congress by Madison … many in Congress was more concerned with custom duties and the like. The first generation also passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, Jefferson supported state libel actions against public figures, corporal punishment was still in, and capital punishment reform meant a few states limited it to first degree murder and so forth. And there was slavery and voting for a fraction of the population …
The concern for our essential freedoms never was as strong as some seem to imply and it tells you something so many are concerned about it these days. 55% sounds pretty optimistic really. We better look toward the long haul … anyone want to bet on how many will still be eternal vigilant if Kerry wins? We just might have respect of the other branches then!
And so it goes.
I agree with Joe in spirit (that it is hard to interest modern voters in constitutional protections of their rights), but I have to take issue with his historical analysis. James Madison may have been a resourceful politician, but he could hardly have “pushed” the Bill of Rights through two thirds of both houses of Congress, and three quarters of the state legislatures, if there were not already a broad national consensus in favor of it. Indeed, Madison himself, as a Federalist, had opposed a federal Bill of Rights, and was still lukewarm about it when he drafted it. Rather, the first ten amendments were the result of a historic compromise between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. It is literally true that the nation would never have ratified the Constitution of 1787 at all if the Federalists had not offered the Anti-Federalists explicit guarantees that it would immediately be amended to include a Bill of Rights. Most states already had bills of rights in their constitutions, and they were extremely popular. Having just thrown off one tyranny, Americans were not ready to exchange it for another. We may criticize the founders for having failed to extend equal rights to slaves, Indians, women and Tories, but at least they understood the value of their own rights, which so many of our contemporaries seem to have forgotten.