In Defense of Bush's Winning Rhetoric
by Ari Armstrong, September 1, 2004
Just when I start to feel some modicum of sympathy for George W. Bush, the Republicans themselves remind me of why I dislike him:
And these are the things the Republicans are openly bragging about at their tax-subsidized convention. At least they have the good sense not to remind us (except, in some cases, by platform) that Bush also supported economic protectionism, curbs on abortion, legal discrimination against gays, and massive increases in federal spending.
I listened to Arnold discuss Nixon's praise for free markets -- but the "Governator" declined to mention Nixon's wage and price controls, etc. The great tragedy is that, by pretending to support free markets, the Republicans obscure the meaning of freedom.
With all the legitimate reasons to criticize Bush, it annoys me that so many commentators choose instead to attack Bush on tiny rhetorical points. As The New York Times reviews, Bush told Matt Lauer of NBC concerning the war on terror, "I don't think you can win it... But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world." Then, as the AP notes, Bush later added, "In this different kind of war, we may never sit down at a peace table. But make no mistake about it, we are winning and we will win." So, according to Kerry and his sycophants in the national media, this is a "flip-flop."
But I heard the audio clip, and Bush put a distinct emphasis on the word "win," the textual analog of which is to place a word in quote marks (often called "scare quotes"), to indicate the word is being used in an unusual way. Quite obviously, Bush was describing the reality of the war on terror, that it is not the sort of war that will officially end with a surrender, peace negotiation, etc. There is no over-arching organization to which all terrorists belong; there is not a single nation of terrorists; the terrorists are sometimes loosely associated, and often not associated at all, and spread throughout the world. This point is trivially obvious.
Any rational person realizes the same word can be used to convey different meanings in different contexts. In the first case, Bush was clearly using the term "win" to mean something like a clearly delineated victory, as is possible only when fighting a hierarchical entity like a state. In the second case, Bush was using the term "win" to mean to dramatically reduce the risk of terrorism faced by Americans. But no matter how successful the U.S. is in the war on terror, there will always be a few nut jobs around the world who would, if they could, murder people through acts of terrorism. Thus, in one important sense, the war on terror will never be completely resolved (at least not within our lifetimes).
The mainstream media's obsession with Bush's perfectly reasonable remarks demonstrates that, to a degree, the media are hysterical in their opposition to the GOP. The left -- which includes much of the mainstream media -- is now the reactionary force in the U.S. The left hates Bush for the war, but the left has no sensible foreign-policy alternative to offer. The left hates Bush for his economic policies, but the left's only "answer" is to impose even more socialism than Bush has done.
Much of the left is paralyzed. It oscillates between mindless rage (Michael Moore and the NYC protesters) and petty pseudo-intellectual semantic games. (There are, of course, some thoughtful critics of the left, but these voices are increasingly drowned out.) Meanwhile, the GOP is self-confident, optimistic, and, at least in its rhetoric, occasionally sensible. That the GOP may be the more reasonable of the major parties is a frightening thought.