NEW YORK -- Given the "welcome" he is receiving from demonstrators and other keepers of the liberal flame here, President George W. Bush might consider a quick trip to Najaf as a warm-up for what he will experience in the streets of New York City.
Why do they hate him? It isn't just his policies, though it is that. The hatred is more intense than Republican animosity was toward Bill Clinton.
The fringe right marketed a conspiracy videotape called "The Clinton Chronicles" that scurrilously labeled Clinton a drug dealer, murderer and all sorts of other things for which there was no proof. How ancient, even quaint, that now seems. Then, we could indulge in jokes about Clinton's sexual indiscretions. Now, we must face the daily trauma that goes with wondering when and where killers will strike next. Why don't more people hate them instead of the president?
Type "anti-Bush" in a Google search and one of the first Web pages listed advertises "over 3,000 links to pro-democracy, anti-Bush" links. Among them are the predictable old-left publications, such as "Mother Jones," along with conspiracy theories that have traditionally been the property of right-wing Chicken Littles. The lefty ones include "Screed: The 'Almost' Censored News, 'GOP has taken over News Media for control and to hide corruption.'"
There are reasons Bush arouses the ire of those who hate him.
For starters, there are his convictions. Nowhere is this more evident than in the war to liberate Iraq and to preserve America from additional terrorist attacks. Liberals are unsure of what they know to be true, because they know no Truth. This is because they fear offending any individual or group (conservatives excepted), and so they wish to leave open the possibility they might be wrong (except when they know they are right).
Liberals don't mind being wrong about an issue, but any error must comport with their general philosophy, which opposes the concept of objective truth. So, if they are wrong about the economy, it is because government isn't big enough and doesn't spend enough, or taxes too little.
Indeed, a second reason Bush is hated is his tax cut. Never mind the improving economy. Liberals fear increased wealth, because it leads to less dependence on government and, thus, less need for them. When a Republican succeeds at cutting taxes and the economy improves, liberals feel threatened and strike back in anger, like a jihadist whose "holy place" has been violated by infidels.
The third and perhaps most important reason Bush is hated is his faith, which is genuine. Bush believes God exists objectively and that He has spoken unambiguously to those who would pay attention. Unlike Clinton, who puts on religion when it helps him politically but takes it off when it interferes with his appetites, Bush wears his faith in his heart.
He is humble about it, always noting how far he falls short of the ideal to which he subscribes. I remember a lunch we had in the governor's mansion in Austin the year before he announced for president. I had heard he read through the Bible once a year, and I asked him to quote from memory some of his favorite verses. He quoted three, and not the most familiar ones. That is the mark of a person who takes faith seriously.
The mostly secular or theologically squishy left doesn't mind one being "religious" so long as that religion underscores a secular agenda. A religion that constantly "baptizes" the liberal catechism of bigger government, higher taxes, more abortions, same-sex marriage and anything else the secular left wishes to promote is the kind of "faith" it will tolerate.
But someone who believes God is not an idea of Man, but rather Man is God's idea and He gets to make the rules, is viewed as harmful to those who wish to create their own version of heaven on earth through the secular god of big government and the capitulation to our lower nature.
Some on the religious and secular right are critical of the president's immigration and education policies. But they don't hate him for them. The hatred from those on the left is personal, because what the president stands for, however imperfectly, is a rebuke to their impersonation of the French, who stand for nothing. If they had a TV show, it could be called "Black Eye for the Bush Guy."
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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