It’s been over two years since President George W. Bush retired to his modest and ecologically correct ranch in Crawford Texas yet Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) continues to course furiously through the veins and arteries of American liberals. It distorts debate and contorts the minds of those possessed of this tenacious demon. President Barack Obama seems almost irrelevant to them. In their Bush centered universe they contrast Obama’s success with Bush’s alleged failures while blaming Obama’s failures on Bush. Of course George Bush was not the first president to attract such strong emotions. John Adams was both loved and loathed in his day.
Syndicated columnist and psychiatrist Charles Krauthammer was right when he coined the term Bush Derangement Syndrome. There does appear to be something deranged, something discernibly unbalanced in the rantings and ravings of the BDSer and that same derangement also includes the same perverse obsession with former Vice President Dick Cheney. Over this past holiday I heard a BDSer friend refer to Cheney as a “traitor” who should be executed. I heard another BDSer friend launch a bizarre tirade over Bush “making money” from oil in Iraq as she breathlessly proceeded to babble a stream of kookyconspiracy theories. The mere mention of Bush’s name turned these two intelligent and sober people into Linda Blair in The Exorcist.
I heard another BDS friend declare to me that he would “never step foot again in Florida” because Florida was where Bush “stole the election with the help of his rich right-wing friends on the tSupreme Court.” Referring to Bush as rich, which is an item of standard BDS faire, overlooks the fact that his 2000 opponent Al Gore was probably richer and that his 2004 opponent John Kerry was certainly richer. Gore’s father was on the board of Occidental Petroleum and was president of Island Creek Coal, a corporation that was known for strip-mining mountaintops. While Bush and Cheney were allegedly conspiring to make money from oil, Gore was receiving substantial sums from an oil inheritance. Teresa Heinz, John Kerry’s ketchup heiress wife inherited at least a half a billion from the estate of her late husband John B. Heinz III. Former President Bill Clinton receives a quarter of a million for speaking engagements while former President Bush declines fees for his. Not that there is anything wrong with being rich.
So why the obsession over Bush? Surely it could not have been the contested 2000 presidential election in Florida. Bush was ahead when the polls closed on Election Day even though CBS News anchor Dan Rather declared the state for Gore on national television in front of a map of a blue Florida. Dan Rather did this an hour before the polls closed in the conservative western Florida panhandle resulting in thousands of likely Bush voters staying home. It came out later that Gore had never at any time been ahead in Florida. Instead of calling for a statewide recount which Gore was entitled to in such a close race, Gorecherry-picked a couple of friendly Democratic counties with the hope that partisan clerks would find enough votes for him amongst the spoiled ballots, a trick that was later successfully pulled off by Al Franken in Minnesota. All the while the Gore team assiduously worked to delay and to disqualify overseas military ballots. The Supreme Court finally stepped in and put a stop to the charade by ruling on a constitutional principle that liberals assumedly support, at least in circumstances favorable to them. That principle was “one man one vote” which ensured that no voter was disenfranchised. As a parting shot at Bush the Gore people left town spreading vicious lies about Bush Republicans using racist tactics, a bigoted myth that would be resurrected later as a cudgel against Bush.
Thus the BDFers set the stage for the next eight years. Their unquenchable lust for power and revenge tore at the fabric of American society and jeopardized and weakened America’s prestige in the world at a time of war. When it came to stoking up the Bush derangement the ends justified the means. The phenomena involved more than mere partisan hatred of a Republican president. Certainly presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush had to cope with their share of partisan haters. What was it then about Bush that caused some BDFers to quietly cheer when reports of American military casualties in Iraq came in because it meant a bad day for Bush?
Was it Bush derangement that caused many of his opponents to side with the point of view that America was wrong to engage in military action in Iraq? Many nations, particularly in Europe, chose not to lift a finger against the Islamic threat while they condemned America for fighting what was also their battle. When the Bush Administration responded to 9/11 by first toppling the Taliban in Afghanistan and then Saddam Hussein in Iraq, many prominent Democrats sided with those who believed that America was the aggressor. At first most Democratic leaders supported the Iraq war. They vociferously condemned Saddam for developing what they contended were weapons of mass destruction and often in sharper terms than Bush. They spoke of the urgent need to militarily defeat Saddam Hussein with his human rights atrocities and rape rooms.
After the liberation of Baghdad, and in the midst of a dangerous and difficult military operation, these same Democrats effected an about face and Bush derangement once again raged with the launching of a new and ugly myth, one that damaged America in the world and that aided and abetted our enemies. That myth was that Bush lied about the weapons of mass destruction. While men and women in uniform were fighting and dying, the enemies of Bush gleefully pointed out that he was wrong about WMD which must have meant, according to their logic, that he had lied. Even more bizarre conspiracy theories were spun out to explain why Bush sought to topple Saddam including his alleged need for revenge for Saddam’s assassination attempt on his father. Perhaps the most iconic of liberal myths was that the Bush and Dick Cheney sought to remove Saddam so they could somehow “make money” in the oil business.
Other various and sundry myths included the one that had Bush not responding well enough to hurricane Katrina because he didn’t like African-American men and women. These sorts of conspiracy theories are particularly insidious when they sow racial discord and mobilize groups based on shared fears and hatreds. Bush haters bellowed in rage against the Bush tax rebates even though the liberal Boston Globe admitted that the rebates helped turn the economy around from recession. I don’t recall any takers to a challenge tossed out by conservative pundits at the time to liberals enraged over the tax rebates to send their checks back to the IRS but maybe I just missed the news that day. Bush was blamed for bailing out the corporations, the vaunted “corporate interests” in the final months of his presidency when confronted with news of an imminent meltdown. President Obama has wisely continued with those policies and has taken credit for their success.
I contend that the very root of the Bush derangement is located in a single remark that George Bush made during one of his election debates early in the 2000 campaign. That was when George Bush, responding to a question from the moderator, stated that the philosopher that had most influenced his life was Jesus Christ. I distinctly remember the howls of rage over this comment as well as the truely hellish quality of those howls. This gets to the core of Bush derangement in my opinion. There is nothing the left despises more than an individual who genuinely believes in God as opposed to belief in the State. Such a person cannot be easily manipulated or compromised.