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ROSA BROOKS

Hate the sin, not the sinner

The right has it wrong: It's Bush's policies, not the president, that Democrats abhor.

September 29, 2006|ROSA BROOKS

ARE YOU A Bush hater, so blinded by "primal" loathing for the president that you automatically dismiss everything he says or does?

It's one of the far right's favorite weapons: If anyone criticizes the administration, brand them a Bush hater. The implication is that no sane or fair-minded person could be appalled by this administration's policies. Any criticism of Bush must be caused by what columnist Charles Krauthammer described as "contempt and disdain giving way to a hatred that is near pathological." My column last week, for instance, generated a response from one right-wing blogger that not only mischaracterized what I said but referred to me as "Bush hating," "blinded" by "virulent" anger, full of "unreconstructed rage" and typical of the "Bush-hatred of the American left."

The right's got it wrong.

I don't love George Bush, it's true. No matter how many times I urge myself to hate the sin but love the sinner, I just can't get there. But I don't hate Bush, either. I hope that he'll never personally experience any of the "alternative methods" of interrogation he's so willing to use on U.S. detainees; I hope he'll never lose a child to war; I hope he'll never experience the soul-sapping poverty to which his administration has abandoned so many Americans.

No, I don't hate George Bush.

But I sure hate what he's done to my country.

I hate the fact that Bush and the radicals in his administration play politics with patriotism, casting critics of misguided legislation on military commissions and wiretapping as "soft" on terrorism and telling us, as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld recently did, that "moral or intellectual confusion about who and what is right or wrong can weaken the ability of free societies to persevere."

In Bush's America, questioning makes us weak. In my America, we value dissent and debate because we know this is what makes us strong and free.

I hate the fact that after promising to unite us, this president has done his best to divide us. In Bush's America, there are real Americans and then there are the blue states ... and the Democrats. Sometimes, as Les Gelb, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, recently put it, the White House actually seems "as interested in defeating Democrats as in defeating terrorists." In my America, we're all citizens, from Texas and South Carolina and Ohio to New York and California. And every single one of us matters.

I hate the fact that to Bush, having "values" seems to mean absolutist opposition to gay marriage and abortion and indifference to many forms of suffering. In Bush's America, preventing gay marriage is apparently more important than preventing cruel or degrading treatment of detainees, or helping the millions of Americans who struggle to make it from paycheck to paycheck. In my America, having "values" means believing that "inalienable rights" is more than just a pretty phrase, and it means pulling together to address the growing income inequality that, unchecked, will permanently distort our democracy.

I hate the fact that Bush's reckless foreign policies have led many of our closest allies to regard this nation with contempt and fear. Increasingly, people around the world see the U.S. as a threat to global stability, not as a source of stability. In Bush's America, the greatest traditions of American diplomacy seem to have been replaced by "my way or the highway." In my America, we understand that being a good neighbor is part of what keeps us safe.

I hate the fact that to Bush, the phrase "the buck stops here" is apparently as quaint as the Geneva Convention. He has yet to come clean about the degree to which he overstated the charge that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or on the lack of a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. In Bush's America, being president means never having to say you're sorry. In my America, presidents should admit it when they make mistakes -- and then work in a bipartisan way to chart a better course instead of sticking stubbornly to failed policies.

The United States is in trouble. The spread of militant Islamic extremism and WMD will pose dangers for decades to come, and global warming, disease and poverty are all serious threats. If we're going to respond to those threats, we need to pull together -- and we need to stop letting the far right get away with dismissing all criticism of the Bush administration as irrational "hatred."

rbrooks@latimescolumnists.com

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