Sunday, January 14, 2007

The truth does not always wear clothes we like

Note to conservatives: You might not like how these people look,
but that doesn't mean they are wrong.

One common conservative meme is that the anti-war left is such a bunch of dirty, America-hating, defeatist hippies that it was OK to ignore its warnings on Iraq even though they turned out to be resoundingly correct. Well guess what: the truth does not always get yelled at you by someone you feel chummy with. More often than not it comes from someone who dislikes you, and who may be trying to hurt you with it.

So many conservatives who obviously have brains let themselves get suckered by what amounts to an ad hominem ploy: If the person who says X is an "America-hater", then X must not be true. Never mind if this alleged "America-hater" is shouting "2 + 2 = 4". They must be wrong because their heart is in the wrong place (i.e. on the other side). So many people seem to have thought, "Well, if those liberals hate Bush so much, he must be doing something right!" Not. You can be hated by liberals and still suck, and of course the same goes for being hated by conservatives. The liberals were just the first to see it because their partisanship was helping them see Bush's faults ("faults" is really to weak a word), rather than blinding them to those faults.

One example of a conservative coming to terms with this reality is Rod Dreher's recent radio essay on NPR. Here's the quote that's making the rounds:
As I sat in my office last night watching President Bush deliver his big speech, I seethed over the waste, the folly, the stupidity of this war.

I had a heretical thought for a conservative - that I have got to teach my kids that they must never, ever take Presidents and Generals at their word - that their government will send them to kill and die for noble-sounding rot - that they have to question authority.

On the walk to the parking garage, it hit me. Hadn't the hippies tried to tell my generation that? Why had we scorned them so blithely?
[Emphasis Greenwald's] Yes, Rod, that's exactly what the hippies were trying to tell you when they were at their best. And that's what liberals have been shouting since early in this Administration: Bush is not a good guy. Don't take what he says at face value. And yes, both the hippies and the liberals were probably saying a lot of things you didn't like at the same time ("Smoke pot!" "Raise the minimum wage!"). But that doesn't mean they didn't have a pearl or two that even a conservative like you could have used. Hell, even Bush could say something true. We have to look at what people say, what the arguments they are making actually are. It's very easy to get lazy. Mahablog describes this laziness, as it applies to conservatives:
Like so many loyal soldiers of movement conservatism, Dreher’s earliest political memories are of the Carter Administration and the Iranian hostage crisis, followed by the triumphant ascension of Ronald Reagan. He was 13 years old when Reagan was elected, so you can’t fault him for viewing these events through a child’s eyes. The problem is, as it is with so many of his fellow travelers, that his understanding of politics remained childish. He seems to have retained a child’s simple faith that Democrats (and liberals) are “bad” and Republicans (and conservatives) are “good,” so one does not have to think real hard to know who’s right or wrong. In the minds of righties, Republicans/conservatives have an inherent virtue that keeps them on the side of the angels.

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