Here’s the thing: I’ve met Michael Barone. I know that he’s smart. Frighteningly so, in fact. And I know that he pays attention to details, in ways that usually startle the living life out of people who aren’t used to it. In other words, this is an aware guy that we’re talking about.
So why the surprise, here?
All of which brings to mind the report of a conservative blogger who watched George W. Bush’s 2005 inaugural speech with a group of liberals. Every time Bush called for spreading freedom and democracy around the world, the crowd guffawed and groaned and jeered. For them, evidently, Bush was a figure of fun, and his calls for democracy and human rights laughable. The same people who decried his supposed authoritarian rule at home had nothing but contempt for his call for freedom and democracy abroad.
Beneath this stated contempt is, I think, something in the nature of secret guilt. Or rather, anger at the notion that Bush had stolen the issues of human rights and democracy from the liberals.
The desire to oppose the Iraq war root and branch, to denounce every aspect of it, imposed a duty to dismiss as laughable Bush’s stated objective — set out eloquently before the decision to take military action as well as after it — of advancing democracy in the Middle East. A duty to side with those, like the National Intelligence Council nominee, who have long held that governance in the style of Saudi Arabia or Syria is the best that can be hoped for in that region, and the best for all concerned. A duty to dismiss with contempt, or simply to ignore, the rather remarkable strides of the Iraqis themselves made after enduring decades of brutal tyranny.
Perhaps I’m reading into it something that isn’t there. The article itself discusses the way that the Obama administration has demonstrated an absolute indifference to humans rights issues abroad since the Inauguration: Barone mentions China (and I’ll name names: picking Chas Freeman for NIC Chair is appalling) and our tepid official reaction to the Iraqi elections. I’ll add to that list our sudden decision to bring back rendition as a counter-terrorism measure, not to mention our willingness to embrace again pro-torture regimes. There will probably be more examples, alas: all in all it’s jarring to contemplate, after over thirty years (and five Presidents’ worth) of a bipartisan foreign policy that took seriously the notion that maybe non-Americans deserved a shot at democracy and prosperity, too*.
But it’s not surprising, in any way, shape or form. Of course certain progressives are abandoning any pretense of caring about human rights abroad; whatever their views were in 2000, some time between then and now they joined a religion which required them to abandon them for the much simpler dogma of Whatever George W Bush Likes Is Wrong. Said dogma caused them to vote en masse for the current President, who is their current avatar of the principle, so what he says goes. Even when what he says goes against progressives were saying not six months ago.
It’s really all pretty straightforward. Regrettably.
*I’d include Ford in that, except that thanks to a Democratic-controlled Congress he was unable to stop the South Vietnamese and Cambodians from being thrown on the fire. There are some people out there who should start praying that there are no hungry ghosts in the afterlife.
Crossposted to Moe Lane.