Among the Bush haters

Posted: Aug 19, 2003 12:00 AM

In the 1990s, a few lunatics accused President Clinton of murder and other crimes, leading to the coinage of the phrase "Clinton-hating." Thereafter, anyone who said a discouraging word about Clinton's sex-and-lies scandal, his slipperiness with the truth or his poor performance was tarred as a "Clinton-hater" and considered somehow illegitimate. The charge of Clinton-hating, constantly retailed by the media, became one of the most useful tools of the president's defenders.

It is curious, then, that the press, which lately was so sensitive to any "hatred" directed toward a sitting president, has shown no curiosity about the bile routinely directed toward President Bush. Byron York, in the latest National Review, has dipped into the anti-Bush fever swamps and come back with evidence of "Bush-hating" to rival anything directed at his predecessor.

Bush is routinely portrayed as a Nazi on left-wing Web sites, which post pictures of Bush with a Hitler mustache and sell T-shirts with Bush's name spelled with a swastika. The anti-war Web site features a Flash movie complaining that "the media will not tell you of the Bush family Nazi association" and theorizing that in order "to offset their reputation as World War II traitors, former President Bush joined the U.S. Navy as a pilot." (Clever, those Bushes.)

"It's going a bit far to compare the Bush of 2003 to the Hitler of 1933," writes a judicious Dave Lindorff in "Bush and Hitler: The Strategy of Fear" on the left-wing Web site "Bush simply is not the orator that Hitler was. But comparisons of the Bush administration's fear-mongering tactics to those practiced so successfully and with such terrible results by Hitler and Goebbels ... are not at all out of line." Lindorff, a contributor to The Nation magazine and, maintains that Hitler "would be proud that an American president is emulating him in so many ways."

A staple of Clinton-hating in the 1990s was the accusation that he was involved in murder. Clinton defenders often referred to these accusations. Hillary Clinton noted on her famous "Today" show appearance in 1998 that enemies had accused her "husband of committing murder, of drug running." George Stephanopoulos said Clinton's critics were "accusing him of murders. ... That's unheard of." Clinton observed in a 1999 press conference: "I've been accused of murder and all kinds of things."

So has Bush. The Web site lists hundreds of murders in which Bush and his family have allegedly been involved, including the John F. Kennedy assassination. The abbreviation on left-wing sites for the Bushes is BFEE, the Bush Family Evil Empire. A book detailing the Bush family murders called "The Immaculate Deception" outsells mainstream anti-Bush books -- by Al Franken, et al. -- on, according to York.

The Clinton White House maintained that the ravings of an anti-Clinton fringe mattered because they seeped into the mainstream. It produced a 300-page report to this effect, the "Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce." By this standard, the anti-Bush lunacy should be considered important as well. The Democrats have a largely Bush-hating field of presidential candidates, including one -- Sen. Bob Graham -- who has talked of impeaching Bush, and another -- Howard Dean -- who fuels his surprisingly strong campaign with anti-Bush animus.

In 1994, Time Magazine ran a story called "Clintonophobia!" that quoted historian Alan Brinkley saying that Clinton was "the first president who has generated this kind of right-wing hatred" and that such negative passion could never be directed toward a Republican. "Liberals tend to value tolerance highly," he said, "so there's a greater reluctance to destroy enemies than among the right."

This is demonstrably false. There is a vocal Bush-hating chorus on the left that resents his narrow victory in Florida, that will never forgive him for invading Iraq and that can't stand his cowboy mannerisms. It spreads anti-Bush poison far and wide -- but don't hold your breath for the Time story about "Bushophobia!" For the media, only the right is capable of "hating."