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Idealism on the left and right, our Saudi problem, and more.

11:00 PM, Dec 9, 2002
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As a middle-aged "liberal" of longstanding, I think about this quite a lot. I use quotes to modify "liberal" because since the Clinton administration I've been radically out of step with my peers. I'm so out of step that yesterday a liberal neighbor and good friend told me that she's able to be "tolerant" of my politics even though they're so "different."

Clinton's abuse of women put me off the boat in the first place. I became a devoted reader of The Weekly Standard in part because of its staunch willingness to say, over and over again, that having a president who is a rapist is unacceptable in every conceivable way.

You didn't hear liberals saying that.

Throughout those years it was shocking to hear the same people who were appalled by the tiniest hint of sexist behavior in any shape or form actively excuse and even, sometimes, embrace Clinton's sexual behavior in the White House. I spent the Clinton years sitting around listening to some of the most politically correct people on earth open their mouths and say things like, "Women lie about rape" as if that were a normal and highly moral point of view we all just naturally shared. My point isn't that women don't lie about rape, by the way; sometimes they do. My point is that within the academic Left it was illegal to say women-lie-about-rape right up to the very moment we had a Democratic president who was a rapist. Then suddenly it was a perfectly reasonable and even good thing to say.

With the Bush presidency it's deja vu all over again. I favor regime change; I'm as horrified as I possibly can be by the horrific abuses of his regime and I would favor regime change even if Saddam weren't pursuing WMD. This position puts me so far beyond the pale there's no turning back.

But here again, I'm wondering: "What has changed, really, about my politics and values?" I've always been against dictators and dictatorships; I've always been in favor of freedom and democracy, and I've always been in favor of acting to make the world a better place. I've loathed Kissingerian realpolitik forever, although as I've grown older I've grasped the fact that there may be bargains you have to make with the devil. So it's thrilling to see the end of what I think of as Republican realpolitick and the advent of Bush-and-Woflowitzian idealism. Thrilling is the only word for it.

No one I know shares this view. Not remotely. My husband, an academic liberal, tells me constantly that he doesn't trust America to carry out these ideals; he doesn't trust American foreign policy; the historical record is terrible, etc., etc. This is a universal view. Everyone I know who thinks about these subjects at all believes that pessimism should serve as a formal basis for American foreign policy. All of these people see me as having become a "right-wing," "extreme" conservative (although I must say, I've hammered my husband so hard on the "Scoop Jackson Democrat" concept that he's starting to come around).

But when I look at my beliefs and politics, I don't see any that have changed substantially when it comes to my support for Bush. It's true that I'm more conservative on numerous issues; my friends are right about that. But that's not the basis of my support for Bush. My support for Bush grows directly out of the "liberal idealism" I've held for many, many years.

It's lonely out here.

-Catherine Johnson


Thanks for David Skinner's article. The "Bush-bashing 'statement of conscience'" issued by Not in Our Name, however, can be interpreted as hyper-idealism. "We believe that peoples and nations have the right to determine their own destiny, free from military coercion by great powers." I would paraphrase that statement as, "Saddam is good people and if we would just leave him alone, everything would be okay." This is exactly the same idealistic position vis a vis the Viet Cong in the '60's and the Soviets in the 70's & 80's.

-Jeff Minter


I read David Skinner's article in The Daily Standard and found myself appalled at his take. Is he really that stupid? Is he blind?

Does Skinner really think that Amnesty International cherishes its leftist credentials more than it does human rights? Or is it just easier to be dense than note that it took the British government 15 years to recognize facts about which Amnesty International has long tried to inform the world?

Skinner seems to want to disregard the fact that Amnesty International has been talking about the crimes of the Iraqi regime even while the British Government continued to work with it and even aided it.