Under cover of dissent

Phil Harris
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Posted: Mar 08, 2007 11:55 AM
Under cover of dissent

This article was originally published in September of 2005. With the fervor of the 2008 elections "already" coming to a boil, perhaps it is more relevant today than it was a year and a half ago. The media hacks up and uses old Bush-Is-The-Devil, liberal talking points as if they are nothing less than immaculate historical fact. If Theodore Roosevelt were alive today, he likely would kick his spittoon across the room after viewing only a single day's worth of our modern journalism in action.

Kool-Aid drinker refers to the poor souls of Jonestown in Guiana, who followed notorious cult leader Jim Jones to their death by drinking cyanide laced Kool-Aid per his instructions. You will earn this designation quickly, if you dare to challenge criticisms of the Bush Administration. It is an unfortunate charge to make, because from that moment forward, debate pivots on the idea that "the defender" would argue to the death solely on blind faith in the Man, or the Party's position.

Theodore Roosevelt is often quoted to counter charges that Democrats (and the media) are unfairly attacking the President. Here is a passage snipped from within an editorial he wrote during World War I, often used to defend the practice...

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."

This makes good sense, but directly following that passage and conveniently left out are these words:

Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.

Note the balance inserted by Mr. Roosevelt, as he warns that criticism must be based on truth. Failure to recognize this balance in quoting Roosevelt is symptomatic of the larger problem at hand. A closer look at Roosevelt and his position regarding Presidential criticism is available by examining his 'Man with the muck rake' speech.

Here is a lengthy excerpt:

In Pilgrim's Progress the Man with the Muck Rake is set forth as the example of him whose vision is fixed on carnal instead of spiritual things. Yet he also typifies the man who in this life consistently refuses to see aught that is lofty, and fixes his eyes with solemn intentness only on that which is vile and debasing.

Now, it is very necessary that we should not flinch from seeing what is vile and debasing. There is filth on the floor, and it must be scraped up with the muck rake; and there are times and places where this service is the most needed of all the services that can be performed. But the man who never does anything else, who never thinks or speaks or writes, save of his feats with the muck rake, speedily becomes, not a help but one of the most potent forces for evil.

There are in the body politic, economic and social, many and grave evils, and there is urgent necessity for the sternest war upon them. There should be relentless exposure of and attack upon every evil man, whether politician or business man, every evil practice, whether in politics, business, or social life. I hail as a benefactor every writer or speaker, every man who, on the platform or in a book, magazine, or newspaper, with merciless severity makes such attack, provided always that he in his turn remembers that the attack is of use only if it is absolutely truthful.

The liar is no whit better than the thief, and if his mendacity takes the form of slander he may be worse than most thieves. It puts a premium upon knavery untruthfully to attack an honest man, or even with hysterical exaggeration to assail a bad man with untruth.

An epidemic of indiscriminate assault upon character does no good, but very great harm. The soul of every scoundrel is gladdened whenever an honest man is assailed, or even when a scoundrel is untruthfully assailed.

Now, it is easy to twist out of shape what I have just said, easy to affect to misunderstand it, and if it is slurred over in repetition not difficult really to misunderstand it. Some persons are sincerely incapable of understanding that to denounce mud slinging does not mean the endorsement of whitewashing; and both the interested individuals who need whitewashing and those others who practice mud slinging like to encourage such confusion of ideas.

To argue that dissent is important and critical to the American Political process is entirely correct. We must guard against damage to our freedoms, and we must protect ourselves from government, which naturally strives to usurp power from the citizen. I would argue; however, that what has been going on these past five years does not rise to such lofty ideals.

Did you notice this portion of Roosevelt's speech?

"But the man who never does anything else, who never thinks or speaks or writes, save of his feats with the muck rake, speedily becomes, not a help but one of the most potent forces for evil."

And did you also notice this?

"The liar is no whit better than the thief, and if his mendacity takes the form of slander he may be worse than most thieves. It puts a premium upon knavery untruthfully to attack an honest man, or even with hysterical exaggeration to assail a bad man with untruth."

Perhaps these words have escaped those who would assign the Kool-Aid label to the President's defenders:

"Some persons are sincerely incapable of understanding that to denounce mud slinging does not mean the endorsement of whitewashing; and both the interested individuals who need whitewashing and those others who practice mud slinging like to encourage such confusion of ideas."

President George W. Bush is not God. He does not walk on water, and the people that hold high office under his leadership cannot claim such feats either. The President and all of his people are in fact that; people. The fact of the matter is that the Republican Party is composed of many people with a wide range of opinions. Some will be in agreement with the President on certain issues while others will disagree.

Freely thrown charges of corruption on behalf of oil and corporate interests abound. There are elected politicians who suggest that the President might have known about the 9/11 tragedy beforehand, but chose to allow it. Entertainers travel abroad and express remorse at being an American, and parrot these and other notions before foreign audiences.

Minority neighborhoods have been stricken. Opposition leaders step to the microphone and declare that the President does not care because of the color of skin, or worse, that he orchestrated the devastation to protect white interests. This rhetoric and much more is held high before the heavens without challenge or refutation, and it is hailed proudly as valid dissent.

I wholeheartedly agree with President Theodore Roosevelt, and to those who would accuse me of sipping from the Kool-Aid, I would re-emphasize this point:

"An epidemic of indiscriminate assault upon character does no good, but very great harm. The soul of every scoundrel is gladdened whenever an honest man is assailed, or even when a scoundrel is untruthfully assailed."

The Democrats and those who champion their cause, have steered themselves down a foggy road. Another Roosevelt quotation seems especially poignant and relevant to the behavior of Democrats in these past several years.

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." (1891)

A number of former and future Presidential Candidates (D) might acquire some valuable wisdom from that one.

I support much of what the Bush Administration has done, and there are issues on which I disagree. I wish some things could have been handled differently, and sometimes I wish the President would simply defend himself publicly. I do not sip Kook-Aid from anyone's cup, but I would point to the blue stain that rings the mouth of many, justified indiscriminately under cover of political dissent.