(I wrote this piece shortly before the 2004 election – and it seemed fitting to post it today. In the re-reading, I find I have not fundamentally changed my mind about this piece or the man. WC)
Since the 2000 Election I have puzzled on why the Left so abhors George W. Bush and everything for which he stands. Whatever the action, cause, purpose, bill, law, candidate, issue or position, if George W. Bush likes it, they hate it. Historically, the Left and the Right have always been at odds and are often on opposite ends of issues – but this is not the normal, run of the mill, animus on display. This appears to be real, genuine hatred, and I’ve been asking myself, why? What makes George W. Bush the devil incarnate to those on the other side of the aisle? What makes thousands rally to the site of the Republican Convention to not just protest, but to display unadulterated vitriol toward our President?
It wasn’t until the last night of the convention and after the President’s acceptance speech that it hit me. I watched the speech on ABC and Peter Jennings, George Stephanopolis and others were the commentators after the speech. While I can’t remember precisely what they said – the essence was ‘wow.’ They were visibly touched, moved and impressed by the President’s speech – particularly the last six paragraphs. One of their convention reporters said that it was not just the President’s words that had so moved those present but something more – a palpable connection. He said that the people in that room clearly felt an emotional connection to the President.
“Ah,” I said to myself. “Emotional connection – the E-factor.” That non-quantitative quality that cannot be learned, bottled, transplanted, manufactured or faked. George W. Bush for all his faults (his swagger, his bluntness, his ‘cowboy’ ways) connects with people emotionally. Even avowed political opposers have said he’s charming, funny, down to earth and a really nice guy. They like him. They really like him. Remember that hug between Tom Daschle and the President shortly after 9/11?
Ironically, Bill Clinton had that same quality. He connected on an emotional level with his audience and the American people – so much so that they voted him into office not once, but twice. Despite all of his mistakes, faux pas, scandals and outrageous behavior, Clinton supporters could not be swayed to turn away from him. He was, after all, America’s ‘First Black President.’ He did, after all, ‘feel our pain.’ And understood us, as no American president ever had. He worried about us as no American president ever had. And, he was going to take care of us as no American president ever had. His foibles, were just that. Not scandals, not outrages, not immoral acts – just boys being boys. Just private matters. They didn’t affect how he led the country. Every good thing that happened during his administration was very, very good. And every bad thing that happened was merely a lapse in judgment, a small mistake or indiscretion. Bill Clinton could lead us anywhere because of this incredible ability to feel for and connect with the ‘every-man.’
The Left was delighted because Bill’s special talent had led them into the White house. The babyboomers of the Viet Nam era were finally ‘in charge.’ They were going to show everyone how to do it better. Prove that their ideologies from those days gone by of protests and antiwar activities were the enlightened way. The right way. They were going to prove that their utopian visions from the sixties would be the ultimate reality of the nineties. Socialism would out.
Then along came George W. Bush. It wasn’t bad enough that Clinton couldn’t run again and they had only Al Gore to offer as his replacement. But now they had a loudmouthed, straight-shooting, swaggering cowboy galloping toward the White house. He would ruin everything they’d spent eight years building. He was going to make a mockery of all their hard work of moving the American mind-set to the politically-correct mode. Yes, he was scary indeed. Terrifying, in fact.
But worse than his Right Wing ideologies he had the one thing they knew they couldn’t fight. That same, special quality possessed by their idol, Bill Clinton. They saw it from the very beginning. People all over the country connected with George W. Bush. Their eyes glistened with heartfelt tears when he spoke of family values, a belief in God, patriotism and the American way. W possessed the secret weapon the Left believed to be their exclusive territory. Worse still, he used it all wrong. While Bill felt our pain, W felt our joy. Bill wanted to take care of us, but W wanted to help us help ourselves. Bill promised to be responsible for us but W expected us to be responsible for ourselves. Bill promised to spend our money wisely but W gave us our money back. Bill said we should think about it first but W said they were going to hear from us. Bill talked to our enemies but W blew them out of the water.
Two men with the same talent but very different messages. Two men with the same connection to the American people but with very different visions for them. Two men with the same incredible persuasion but on opposite sides of the aisle. Why does the Left really hate George W. Bush? Because he can and does do what Bill Clinton did but so much better and toward a better end.