Rove’s Revenge

Maureen Dowd has written what is quite simply her best column ever. Her passion pervades every phrase, every comma, yet her logic is cold, dispassionate and precise.

Like the president, vice president and defense secretary, General Karl wanted to wipe out the gray, if-it-feels-good-do-it, blame-America-first, doused-in-Vietnam-guilt 60’s and turn the clock back to the black-and-white Manichaean values of the 50’s.

W. and Karl played up western movie stereotypes. After 9/11, the rugged frontier myth, the hunter/Indian-fighter hero in a war of civilization against savagery worked better than ever. But this White House’s frontier is not a place of infinite progress and expansion, stretching society’s boundaries. It doesn’t battle primitivism; it courts primitivism.

Instead of the New Frontier, Karl and W. offer the New Backtier.

Even as a child, I could feel the rush of J.F.K.’s presidency racing forward, opening up a thrilling world of possibilities and modernity. We were going to the moon. We were confronting racial intolerance. We were paying any price and bearing any burden for freedom. We were respecting faith but keeping it out of politics. Our president was inspiring much of the world. Our first lady was setting the pace in style and culture.

W.’s presidency rushes backward, stifling possibilities, stirring intolerance, confusing church with state, blowing off the world, replacing science with religion, and facts with faith. We’re entering another dark age, more creationist than cutting edge, more premodern than postmodern. Instead of leading America to an exciting new reality, the Bushies cocoon in a scary, paranoid, regressive reality. Their new health care plan will probably be a return to leeches.

America has always had strains of isolationism, nativism, chauvinism, puritanism and religious fanaticism. But most of our leaders, even our devout presidents, have tried to keep these impulses under control. Not this crew. They don’t call to our better angels; they summon our nasty devils.

For a while I stopped reading Dowd, I thought she was so determined to place cutesiness over depth. Not anymore. She’s been spectacular lately, and here she’s at her very zenith.

The Discussion: 20 Comments

The “New Backtier”.

That’s supposed to be witty and clever?

November 7, 2004 @ 8:35 pm | Comment

Well, that’s not the best line in the piece. They can’t all be gems.

November 7, 2004 @ 8:42 pm | Comment

It’s good to see a major player like Dowd refer to them as ‘regressives’. Because deep down, the conservative movement is all about reversing the entire 100-year-old progressive agenda.

In other words, they want to repeal the 20th century and take us back to the days of McKinley, Vanderbilt, and Hearst.

November 7, 2004 @ 11:31 pm | Comment

Wow, talk about missing the point. Ms. Dowd believes that there is only one viewpoint which is tolerable, and that viewpoint is held by her, and by her employer. The millions of voters that disagree with her are, in her opinion, simply too dumb to know better. What an ego!!

November 8, 2004 @ 11:07 am | Comment

Interesting comments about faith…”We were repecting faith but keeping it out of politics…,” referring to the era under JFK, and “W’s presidency rushes backward…replacing science with religion, and facts with faith.” As if facts and faith were opposites, and that faith should supposedly have no basis in politics.

It’s amazing how clueless liberals have become with regards to faith and moral values, and how they form the bedrock of any healthy and stable society. For the proof of this, one need look no further than the degeneracy of the family in American society today – a result of the so-called “progressive” values (i.e. – morally corrupt values) espoused by the intelligentsia of our generation. If you want more proof, read Arnold Toynbee’s “A Study of History.”

November 8, 2004 @ 11:42 am | Comment

Tim, what if I can show you that the highest divorce rates — the strongest indicator of dysfunctional families — occur in the demographic areas that voted most heavily for bush? It’s true.

If you believe that bush’s FMA was reflective of the values that form the bedrock of American society, I’m afraid you’re at the wrong blog. The great values that have made America so wonderful are innovation, curiosity, a willingness to explore and question the status quo. These are all characteristics despised by the religious group to whom bush is now most beholden. And that really scares me.

And Dowd is dead right — facts (as in science) has nothing to do with faith. And faith should have little or nothing to do with politics.

November 8, 2004 @ 1:02 pm | Comment

While I question your demographic data, I certainly agree that divorce is a blight upon the American family. Not a reason to add another moral perversion to further destroy the family.

Regarding innovation, curiosity, and a willingness to explore – these are a wonderful part of the American spirit. But so are faith, family, and moral virtues. These build and sustain a stable society, and an innovative spirit allows us to add to quality of life. You can find many innovators and builders in our country’s 228 year history who believed in God and family values.

Dowd is dead wrong. Scientific fact (emphasis on fact) validates what true faith (emphasis on true) has stated all along. And if you feel that faith should have nothing to do with politics, then you certainly do not agree with much of what our founding fathers wrote about and believed.

November 8, 2004 @ 1:31 pm | Comment

I have huge respect for our Founding Fathers, whose wisdom is one of mankind’s great miracles (and I mean that). But they weren’t necessarily right all the time, as in the cases of slavery and faith. I believe in faith in oneself, and in the right of every man to have faith in that which he believes in. But too often I see examples of “faith” that amount to superstition and delusion. Faith is the engine that keeps the suicide bombers coming. It’s also the motivation behind many of the world’s greatest and most loving deeds. Since it can be so powerful and irrational a force, for good and for evil, I regard it with a good deal of wariness, and a bit of fear.

November 8, 2004 @ 1:50 pm | Comment

Religious tenants change over time.

But so does ‘scientific truth’.

What science declares fact today may be deemed laughable a few years hence.

Never forget that the text book at the center of the famous Scopes Monkey trial (Hunter’s Civic Biology) — the book that Clarence Darrow famously fought to allow to be taught in Tennessee — in addition to evolution also taught “scientific” eugenics and the demonstrable superiority of the white race. It advocated the sterilization and forcible segregation of those deemed to be genetically inferior.

A few excerpts:

On race:

The Races of Man. — At the present time there exist upon the earth five races or varieties of man, each very different from the other in instincts, social customs, and, to an extent, in structure. These are the Ethiopian or negro type, originating in Africa; the Malay or brown race, from the islands of the Pacific; The American Indian; the Mongolian or yellow race, including the natives of China, Japan, and the Eskimos; and finally, the highest type of all, the caucasians, represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America.

On selective breeding of humans:

If the stock of domesticated animals can be improved, it is not unfair to ask if the health and vigor of the future generations of men and women on the earth might not be improved by applying to them the laws of selection.

On the ‘lower orders’

Hundreds of families such as those described above exist today, spreading disease, immorality, and crime to all parts of this country. The cost to society of such families is very severe. Just as certain animals or plants become parasitic on other plants or animals, these families have become parasitic on society. They not only do harm to others by corrupting, stealing, or spreading disease, but they are actually protected and cared for by the state out of public money. Largely for them the poorhouse and the asylum exist. They take from society, but they give nothing in return. They are true parasites.

On the remedy:

If such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading. Humanity will not allow this, but we do have the remedy of separating the sexes in asylums or other places and in various ways preventing intermarriage and the possibilities of perpetuating such a low and degenerate race. Remedies of this sort have been tried successfully in Europe and are now meeting with some success in this country.

(Via Volokh)

If anyone tried to introduce such garbage into class rooms today, the ACLU would have a calf, and rightly so.

Yet Darrow sought its inclusion. Darrow’s opponant, the ‘reactionary fundimentalist’ Williams Jennings Bryan declared eugenics to be wrong and evil. Darrow did not. Darrow is today a progressive hero and Bryan is remembered as a religious reactionary. Yet, in light of what the 20th Century taught us, wasn’t Darrow even more wrong than Bryan. I know, if I had to make an imperfect either/or choice, I’d choose to have my children taught creationism than the racist clap-trap excerpted above.

The Nazis and Communists both declared their racial/economic theories were based upon scientific empircism, and the result was the death of scores of millions. Many of the most adamant and effective enemies of these two evils were people of faith.

Sure, misplaced religious belief has caused many deaths, but not nearly so many as ideologies based on purported science and reason. I’ll see your Spanish Inqusition and raise you the Holocaust. I match you Crusades and bet you the Great Leap Foward.

In the US, every man is free to decide in his own way, but for me, I intend to continue to give a lot more weight to what my heart and my faith tell me is right and wrong 9aprticularly in regards to questions with a moral dimension) than to what the latest scientific literature says.

November 8, 2004 @ 11:04 pm | Comment

Tim, I’m curious, how would you explain the stability and success of western European society?

Its definitely not based on religious faith, at least not to a large extent, as its the most “secularized” area of the world. But it is one the most peaceful and productive societies.

Yes, technically its a lot of different societies, but virtually none of them are centered on faith anymore.

November 8, 2004 @ 11:34 pm | Comment

Approximately 80 million dead in two major wars in the last 100 years and not counting the millions more killed under Easter European communist domination or the additional dead in the Balkins.

Plus the current Islamification of Europe.

Very peacuful and stable indeed.

November 9, 2004 @ 2:40 am | Comment

I couldn’t have said it better myself Conrad.

November 9, 2004 @ 6:55 am | Comment

If you didn’t notice, I said Western Europe. West usually doesn’t mean East, so the former Soviet bloc countries would be left out of that.

And in the times of World War 1 and 2, religion was still a large part of European society.

But the fact is, now it isn’t. And Western Europe is peaceful.

November 9, 2004 @ 9:56 am | Comment

For all its problems, Western Europe and North America stand as the most stable regions on earth, after Antarctica.

November 9, 2004 @ 12:26 pm | Comment

The stability of Western Europe is largely due to the rebuilding and democratization efforts of the United States after WWII. I agree that religious values do not play a big part (anymore) in the lives of the majority of Western Europe, and if you follow world news and trends from that part of the world, you will see they are reaping what they sow. And as I pointed out in my first post, so are we in this country.

I guess it depends on how you want to define success. You certainly can’t do it in terms of strong, healthy, thriving family relationships, either in America or in Europe. The difference is that at least in America many still recognize that moral values such as belief in a creator God, obedience to His law, prayer, and church are the proven ways to stable family relationships, a must in order to maintain a stable society. Unfortuantely, the trend is moving downwards, and our society is destablilizing. The newspapers bears this out on a daily basis.

November 10, 2004 @ 11:19 am | Comment

Tim, you are wrong. Western Europe was stable throughout the latter half of the 19th century (even in the wake of the the Franco-Prussian war, which did not result in any governments toppling or destabilizing). The big upset, of course, was World War I, and while it redrew the map of central Europe, Western Europe proper was hardly changed. Aside from the 5 years of Nazi occupation, all the governments of Western Europe picked up where they left off and lived more or less happily ever after. The US had little to do with this except in regard to Germany, which we built up and aided generously and brilliantly with the Marshall Plan. Some countries of Western Europe like Germany and France have terrible problems now, financial and social, but in a turbulent and violent world, Western Europe has been a relative bastion of stability. No revolution, no crazy dictators, no wars, a relatively wealthy and educated population — where’s the instability? Compare these governments with countries in Central and South America, and you’ll see what instability really looks like.

November 10, 2004 @ 11:41 am | Comment

Western Europe proper was hardly changed huh? Hmmm…George Marshall sure didn’t seem to think so: “The truth of the matter is that Europe’s requirements for the next three to four years of foreign food and other essential products – principally from America – are so much greater than her present ability to pay that she must have substantial additional help or face economic, social and political deterioration of a very grave character….” General George C. Marshall, Harvard University 1947. I don’t think the United States would have offered up $20 billion for the rebuilding of Europe if “Western Europe was hardly changed,” and it sure wouldn’t have passed through Congress if it had been otherwise.

Much of Europe was in disarray, Austria, Germany, France, even Britain. That’s Western Europe. They didn’t just pick up where they left off and lived happily ever after. That’s ignoring the facts of history.

Yes, the Western world is relatively wealthy and educated, but money and knowledge does not guarantee stable, happy, fulfilling relationships. The family is reaching a crisis in much of the Western world because we are heading down the road to moral bankruptcy. As Toynbee once said, “To be able to fill leisure intelligently is the last product of civilization.” We are not doing such a good job.

November 10, 2004 @ 7:52 pm | Comment

Tim, I take issue with this idea that we are heading to “moral bankruptcy”.

Do you know how many generations of people have said that? I’m young now, but I do not doubt that when I’m in my 40-60s, my generation will be saying the same thing.

What exactly is it that is driving us towards moral bankruptcy in your persepctive? Increased levels of homosexuality? Homosexualy was RAMPANT in the Greek city-state of Sparta. Here’s some moral “progress”: drug use is way way down. Violence was MUCH more prevalent in the Middle Ages.

I’m of the belief that humans are in the same position morally as they always have been… We’re selfish and twisted, and different sins rise and fall in something resembling a cycle. We’re no better off than we have been, but we are also not any worse.

November 10, 2004 @ 8:24 pm | Comment

I agree with you that “sins rise in fall in something resembling a cycle,” but I disagree that humans are in the same position morally as they always have been. A US News and World Report Basic Data: Congressional Quarter Researcher cites the following:

School teachers rate top disciplinary problems: (50-year comparison)

– Talking out of turn
– Chewing gum
– Making noise
– Running in the halls
– Cutting in line
– Dress-code violations
– Littering

– Drug abuse
– Alcohol abuse
– Pregnancy
– Suicide
– Rape
– Robbery
– Assault

This is just the tip of the iceberg of studies that show a moral decline in our society over a period of 50+ years.

I do believe there is an overall cycle of ebb and flow in human societies. Strauss and Howe discuss this in their book “The Fourth Turning.” However, as Strauss and Howe point out, when a society goes on the moral decline, they head towards an inevitable crisis. Yes, the ancient Greek civilization degenerated to the point that homosexuality was quite commonplace. That civilization also no longer exists, conquered by the Romans in the 2nd century BC. History has proven time and time again that when a civilization loses its moral center, it eventually loses itself.

You ask a very perceptive question: “What exactly is it that is driving us towards moral bankruptcy in your perspective?” It is the desire on the part of many in American society to abandon a religious framework, a Judeo-Christian framework that this country was founded upon, so that they can feel “free” to pursue a lifestyle that works for them. When we take it upon ourselves to decide what is right and wrong, or that right and wrong really have no meaning anymore so we’re just going to pursue whatever we think the “good life” is for us, all sorts of perverted behavior emerges, and lots of people get hurt.

Indeed, profane behavior has been around forever, even under the most religious times of civilizations, but it occurs when those who profess to be righteous are nothing more than a hypocrite. And I don’t blame people for being disgusted at this, but to retaliate by abandoning basic moral principles, or having a loose affiliation to them, or redefining them to mean things like a “strong economy” or “good health care” is a misplacement of faith.

As pointed out by “The Good News” Christian publication in an article entitled “America’s Culture War: Threat to Homeland Security?” – In America today the battle lines have been drawn between those who desire to maintain a religious foundation to the laws of the nation, and those who want a society free of religious influence. We’ve reached the bizarre point where judges have discerned in the U.S. Constitution prohibitions against public display of the Ten Commandments while simultaneously finding constitutional rights to homosexual sex, gay marriage and dismemberment of unborn babies. John Adams, second president of the United States, once said, the U.S. Constitution “was made only for a moral and religious people” and “is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

The article goes on to say that the courts in this country are creating vast social change by striking down laws dealing with issues of religion, sex, and gender, and the effect is nothing short of a consistent and persistent attack on the laws of God from which many of this nation’s laws were founded. In their effort to remove school prayer and other religious values and expressions from the school environment, the courts engage in lofty and erudite language to defend the modern interpretation of the Establishment Clause in the first amendment. As pointed out by Zell Miller in his “Deficit of Decency” speech, the words “church,” “state,” and “separate” are nowhere to be found in the first amendment.

The 19th century French historian Alex de Tocqueville once said, “For the Americans the ideas of Christianity and liberty are so completely mingled that it is almost impossible to get them to conceive of the one without the other … Religion … must be regarded as the first of their political institutions….”

Historians catalog many reasons as to why nations fall, but certainly one of them is the abandonment of religion. When the traditional beliefs of a nation erode, which are usually entrenched in moral moorings, the nation dies. Unfortunately, this nation has embarked on that journey, and we stare down the same pathway to oblivion that many other nations have traveled. To quote Toynbee again, “Of the 22 civilizations that have appeared in history, 19 of them collapsed when they reached the moral state America is in today.” The scary thing is, Toynbee died in 1975.

November 12, 2004 @ 11:07 pm | Comment

This country was by NO MEANS founded on specifically Judeo-Christian values.

Some of the values behind our original laws may seem Judeo-Christian, but these same values are/were also values of other civilizations and religions.

I’m a Christian myself, but there isn’t much that makes me angrier than when people try to claim that the US was founded on Christianity.

The most prominent founding fathers were hardcore deists… deists reject the possibility of miracles as well as the divinity of Christ. Hell, read the Treaty of Tripoli, especially the part that says the United States is by no means founded on Christianity.

Our country was founded on values that were congruent with Christian values/ethics, but that does NOT make them distinctly Christian.

Anyhow, this is a good discussion, but this is an old thread… feel free to email me if you want to continue this any further. I love debating this type of thing…

November 13, 2004 @ 2:18 am | Comment

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