For four years, a list of alleged Republican positions -- "What You Have To Believe To Be a Republican Today" -- has been circulating on the Internet and forwarded in countless e-mails. In this presidential election year, it is important to respond to these charges. If people want to vote for a Democratic president, they should not do so based on falsehoods about Republicans.
Given space limitations, I cannot respond to all of them. I have decided to respond to the 13 most significant.
"What you have to believe to be a Republican today":
1. "Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him and a bad guy when Bush needed a 'we can't find Bin Laden.'"
Response: Saddam Hussein was always considered a bad guy by anyone with a working moral compass, and that included Democratic President Bill Clinton and his administration. The main reason that President Ronald Reagan armed Saddam Hussein was so as to enable Saddam to fight against Iran so that Iran would not be the dominant power in the Muslim Middle East. Arming an evil man to fight another evil man does not make the former less of an evil man. America aided Stalin's genocidal Communist Soviet Union in order for him to better fight against Hitler. And after World War II, America aided some former Nazis in order to be able to fight Stalin. That is moral wisdom, not hypocrisy.
2. "Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony."
Response: For the left, the desire to normalize relations with Communist regimes has been a constant. Liberals who were not on the far left and conservatives alike fought some Communist regimes -- militarily as in Vietnam and Korea, and economically as in Cuba -- and normalized relations with some others. Mature people know that they have to pick and choose which evils can be fought and which cannot. Having said that, there are good arguments on both sides about whether to lift the embargo on Cuba since the fall of the Soviet Union.
3. "The United States should get out of the United Nations..."
Response: Very few Republicans advocate America getting out of the United Nations, but Republicans do regularly point out the UN's dismal record on human rights -- as when Sudan, a regime regarded even by most of the left as engaged in genocide, was made vice-chair (with Cuba) of the UN Human Rights Commission. The UN has failed virtually all victims of mass murder since its inception -- including most recently those in the Rwanda genocide. The UN has done commendable work on some health matters, but otherwise it has been worse than morally worthless. The UN has become a haven for the cruelest regimes on earth. The left's adulation of the UN is but one more example of its preference for institutions over fighting evil.
4. "A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multinational corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation."
Response: Unlike those on the left, many Republicans, not to mention medical science, view a human fetus as having its own body and not being a mere extension of a woman's body. People can differ on the legality of early abortions -- not every immoral action is necessarily illegal -- but to belittle the killing of a human fetus for no medical reason as "a woman doing what she wants with her own body" is only one more example of the left's broken moral compass.
5. "Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton."
Response: No mainstream Republican or conservative has ever said that he or she, let alone Jesus, hates homosexuals. But because there is so much hatred on the left for Republicans and for religious conservatives, many on the left, like the writer of this list, constantly accuse Republicans and conservatives of being haters. It is usually projection.
6. "The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches, while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay."
Response: There are many ways to improve military morale. One is to increase the military budget, not to slash it as the Clinton administration did; to honor military heroes during wartime, not to feature front page article after front page article about troops who murder when they come home, as The New York Times has been doing for weeks, or publish fraudulent articles, as the New Republic recently did, about our troops committing atrocities; and to allow the military to recruit on college campuses, something many liberal colleges ban.
7. "If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex."
Response: While many Republicans believe that teenage sexual standards should be left to parents and not to schools, no mainstream Republican has ever argued, "If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex." But many people, not just Republicans, think that teaching "safe sex" to middle schoolers sends a message to young minds that society assumes they will have sexual intercourse. And what society assumes usually happens. When society assumed teenagers should not have sex, they rarely had it. For generations before schools put condoms on bananas, there was far less teenage sex because society has a profound impact on teenage sexual behavior. The message in schools since then has often been that the only reason not to have sex at age 16 (or 15 or 14) is that you might get pregnant or contract a sexually transmitted disease. The portrayal of sex as almost exclusively a biological act has been one of contemporary liberalism's greatest sins against young people.
8. "HMOs and insurance companies have the best interests of the public at heart."
Response: Who ever said that? HMOs and insurance companies have the best interests of their owners or stockholders at heart. The question is not whether companies want to make profits, it's whether individuals will have a choice about how to obtain health care, and whether the state should massively expand to create Canada-like socialist medicine with its triage and long waiting periods.
9. "Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools."
Response: Many conservatives and more than a few liberals argue that climate change has occurred throughout the earth's history, that carbon emission is therefore not the primary cause of the minimal warming that is taking place, and that the manmade-global warming-will-lead-to-worldwide-destruction scenario is therefore a form of hysteria -- as were the left's cries about heterosexual AIDS in America, the threat to mankind's future if people have more than one child, and breast implants, among many others. As for tobacco and cancer, no mainstream Republican argues that tobacco's link to cancer is junk science. The charge is deceitful. But many conservatives do believe that banning all outdoor smoking, for example, is both scientifically and morally indefensible. And few Republicans argue for Creationism in schools, but many do argue that, in addition to whatever science is taught, the idea that the universe was designed and all of existence is therefore not a random purposeless event might be both scientific and beneficial to students.
10. "A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense. A president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy."
Response: Had President Clinton simply said to the American people, "I lied to save myself and my family public humiliation," the whole Monica Lewinsky matter would have died in a few weeks. It was his lying under oath while president that brought on the impeachment trial. Many decent people thought that was impeachable; many decent people thought it was not an impeachable offense. It was a tragic farce that America was preoccupied with semen stains for so long. Much of the blame goes to the news media, which a generation ago would never have reported the affair to begin with. As for President George W. Bush, he did not "lie" us into war, but used the best assessments that nearly all Western intelligence agencies provided concerning Saddam Hussein building weapons of mass destruction. When he was president, President Clinton warned of the exact same WMD threat from Saddam.
11. "Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet."
Response: No Republican argues that the Constitution now defines marriage. Many, however, want the American people, not judges, to decide how America defines marriage. And since some liberal judges will force states to redefine marriage to include marriage to a person of the same sex, a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman may be necessary. The charge that Republicans want to censor the Internet is a lie. It is, in any case, impossible. Moreover, it is the left that far more frequently advocates censorship, as it does, for example, on campuses where leftist students stifle conservative speakers' freedom of speech.
12. "Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness, and you need our prayers for your recovery."
Response: Most conservatives and liberals believe that legalizing drugs would result in large numbers of young people using life-destroying drugs. As for Rush Limbaugh, he illegally acquired prescription painkillers for chronic back pain. Only people with hatred in their hearts can liken that to using heroin and other nonprescription drugs that crush lives.
13. "That Bush, who doesn't read newspapers, and who can't speak an intelligible paragraph on his own (not written for him), is intelligent enough to rid the planet Earth of all evil."
Response: George W. Bush is a voracious reader and is almost certainly far better read than the author of these points. The widespread belief that Bush cannot speak well is ad hominem nonsense. And one need not be particularly intelligent to have regarded the North Korean, Iranian and Saddam Hussein regimes as evil. One only had to be a Republican. It is to the left's everlasting shame that it reviled President Ronald Reagan for labeling the Soviet Union an "evil empire" and reviles George W. Bush for labeling North Korea, Iran and Saddam's Iraq an "Axis of Evil."