For the past eight years we have been treated to a steady barrage of personal attacks on President George W. Bush. The most frequent course of these personal assaults was an attack on Bush’s intelligence. I always got a kick out of that one because Bush scored better academically at the same Ivy League institutions than both of his presidential opponents — Al Gore and John Kerry. If that wasn’t enough, the attacks included accusations of Bush being a drunk, a womanizer, a racist, a homophobe, a crook, of being indifferent to the plight of the poor and even participating in the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.
It didn’t make any difference as to the facts, or even the sanity of the accusers, the more dramatic the accusation, the wider its distribution by the nation’s newspapers and broadcast television. Everyone on the left, seemingly, got into the act. From Reps. Barney Frank and Maxine Waters to Hollywood hair-pullers like Rosie O’Donnell and Alex Baldwin, we were delivered a daily diet of drivel — never once touching on policy but focusing solely on the person. Never once during all of these personal attacks did the mainstream media question the facts, the background or the motives of the accusers. It was always sufficient that they could report that “so and so today accused President Bush of this and that.”
The art of the personal political attack has been around for a long time and practiced by all parties. But the Clintons, particularly under the tutelage of Paul Begala and James Carville perfected the modern form of these personal attacks. Most notorious of this modern form of political smears were the attacks on the steady stream of women who accused Bill Clinton of various forms of marital infidelity. The accusations were never denied but these women were personally destroyed.
And now we see that the right in its reaction to President-elect Barack Obama is rolling out many of these same tactics. To listen to these hate merchants one would believe that Obama will, in short order, convert America to the Socialist States of America, hand the armed forces over to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, establish Louis Farrakhan as the new Minister of Ministries, cede policy decisions to the United Nations and relocate the nation’s capital to Kenya.
There are those who claim that the very fabric of our democracy will be strained to the point of collapse by Obama and his supporters. However, we were a lot closer to the collapse of our democracy during the days of Richard Nixon and Watergate than we are today with the election of Barack Obama.
The result of these personal attacks is two-fold. First, it antagonizes those who have supported Obama and whom then feel a necessity to respond in like kind. And second, and even more important, it dilutes the ability to discuss real issues and to persuade through facts, logic and history. When the Reagan Revolution occurred it was not because Ronald Reagan savaged his opponents with personal attacks, it was because he explained with patience, facts and logic the underpinnings of the problems and the rationality of his solutions. When Newt Gingrich and the House Republicans recaptured a majority in Congress, it wasn’t because they spent their time personally attacking the Democrats; it was because they presented a clear, understandable plan to deal with the problems then facing the nation. They became the party of ideas and solutions and left the Democrats to be the naysayers and the doubters without solutions of their own.
There is very little on a policy level with which I can agree with Obama. He believes in the omnipotence and infallibility of government. I recognize the waste and corruption that attends the incompetence of government. Obama believes in the government forcing the sharing of wealth. I believe in the dignity and fortitude of the individual to succeed on his/her own. Obama believes that people should be immunized from the results of their own mistakes while I believe that each should be held accountable for their own actions.
These are philosophical differences. That fact that I disagree with Obama does not make him stupid, dishonest, corrupt or disingenuous — although (wink, wink) it probably does make him wrong. History has proven my philosophy right more often than Obama’s philosophy but it still doesn’t cast personal aspersion on him or make him a lesser man. It simply means that we disagree on the concept of governance.
There is no doubt that I and other conservatives will differ significantly with Barack Obama and his administration — I already do in regard to elements of his “bailout” plans. But if conservatives want to regain credibility and advance a political and financial philosophy that gave America its greatest growth — economically, technologically, and intellectually — than it has experienced at any other time, we will be best served by focusing on issues and leaving the personal attacks to Rosie O’Donnell, Alex Baldwin and the other Hollywood dim bulbs.