Friday, July 20, 2007

David Limbaugh vs. Glenn Greenwald vs. David Brooks. Also appearing, the Daily Howler and Christ Matthews

Talk about a battle of the titans! Nah - there's only one titan in this particular fight, and it isn't the brother of Rush Limbaugh. David Brooks, in the New York Times, wrote about a visit to the President, in which he said this (unfortunately from behind the firewall so I can't link to it).
But Bush is not blind to the realities in Iraq. After all, he lives through the events we're not supposed to report on: the trips to Walter Reed, the hours and hours spent weeping with or being rebuffed by the families of the dead.

Rather, his self-confidence survives because it flows from two sources. The first is his unconquerable faith in the rightness of his Big Idea. Bush is convinced that history is moving in the direction of democracy, or as he said Friday: ''It's more of a theological perspective. I do believe there is an Almighty, and I believe a gift of that Almighty to all is freedom. And I will tell you that is a principle that no one can convince me that doesn't exist.''
Glenn Greenwald picked up on that language in what is described as a fawning tribute to our "great leader" and wrote this.
This has been the great unexamined issue of the Bush presidency -- the extent to which Bush's unwavering commitment to Middle East militarism is, as Bush himself has made clear, rooted in theological and religious convictions, not in pragmatic or geopolitical concerns.

. . . At least in large part, Bush sees the "battles" he is waging in epic theological and religious terms, and as a result, political constraints and pragmatic limits are irrelevant to his actions. It is such an uncomfortable reality -- that religious fervor drives our wars and other foreign policy -- that it has been ignored almost completely over the last five years, even though ample evidence exists proving that it is true, beginning with his own continuous statements.
Daily Howler noted that this striking passage was not commented on in the letters the Time posted in response to the article, and suggested a reason why.
Our speculation: The Times did get letters about Bush’s statement; they got a lot of letters about it. But uh-oh! At the Times, it isn’t polite to discuss this pol’s religion—to let conservatives even imagine that you’re painting Bush as a “religious nut.” And so, the editors chose to ignore this striking part of Brooks’ column. Seven letters discuss Brooks’ piece—and its most startling passage is AWOL.

Is that what happened? We don’t know. But Greenwald surely wasn’t alone in his reaction to Brooks’ column. In truth, David Brooks provided a service when he quoted the commander in chief making this religious statement. But darlings! It simply isn’t done! That is where the discussion will end!
Chris Matthews was asked about this statement on the Tonight Show, and said, "Well, if he was going to play Joan of Arc, we wouldn't have elected him. Getting whispers from heaven is scary business. The guys we're fighting say that, too."" To which David Limbaugh had a response.
While I can't prove a negative, I am confident Bush never said that God is on our side in this war -- though it wouldn't bother me if he had -- or that God directed him to attack Iraq. He has said he continually prays for divine guidance and reads the Bible every day. That is wise, commendable and utterly no different from what Abraham Lincoln and many, probably most presidents in our history did.

This is not a distinction without a difference. Matthews is unequivocally implying that Bush has claimed to get his marching orders directly from God and that that is scary -- as if he's in some kind of spiritual trance. It simply isn't true, and Matthews is distorting the truth in suggesting it is.
Thank you for playing Mr. Limbaugh. But from what I hear, from David Brooks, that Bush, speaking from a theological perspective believes that history is moving in his way. That doesn't really sound all that different from saying that God is on his side.

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