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October 19, 2003

ANGRY MODERATES....One of the things that mainstream pundits have missed in the great "Why Do Democrats Hate Bush?" debate is the nature of so many of the Democrats who hate Bush: they're moderates.

Angry liberal writers Paul Krugman and Al Franken? Much closer to Bill Clinton and the DLC than to the left wing of the party. Angry liberal candidate Howard Dean? As many commentators have pointed out, his policy positions are pretty centrist. Angry liberal bloggers Atrios and, um, me? In both cases, rhetoric aside, our underlying positions are not wildly liberal.

If the only people who loathed Bush were fringe Greens like Ralph Nader, it would be easy to dismiss them. But shouldn't serious conservatives be asking themselves why longtime moderates feel such antipathy toward George Bush and what he's doing? That maybe there's a little more to it than just an emotional reaction to his personality?

The answer is pretty simple: personalities aside, it has become obvious since he took office that, far from being a "uniter not a divider," George Bush is in fact (a) radically conservative and (b) does everything he can to hide the fact.

For more on this, moderate environmentalist Rick Bass explains Bush's environmental program and center-leftist Jack O'Toole explains the difference between substance and sleight of hand to Howard Kurtz. They both speak for me as well.

Posted by Kevin Drum at October 19, 2003 11:32 AM | TrackBack


I often wonder what constitutes a moderate. On the really tough issues, it seems hard to define a "middle" ground. What's the "moderate position" on abortion or the death penalty, say? I'd gladly repeal the Bush Tax cuts in return for a real means testing on SS and Medicare. Is that a "moderate position?" I think the environment should be respected, but not worshipped, is that "moderate?"

I haven't the foggiest idea what "moderates" think are the central ideas worthy of defending or the policy priorities of of moderates might be.

I'm genuinely interested in the "moderate agenda," can anyone explain it to me? (Lack of snark would be appreciated)

Posted by: spc67 at October 19, 2003 11:41 AM | PERMALINK


You must remember one fact. A California Moderate is a Georgia Liberal. Don't forget flyover country.


Posted by: Tom at October 19, 2003 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

George Bush is in fact (a) radically conservative and (b) does everything he can to hide the fact.

radical? most certainly.
conservative? maybe in word, but in no way do his actions reflect those of a conservative.

Posted by: selise at October 19, 2003 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

I freely confess to being an extremist when it comes to civil liberties. On other issues, including economic, environmental, foreign policy issues and so on, I'm a moderate. I can get along just fine with a Gerald Ford conservative or even a George H. W. Bush conservative.

With the current crowd, though, I have nothing in common. They are so far off the charts to the right that there is literally no connection between us. It's ideology above all with that crowd, even when their policies are leading us off a cliff. In just the last two years, I've become far more angry and far more radicalized than at any other time under any other leader.

I thought Reagan was bad, but these guys are simply beyond belief. I look forward to the day that they are booted out. And the sooner that day arrives, the better it will be for our country.

Posted by: PaulB at October 19, 2003 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

I'll take that bait....

I think that a moderate wants the following:

A budget where revenues are within shouting distance of expenditures, and that there is a creditable plan to bring them together at some point.

An environmemntal policy that recognizes that the public lands do not exist for the sole purposes of mining, drilling, and logging, and that grazing, tourism, and preservation should have a seat at the table when these things are discussed.

A foriegn policy in which our goals are achievable with the means at our disposal.

An economic policy that is widely believed by competent eggheads to be likely to foster economic growth.

Judges who are not known as ideologues, but as jurists.

I'm sure there is more, but I think that is a good starting point.

Posted by: etc. at October 19, 2003 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Until the election of 2002 I considered myself a "moderate" democrate. I was socially liberal and fiscally conservative. (Leaning, but not far out on the scale.)

Over the last year I find myself looking more and more for the "liberal" view, whatever that is. I think part of that is just a violent reaction to Bush. I can't believe how angry I am.

I gues I am one of those "angry moderates". I would vote for about anybody, if it meant getting rid of Bush. But my preference is Clark. I guess that shows my still moderate leanings.

What a mess.

Posted by: JWC at October 19, 2003 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

spc67: some issues are pretty polarizing. But even abortion, for example, has a moderate liberal position: abortion is basically OK, but you're fine with parental notification and banning third term abortion.

You can support affirmative action programs, while still recognizing that AA has real problems and can't be taken too far. You can support free trade and globalization, while recognizing that it also hurts a lot of people and that programs to ameliorate that pain is appropriate.

Etc. You've read my stuff for a while, and it's pretty obvious that I'm no socialist and I'm no conspiracy theorist. But what I see in people like Bush and DeLay is a desire for very radical reactionary change, and the only thing that's stopping them is political reality. For now.

All I'm saying is that you can either decide that I've suddenly gone crazy in the past year or two, despite a lifetime of moderation, or else there really is something highly reactionary about Bush. I think it's the latter, and I just think that people who are basically sympathetic to Bush's direction have a hard time seeing it.

Posted by: Kevin Drum at October 19, 2003 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

Many of the real lefties never expected much from Bush anyway, so for them, the Bush admin is indeed conservative. After all, the Bush admin is proudly continuing the American ruling class traditions of racism, stealing from the poor, and invading 3rd world countries. Moderates believe in the system and are therefore shocked when it becomes apparent that the system is used to screw people -- or worse. Are moderates naive? Sure. That's why most people are not moderates.

Posted by: che at October 19, 2003 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

"abortion is basically OK, but you're fine with parental notification and banning third term abortion"

I would say that's closer to a liberal stand on abortion.
My definition of a moderate view is that abortion is basically wrong except in life or death situations, but legislation or intimdation tactics don't work and utlimately will do more harm than good, which leaves individual choice. I think this is also called the anti-abortion/pro-choice viewpoint.

Posted by: Paul at October 19, 2003 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Re Kurtz's article, it starts off by talking about Jon Chait's TNR cover story about why he hates Bush. Chait, let's remember, wrote an article last fall about why liberals should support Bush on the Iraq war. He's certainly not a Naderite wacko.

Posted by: Haggai at October 19, 2003 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

I try to distinguish between a "moderate" and a "centrist" -- a centrist thinks the optimal answers are always to be found in the center of the political spectrum, just as a "pure" liberal or conservative finds all solutions on the left or right end, respectively. A moderate, on the other hand, has political opinions rather than beliefs and might locate the best answer to any given issue on the left, right, or center.

So for me, there is no "moderate" platform, because moderates can come to different conclusions. The point is that they're actively and open-mindedly looking for the optimal answer, rather than deciding ahead of time that they've already found it and that anyone who disagrees is a blinkered idiot. A moderate liberal is one whose conclusions tend to the left, a moderate conservative tends to the right, but these two people will usually get along better with each other than with the wingers on either side.

I agree with Kevin -- the current administration is made up primarily of radicals with pre-formed, unchallengeable beliefs, and that scares the heck out of me. Reagan was probably just as bad, but fortunately he had to contend with a Democratic congress, so he didn't have as much of a free hand.

Posted by: KenB at October 19, 2003 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

Following etc's lead, I think you can summarize an American moderate as:

1) fundamentally small "d" democratic, meaning someone who doesn't think only their views are correct, and so are willing to listen to and accept minority opinions before arriving at a moderated solution

2) fundamentally capitalist but with a human face, meaning someone who believes in the free market, but also the fair market

I think this definition of an America moderate is true for both sides of the aisle.

As always, I'm willing to be wrong. Which makes me a moderate.

Posted by: chris at October 19, 2003 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Surely the Bass article describes a longstanding, bipartisan tendency (Baucus, Feinstein, etc) towards allowing some logging, as opposed to a crazy new radical Bush plan forced upon helpless Democrats.

Posted by: RD at October 19, 2003 01:23 PM | PERMALINK

a centrist thinks the optimal answers are always to be found in the center of the political spectrum

You're defining it incorrectly. Being a "centrist" is not entirely up to you. It has to do with how far away from you the crazy extremists on your left and right are. But the political spectrum doesn't have stable endpoints.

I haven't really changed my attitude on much in the past few years. I used to be right of center. Now I'm left of center. I didn't move- the center did! Because the right wing has stretched so far into lala land. Ten years ago Bush 41 was right wing. Now in retrospect he almost looks like a centrist. The same thing happened with Nixon. Nixon has become much more centrist since he died. (Can you imagine these current WH fools visiting China? They'd prefer to stay home and moralize about how "evil" it is.)

That is not to say that the center is where all the reasonable opinions live. It's merely the midpoint between volatile extremes.

Posted by: MillionthMonkey at October 19, 2003 01:25 PM | PERMALINK

Moderates are basically live & let live on the individual level, but aren't full-blown libertarians because we have no great faith in the unfettered invisible hand being a force of progress.

Posted by: Troy at October 19, 2003 01:27 PM | PERMALINK

Sure, Kevin, from a policy perspective you're a moderate. But do you really think that what Bush represents has anything to do with policy or even conservative ideals such as limited government or judicial restraint? What he stands for is simply aesthetic. It's hard to fathom this. I'm not sure if I understand it myself. And certainly the people who vote for him, and who consider themselves shrewd arbitrers of politics and the world, will deny to it to the end.

I mean, most of us have followed the past three years pretty closely and everything Bush has touched has been deprived of any external logic, aside from agreeing a priori with the convictions of Bush. Everything. There hasn't been one action he has taken (aside from Afghanistan) that has ended up making sense. It's because Bush's ideology makes no distinction between utility and ideal, or wish and reality. We think that this is simply a means to an end. What if the end was not invading Iraq, though? What if it was simply sustaining the illusion that his policy has some reality within it?

Maybe this is why, for instance, debating his economic policies has proved so fruitless. Taxes are simply bad, ergo they must be economically destructive, although even those who don't think taxes are morally or constitutionally allowable admit that the utility of taxation has its positives. Do you see that happening now? How many people for the tax cuts even remotely seem to bother tallying up the consequences, or the results of the cuts in spending needed to finance them? Yet we have been told endlessly by these same people how experienced and concerned our average American is with financial matters, and how common sense and pragmatic business-types are quick to draw against waste and folly, especially against dread wasteful liberals. This has become one side of the debate.

What are we to conclude? That these people are clueless and dumb? That they are hopelessly naive and believe in nonsensical prefabricated ideas directly against their best interests? Or that their best interests actually resides in only believing that goverment equals waste and taxes are automatically bad and that the consequences of these ideas are irrelevant?

It's taken me some time to come to this conclusion. It still sounds pretty out-there to me, but I really don't see any other explanations that exist. The bottom line is that I think that all of the supposed ideals generated by the post-60s conservative movement (of which Bush is simply the figurehead, since he seems to have no original thoughts or expierences of his own) are interchangeable and are useful only in so much as they give the right wing a reason to exist.

Posted by: Thomas at October 19, 2003 02:08 PM | PERMALINK

There's something to the idea that Bush is not radically conservative. A conservative would not over-extend us abroad and balloon our deficit at home by raising taxes on our descendants and driving up pork spending.

He is radically something, though. I think the description of moderate above is good: reasonable, open to the evidence, basically involved in a collaborative, cooperative project with fellow citizens. Bush is the opposite of that. He is utterly set in his conclusions prior to, and independent of, all evidence, and he has total contempt for the democratic process. "Public opinion" is merely a poll number to be moved by literally any manipulation necessary.

Posted by: Realish at October 19, 2003 02:31 PM | PERMALINK

I often wonder what constitutes a moderate.

Focusing on defining terms isn't terribly relevant to this discussion. If you are taking a clear-eyed and long view of the direction of this country you can then have a more practical, results-based perspective of the Bush Administration's accomplishments, regardless of your political orientation.

Posted by: JLowe at October 19, 2003 02:41 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks everybody for your insights. After reading the thread thus far, it seems that "moderate" has no consistent meaning in today's political discourse.

If open-mindedness and "critical-realist" type resort to facts, results and Occam's Razor are the characteristics of a moderate, I'm going to have to stop labelling myself a conservative!

Posted by: spc67 at October 19, 2003 02:51 PM | PERMALINK

My mother walked into the kitchen a couple of days ago when we were home and said that she had thought George Bush would be similar to the Republican Presidents she has followed since Eisenhower. Bush however is different, she said. Bush is not a conservative but a radical. We agree. I thought we were moderately conservative before this Administration, now all I care about is defeating this radical Administration and the Republican leadership in Congress. From the environment to employment protections, we are shocked and appalled by this Administration.

Posted by: Ari at October 19, 2003 03:07 PM | PERMALINK

"But even abortion, for example, has a moderate liberal position: abortion is basically OK, but you're fine with parental notification and banning third term abortion."

If this were truly a "moderate liberal position", there would never even be a debate of partial birth abortion. And what Democratic candidate actually would support banning third term abortions?

The fact is, on the national scale, it is the Democratic party that is extremist when it comes to abortion. Why? Because there is only one viable position for a Democrat running for high office...full, unfettered access to abortion. There are those who have had to change their position to meet the litmus test. Certainly can't expect any support from NOW if you're going to restrict abortions in any way. The Republican party, however, while predominately pro-life, does have people of varying opinions regarding restrictions, even a few who are pro-choice...Colin Powell and Christie Whitman, to name two. There is actually debate within the party. Do you think a Democratic president would ever appoint a pro-life SecState? Do you think the Democrats would ever give someone who is pro-life a prime time speech at a Democratic convention. Not in our lifetimes.

Will someone please explain what happens on the first day of the seventh month that makes this fetus suddenly become a person who should have constitutional rights, when it previously was not? Did it get a heart on that day? A brain? The capacity to feel pain? Nope. Become viable outside the womb? Probably's the record:

Posted by: Robert at October 19, 2003 03:13 PM | PERMALINK

Why is Al Franken a moderate? Nothing against him, but wasn't he a Nader supporter? Isn't that pretty left-of-center?

Posted by: Daryl McCullough at October 19, 2003 03:36 PM | PERMALINK

In my view, a moderate is one who acknowledges that certain institutions are vital to the national interest, cannot be trusted to the profit driven private sector, and thus are best controlled by the elected power. National defence, trade law, judicial system, to name a few. Some social institutions , such as health care, would not be in the private sector if only people would realize that a healthy population is a national asset , really part of the infrastructure. Besides, the universal system is more cost effective. I live in a country where carrying a revolver is a right, and healthcare is an economic burden. I am not arguing for extreme gun control, but really, how stupid is that?
The greatest crime of the neocons, is that they have made palatable the notion that individualism always trumps the common good. Even if they get what they want, total deconstruction of this country's institutions, they lose too.
What morons.

Posted by: PeteyPuck at October 19, 2003 03:48 PM | PERMALINK

Why is Al Franken a moderate? He is a moderate because he can be persuaded; his views can be moderated by fact and debate and reality.

Little clues give him away: he is on the record as being supportive, if not a supporter, of John McCain. He had a very funny and collegial political series on Comedy Central with then-arch conservative Arriana Huffington. His books do not espouse fire-breathing leftist position.

I think under most circumstance he would be considered moderate-left. Except that he's now an angry moderate and so seems extreme to those like David Brooks, who are shocked shocked that the left is so angry with this President.

Posted by: chris at October 19, 2003 03:58 PM | PERMALINK

Bush radical? I think any fair comparison of Bush to say, Ronald Reagan, would show that Bush is more middle of the road than Reagan was, and certainly no more to the right than Reagan was. But then Reagan was deeply hated too, wasn't he?

The hatred of Bush is all way way too familiar to those of us who witnessed the hatred of Ronald Reagan. In fact many of the very same criticisms are leveled, "idiot", "cowboy", "hypocrite", "puppet of the rich", etc.

Nothing new folks. nothing new to see, just the same hyperventilating of the left-wing and partisan Democrats over another Republican president who can't be bullied or cowed by thier sniping.

Posted by: Brad at October 19, 2003 04:03 PM | PERMALINK

There are some differences Brad. Reagan in the end had to moderate his views to pass legislation through a Democratic congress. Because Bush doesn't have to, he doesn't. So even if they are alike, Bush's ability to push certain extremes of the right's agenda makes him increasingly alien to the moderate mushy middle. The result is that Bush is undoing Reagan's real legacy at the ballot box, that strange hybrid creature known as the Reagan Democrat.

The RDs gave Reagan his 49 state win. And contrary to your generalization, the RDs limited the sniping that partisan Dems could level at Reagan. Bush is now losing that kind of support and inviting the attacks he's getting and is going to get. In the long run, he's marginalizing the Republican party by pushing moderates away. Reagan did just the opposite. If this trend continues, I wouldn't be surprised if in the next few months leading up to the election, the most vicious sniping at Bush comes from within his own party.

Posted by: chris at October 19, 2003 04:21 PM | PERMALINK


You are holding the binoculars backwards, and cannot see what is plainly in front of you. Turn your binoculars around, and you will no longer be blinded to reality. Thank you.

Posted by: MillionthMonkey at October 19, 2003 04:24 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I refer you to your interview of Krugman and your remarks following that noted the Kissinger quote. The Bush Junta does not represent anything that can be expressed or judged along a liberal-conservative or left-right line. It represents a radical transformation of our political system. One that is no less radical than the New Deal. If it were described more honestly, it would be quickly rejected by Americans. However, as long as we diddle around with empty words like liberal, conservative and moderate, we add to the obfuscation that this radical transformation depends on.

Posted by: James E. Powell at October 19, 2003 04:36 PM | PERMALINK

Reagan was pretty radical, I will freely admit. But at least his administration occasionally bowed to reality. The Bush administration shows no signs of doing so. A comparison of Reagan vs. Bush would show that they are both fairly far out in the right wing, with Bush pushing that wing further out than Reagan did.

Posted by: PaulB at October 19, 2003 06:10 PM | PERMALINK

Brad: In my opinion, Bush isn't that radical in all areas except one. The War. And that's too enormous a subject, so I'll skip it.

As far as cutting taxes, his cuts are less than Reagan's (but rates were higher to start with then). The deficit is historic, but the debt is manageable, for now (taxes will have to be raised to reverse the situation though, so it could be said that he is persuing a short-term, unsustainable strategy).

It's either "trickle down" or crony capitalism, but either way, he believes that making life easier on the capitalist class is the highest priority, in times of deficits or surplus (dividend tax cuts, capital depreciation accelleration, estate tax cuts, etc.) I don't think this is extreme for a Republican.

Environment? Since Reagan's time, "regulations" of any kind are the enemy, and should be eliminated. So, what's new here? Bush is a moderate Republican here too.

Posted by: andrew at October 19, 2003 06:41 PM | PERMALINK

Heh, I like your list of "moderates". If Krugman Atrios and Franken aren't lefties who the hell is? Castro?

Anyway, the Bush haters may have some "moderate" opinions, but they are all political junkies who root fervently for their team the democrats. In this sense they aren't moderates at all, but democratic activists.
It is obvious then why they hate Bush. Mushy moderates who don't pay attention to politics and don't have strong views aren't the ones making up the core of the Bush haters.

"But shouldn't serious conservatives be asking themselves why longtime moderates feel such antipathy toward George Bush"

Heh, did serious liberals ask themselves why longtime moderates such as Hitchens and Sullivan had such antipathy toward Clinton? (Or using your definition of moderate, such moderates as Rush Limbaugh, George Will, and Bill Oreilley, who are certainly no farther to the right than Franken Atrios and Krugman are to the left)

Posted by: Reg at October 19, 2003 06:41 PM | PERMALINK

Part of the anger we moderates feel comes from the failure of the "Well, at least we'll get X" that most moderates have when the opposition party is in power. I'm a liberal who is strongly free trade but Bush has cynically sold out this very important issue where, I thought, conservatives are more in line with my thinking.

Posted by: Ted at October 19, 2003 07:17 PM | PERMALINK

Reg, you ignorant slut. Krugman is not liberal. He strongly and aggressively supported Clinton's free trade proposals, as did Kevin and Brad Delong. Clinton was only able to get these passed with the help of most of the Republicans in Congress; most of the Democrats, especially the liberals, opposed these proposals.

The things you have to know when you to try to decide whether someone is a liberal or a moderate is **what the liberal positions are** and also **what the moderate positions are**. You just revealed that you don't know these things. Does this help you understand why some of us fail to appreciate your contributions? It's not solely because you're a conservative. It's also because you frequently haven't got the least clue about whatever it is you're talking about, and don't seem to care about that in the slightest.

Fewer and better-informed posts would do wonders to improve your standing around here, Reg.

Posted by: Zizka at October 19, 2003 07:55 PM | PERMALINK

I can't really buy into the urban legend of Howard Dean being a moderate. On the spectrum of positions that are even remotely politically viable, he's taken the furthest-left position on the war, the furthest-left position on taxes, the furthest-left position on numerous social issues. He supported far-Left legislation in Vermont on entitlements, school funding, and campaign finance, legislation you couldn't get passed almost anywhere else. Yes, I know he's a genuine moderate on the gun issue, where his position is nearly indistinguishable from Bush's. And I'm aware that his fiscal policies in Vermont are known as moderate, although that owes a lot to booming tax revenues in the 90s and to the fact that Vermont has about 600,000 people - just about three times the size of Manhattan's largest police precinct. So yes, you can find bits and pieces of moderation in Dean's record, but that's true of most anybody who's been an executive. Even as far south as I live (Queens), you wouldn't call Dean a moderate.

Posted by: Crank at October 19, 2003 08:34 PM | PERMALINK

Well, thinking it's a bad idea to run up structural deficits has suddenly become a liberal position. So Paul Krugman is a "liberal"- a notion that would have been laughable several years ago. It used to be that fiscal responsibility was the realm of the "fiscal conservative", but they've all run off to the land of privatization utopia to worship the "invisible hand". We've been scooping up the good positions on all sorts of issues since they left.

Actually that's one way of looking at it. Another is that suddenly anyone who isn't an ideological space cadet is being stamped as a "liberal". I wasn't always a liberal, but I always thought the government should balance its checkbook, and suddenly it became unfashionable to think that.

I was reading Paul Krugman's book recently (The Great Unraveling- pick a copy up today!) and somewhere he says that someone called him "Crazy Cassandra" for his dark economic predictions. He said that was a good label for him. Because not only did nobody believe Crazy Cassandra, her predictions always turned out to be right.

Posted by: MillionthMonkey at October 19, 2003 08:40 PM | PERMALINK

A moderate is someone who doesn't pay much attention to politics except at election time but who thinks things are going along pretty well as long as he has a steady job, his taxes don't go up and whoever's President looks believable on tv.

Posted by: fyreflye at October 19, 2003 10:22 PM | PERMALINK

Certian truths about America.
1)Everybody thinks they're middle class.
2)Everybody thinks they work hard.
3)Everybody thinks they're a moderate.

If you ask Eric Alterman, he'll tell you that he's Center-Left. As will Barney Frank. And these are people who Democrats feel are in the Twilight Zone.
So, I'm asked to believe that because an admitted liberal (Kevin) thinks that he and all the liberals who hate Bush are Moderate, that it's Bush's fault that he's hated. OK. I heard the exact same argument from "moderate conservatives" who hated Clinton.
I've adoped a personal rule. I don't listen to anyone who hates. On either side.
Almost liberal of me, don't you think?
Seriously, I like reading this blog because Kevin is sensible on issues on which I disagree with him. And there are people on the comments that are also rational. And sometimes they make me think that I could be wrong, which I feel is healthy.
But there seems to be something about Bush that makes his opponents despise him, very similar to Reagan and Clinton. I remember huge amount of inflammatory rhetoric towards Ronnie and Bill, which I found interesting, because their administrations didn't really accomplish that much to advance the Conservative or Liberal agendas, respectively. Reagan didn't really affect abortion, and gov't spending exploded in his term. This meant huge deficits, but people don't lather up in hatred over deficit spending. Clinton, in retrospect, could easily have been described as a moderate conservative. But that didn't stop right-wingers from loathing him.
I wonder if the problem is that someone who you really disagree with is popular and in power.

Posted by: rhinoman at October 20, 2003 04:07 AM | PERMALINK

Remember the early 1990s: People do lather up in hatred over deficit spending. Or, at least, they can get emotionally exercised about the subject. That was Ross Perot's main issue, and Perot was at the time considered the standard-bearer of a cranky and dyspeptic political revolt. The "Contract with America" Republicans of 1994 claimed to be anti-deficit-spending too, and the "Balanced Budget Amendment"-- the notion of actually making a federal deficit unconstitutional-- was a regular applause line for Republicans at the time. They were upset when Clinton managed to portray himself as a deficit-fighter; he was "stealing their issues".

Posted by: Matt McIrvin at October 20, 2003 05:42 AM | PERMALINK

I second rhinoman's comment.

Your perception of where you are on the political spectrum colors what you see. Kevin look pretty far left to me, I assume I look pretty far right to Kevin.

I'm not sure what a moderate is, but I'm pretty sure they don't get involved in online discussions.

For your reading pleasure, a couple of links concerning the similarities between presidents and between their supporters.

Posted by: Ron at October 20, 2003 06:05 AM | PERMALINK

Speaking as a Clinton hater, (And it's not something I'm particularly proud of, I can usually keep my cool.) it must have been something in his body language, because I hated him long before he gave me any policy reasons to do so. My BS meter pegged itself and blew out in a shower of sparks the first time I saw him speak, and that was that.

I suppose you could consider Clinton a moderate, if you ignore his enthusiasm for gun control, and attempt to nationalize the health care industry. I tend to find the term "moderate" useless, as it tells you virtually nothing about where somebody stands on any given issue.

Posted by: Brett Bellmore at October 20, 2003 06:13 AM | PERMALINK

I'd third rhinoman's point. It's true that Bush and Reagan are/were both hated for their policies, and it's equally true that Clinton and Nixon - people I would regard as genuine moderates - were hated just as much for their dishonesty. By contrast, no such animus was wasted on Carter, Bush I or Ford.

(Of course, if you are looking to get re-elected, which group would you rather be in?)

Nonetheless, the idea that Bush is some radical on domestic policy is also one that eludes me. Besides tax cuts, Bush has hardly expended one iota of political capital on conservative policies at home. He hasn't fought for his judges besides a few whistle stops in the South in the 2002 campaign; he hasn't even proposed legislation on Social Security reform; he signed McCain-Feingold; he signed an education bill that was closer to Ted Kennedy's than his own; he hasn't put up a fight to avoid a massive new prescription drug entitlement; he hasn't lanched a Gingrich-style campaign to slash spending on federal programs; he certainly hasn't staked out a radically pro-free-trade position. On most domestic issues, Bush has been content with the status quo, quite to the consternation of people like me. Yet, somehow he's seen as a 'radical,' which may be an apt description of aspects of his foreign policy but seems tremendously overheated in view of the Administration's modest efforts at home.

Posted by: Crank at October 20, 2003 07:02 AM | PERMALINK

To expand on what Kevin says, there is another thing that should have any dispassionate observer of Bush's administration quite concerned: they are incompetent at everything they touch.

If I were a conservative, I'd be cutting ties to the Bushites. They make the poorest possible case for conservative ideas and values.

For the record, I am a liberal but hardly a radical. I have zero interest in achieving "structural" changes in American society. In fact the very thought terrifies me, as someone who lived throught the revolutions of the 60's, the Reagan revolution, and now Bush.

I believe that all the important liberal goals can easily be achieved within the American democratic tradition, including a truly just society with truly equal opportunity. I can think of nothing worse than a "radical" solution to our problems (Bush is example #1) and will not accept what has clearly been a centrist/liberal political philosophy being relabeled as "far left." That is as corrupt a use of language as labelling General Boykin a "Christian" instead of borderline nuts.

And Crank? Anyone who appoints Ashcroft and who nominates Pickering, Pryor, etc. and declares Scalia is favoritie Supreme epitomizes right wing radicalism.

Posted by: tristero at October 20, 2003 07:37 AM | PERMALINK

My BS meter pegged itself and blew out in a shower of sparks the first time I saw him speak, and that was that.

Funny things, these BS meters. Sometimes Clinton sent mine a-ringing, but often I found him to be a really quite capable liar, such that I could actually listen to a speech of his for more than a few seconds. Both Bush Jr and Gore set mine off pretty much immediately. I'm still amazed that so many people saw Bush as a straight-shooter -- maybe it's because he's so awkward and uncomfortable at the podium, people contrasted that with Clinton's slickness and took incompentence for honesty.

Posted by: KenB at October 20, 2003 07:57 AM | PERMALINK


I accept that you do not like Bush's judicial nominations. I am interested in why; we have laws, and judges work with those laws. My opinion is that liberal judges tend to "change" the law to reflect liberal positions. Why do you dislike conservative judges?

Other than the judicial nominations (and I don't think Bush is fighting nearly hard enough for his nominees), the only truly conservative things I have seen Bush do is reduce taxes and actively (but poorly) pursue the war on terrorism.

I believe (and I am serious) that Clinton was a better conservative on domestic issues than Bush.

I'm not a great Bush fan because he isn't nearly conservative enough, so making the claim that Bush is a radical doesn't explain to me why the left hates Bush.

Posted by: Ron at October 20, 2003 08:11 AM | PERMALINK

One of the things we all need to make clear is something Molly Ivins pointed out: "there is a difference between hatred and anger." We are not conspiracy theorists fantasizing about the president raping women or having his opponents murdered, manufacturing scandals about haircuts or state troopers or trailer-trash women.

We are outraged at what he has done to our country and to the world. Whether we "hate" Bush personally or not, keep hatred and anger separate; they are different things, and what is far more important right now is our justified anger.

Posted by: eyelessgame at October 20, 2003 08:13 AM | PERMALINK

People don't necessarily hate Bush because he's conservative. Bush's tax, fiscal, and economic politicies are bad by all liberal and most conservative standards. His military strategy might be coonservative, but it's adventurist. Not all conservatives support it, and some bitterly oppose it. Ashcroft and the judges are certainly signs of strong conservatism. Besides conservativism, there's a peculiar streak in Bush which is either incompetence or else some sly plan he isn't telling us about. So there are plenty of reasons to hate Bush.

Three people have bought the idea that the problem is Haters and that Bush-haters are just like Clinton-haters. This is, in fact, the Republican spin -- don't act as if you're shrewd independent thinkers, because basically you just got taken for a ride. The creepy thing is that the slime merchants who gave us the anti-Clinton campaign are now using the revulsion people feel against them because of that campaign as a weapon in the fight to protect the man they helped put in power -- George W. Bush. A clever trick indeed.

Posted by: Zizka at October 20, 2003 09:39 AM | PERMALINK

The problem with Bush has nothing to do with a conservative agenda. I simply think that he doesn't have an idea about what America is about. Secret Detentions, classifying Americans as "enemy combatants", indefinite imprisonment at getmo without lawyer or trial, the whole "Bush" doctrine, with the idea that it is acceptable to attack an enemy if they might become a threat to the US in the future. I am not a lefty, but I do think that Bush is steering this country over a cliff. I don't hate him, but I do find myself yelling at the TV, which I never did under Nixon, Reagan, Clinton...

Posted by: Crabb at October 20, 2003 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Brett Bellmore wrote:

I suppose you could consider Clinton a moderate, if you ignore his enthusiasm for gun control, and attempt to nationalize the health care industry. I tend to find the term "moderate" useless, as it tells you virtually nothing about where somebody stands on any given issue.

I agree, it?s a term used more as a self-serving bludgeon with no real meaning as Kevin Drum?s initial post demonstrates. Don?t like your opponent or their positions? Call them an ?extremist.? Don?t want to have to defend your positions on its merits? Simply define the ?moderate? or ?centrist? position as whatever position you happen to hold.

The idea that Bush is somehow ?radical? or is pushing an ?extremist? agenda is almost as silly as the poster who tried to claim that Newt Gingrich was slashing spending on federal social welfare programs merely because they did not increase by as much as the poster may have liked. It?s amazing the utter lack of content in the posts claiming that Bush is somehow a ?radical? who rarely actually cite a position supported by or an actual policy of the Bush administration and have to resort to some dishonest strawman argument.

Keep it up guys. Forget about having to actually advance and ideas or policies and revel in your hatred of Bush (because it does so much to persuade others as to the rightness of your cause) and 2004 will make 2002 look like a cakewalk.

Posted by: Thorley Winston at October 20, 2003 04:03 PM | PERMALINK

Moderates don't hate Bush.

If anything, Bush can win in 2004 because the democrats are poisoning their own well.

I know they're doing stuff that the right wing 'volunteers' did that brought business to the republican party (starting with Reagan). And, when it's immitated by the democrats it just looks like a cargo cult.

The republicans have grown. AND, they've absorbed factions into their tent. Meanwhile, the democrats are left with a left wing that doesn't seem to encompass much of the old guard. (Those people that would have supported FDR, Truman, and JFK, on their war efforts.)

PLUS, in some ironic freak show, the anti-war activists from Vietnam only managed to elect Nixon to office. Sure, we pulled out of Vietnam. But it didn't leave the democratic party strong. It began this unravelling, that a party that held all the reins of government into the mid-1960's, (Executive, Legislative, & Judicial, on the Federal level), by the time 1992 rolled around ... had 'leveled the playing field.'

Perhaps, it still looks equal. But which side is facing attrition? The republicans, ahead? Or the democrats?

I know democrats think they're entitled to toss Bush from office in 2004. (And, for a time this summer, it looked like a real possibility. Given that after Iraq, Americans, by and large, weren't embracing the 'roadmap' ... and the feeling that Bush wouldn't hurt his Saudi friends.)

But there's been a shift. Even without Bush shifting!

And, should Bush pull off victory in 2004, that gives the republicans the White House until 2008.

Success is usually dependent on momentum.

Meanwhile, the democrats may just lose, again, as they veer away from the average American. There's gotta be some other agenda besides name calling. (Or it's like watching collapsing arguments.)

Diehard democrats remain faithful? You bet.

But the few against the many doesn't help when you want to win elections. And, when you get bragging rights that you've chosen a path that works for most Americans. (Not just your base supporters.)

The right is full of volunteers. Not so the left. Most of the stories are coming from the chattering class. The pundits. And, the talking heads. Whose audiences reduce over time.

Now, here's a test. Rush's voice has been silenced by his addiction. What if he never again comes out as the steamroller he was? A vacuum? Or the space still gets filled by right wing noise-makers? (And, that's the worst case scenario I can think of.)

I remember that Mario Cuomo dreamt of taking on Rush. But what ever happened?

Drudge, so far, stays the most balanced; in that he puts up the news willy-nilly. He certainly wasn't backing Schwartzenegger! And, he didn't matter to the outcome.

Posted by: Carol in California at October 20, 2003 04:09 PM | PERMALINK

Ron wrote:

I accept that you do not like Bush's judicial nominations. I am interested in why; we have laws, and judges work with those laws. My opinion is that liberal judges tend to "change" the law to reflect liberal positions. Why do you dislike conservative judges?

I think you?re starting from the mistaken premise that there is some principled or legitimate opposition to Bush?s judicial nominees. Originally Senate Democrats whined when Bush (wisely) decided that the left-wing ABA would no longer be consulted for judicial nominees. Then when Bush sent nominees which in additional to having lower-than-average reversal rates (the ?gold standard?) who had also earned the ABA highest rating of ?well qualified? they were suddenly ?right wing ideologues? ? at least according to the left-wing ideologues who think that judges are supposed to be de facto legislatures without the nasty business of having to stand for election or having other branches of government able to balance their power.

It?s actually a familiar pattern of the Bush-haters that repeated itself on Iraq. The critics demanded a vote on the authorization of the use of force and then balked when they had to vote on it. They demanded a debate and had one and many of them voted to authorize the use of force and were shocked when force was used after months of waiting and preparing.

The same is true on the environment. The Senate voted 96-0 against ratifying a treaty like Kyoto and then Senate Democrats were apoplectic that Bush withdrew from the Kyoto accords (even though only one nation had ratified it and it?s clear it was never going to go anywhere). They lamented the fictional divide between the Republicans of Theodore Roosevelt and those of George W Bush even though on the environment both adopted a similar ?multiple use? policy (how radical). Gregg Easterbrook (another ?moderate? who does not revel in Bush hatred) actually pointed out how phony the criticism of Bush?s environmental policies when he decried the "Democrats' entanglement with the doomsday viewpoint and with the sort of scare-mongering--of which the ANWR fight is an example--having more to do with fundraising and interest-group appeasement than with environmental protection."

Sound familiar? It should, because it?s exactly the sort of nonsense we?re seeing here on this forum. It may play well in the echo-chamber of the Democratic primary and left-wing blogs but it won?t play well in the general election.

Posted by: Thorley Winston at October 20, 2003 04:24 PM | PERMALINK

I'll fourth rhinoman's point. I think I've voted for exactly one Republican in my life (not GWBush); other than that it's been Democrats all the way. I can't see any circumstances (at the moment) that would cause me to vote for Bush next year.

That said, I just don't get it - I don't see the 'extremism' and 'radicalism' that people keep talking about. I disagree with most things this administration has done, but they're pretty much what I'd expect from a Republican administration, not significantly different than the last two Republican administrations. I don't like the administration, but I'm not angry about it.

Posted by: David Fleck at October 20, 2003 07:36 PM | PERMALINK

the Angry Bear summed it up nicely in this Jack O'Toole thread (on a different matter):

I'd call myself "slightly left": free trade, not too concerned with gun laws, ambivalent on unions, think the retirement age will have to go up, preferred Clinton's rate of government growth (slow) to Bush's or Reagan's (fast), opposed to structural deficits and the tax cuts that cause them, pro-civil and reproductive rights, against regulation except when there are clear market failures (e.g., externalitities like pollution). The list could go on.
Here's my point: I'm virtually a communist when you put my views next to Norquist's or even next to the policies Bush actually enacts, which are markedly different than the ones he talks about.

Posted by: markus at October 20, 2003 07:45 PM | PERMALINK

I am truly curious as to why someone would think Bush is an "extremist". Presumably, the term "extremist" when applied to someone implies that such person holds views that are outside the accepted mainstream. Yet, the American public does not seem to think that Bush's views are outside the mainstream. Unless, I am mistaken (and I may be) Bush's poll ratings are currently above 50%, so if he is extreme, then a majority of Americans are as well.

Admittedly, polling often presents a temporary and fickle view and the questions asked can skew the results. So lets disregard the poll numbers. Now, I am quite sure the most recent Congressional elections returned a majority of Republicans to both houses of Congress. My recollection is that most of the Republicans running in the elections ran on a Pro-Bush platform. Again, I would think this serves as evidence that Bush's views are (or were at the time of the elections) representative, rather than atypical, of the views of most Americans.

True, Bush was not running in the 2002 elections, so maybe its not fair to use that as an example of the widespread acceptance of his positions. I guess it would be better to look at the 2000 elections that Bush lost at the popular vote level. Yet even there, the difference between Bush's vote totals and Gore's vote totals was insignificant. Clearly, Bush's views in 2000 were accepted by a significant portion of the American electorate. Its hard to make the case that he is an extremist, at least relative to the American public.

Finally, I suppose an argument could be made that his views are extreme relative to past Presidents. But such an argument would not hold water. While Bush has approved fairly large tax cuts, he has also approved fairly large budgets (he is not exactly starving government). Bush has been aggressive to say the least in foreign policy. However, his predecessor did not exactly shy away from the use of force. Clinton backed the use of American force in Somalia and the Balkans just to give two examples. Like Bush's use of force in Iraq, Clinton did not have UN approval to use force in the Balkans. I would even venture to say that were Clinton President during and after 9/11, his responses would not have been much different than Bush's. Clinton, if nothing else, had an amazing sense of the public pulse, and certainly would have attacked the Taliban in Afghanistan. As to Iraq, maybe Clinton would not have moved more aggressively there given the political capital that would have been necessary to expend, but remember Clinton had used force against Hussein before.

I apologize for being long-winded, but my point is that declaring Bush to be extreme is a pretty tough argument to make. Bush seems to be in line with the American public (at least right now) and his positions are not greatly different from the positions of his predecessors. In fact, I would make a larger (if somewhat unoriginal) point that in our system it is very difficult to elect an "extremist" to the Presidency. I would love to hear an argument that we have had an extremist President in the last century. After all the history books don't speak of Presidents Huey Long, Wallace (Henry or George) or McCarthy (Joe or Gene).

Certainly, we have had Presidents that have done what no Presidents have done before (T. Roosevelt--the Panama canal; F. Roosevelt--the Great Society; LBJ--the Civil Rights Initiatives). Yet the actions of those Presidents reflected, at the time, what most Americans wanted (now, a good argument can be made that in some cases the American people changed their mind later or did not think through their choices, but thats a different argument than the extremist argument).

Posted by: nc at October 21, 2003 06:43 PM | PERMALINK

Today democrats have no one to blame but themselves.

Gray Davis, tossed from office, just signed a sweet deal with the Indian tribes. Are you surprised? They get to build yet another casino in Needles. And, all they have to give California is 5%. (Where Connecticut gets a 25% share of the cut.)

Gray Davis is going to be one of those gifts that just keep on giving to the republican party.

Sure, the republicans can kill themselves with right wing functionaries. But they keep losing at the polls. While moderates get elected.

I hear that Dennis Miller is going to run against Barbara Boxer whose senate seat is up in 2004.

Pelosi has to run every two years. (Since she's in the HOuse.) And, in the House, she's minority leader ... because the House has 3 more republicans, NOW, than it has democrats.

Who keeps pushing this Koolaid?

Democrats think that if they hoot it up (like raving maniacs, that once only appeared in the 'right' sky), they're going to rebuild their party.

I think it's on par with a cargo cult.

But it's going to take a crushing defeat for democrats to figure this out. THere's much too much entertainment value in Schwartzenegger to think there's handwriting on the wall ...

But the democrats your grandparents knew (who voted for FDR, Truman, and JFK), are not the people who are tight into this club right now.

Sure, it's nice to have a Hollywood following. But, doesn't some of this peel away if Schwartzenegger won as a republican. ANd, 'ditto,' Dennis Miller also considers himself one?

Parties change. And, to be vibrant it's nice to win legislative seats.

Gray Davis' behaviors are so out of touch with reality that no one on the democratic side can even see the ads ahead. You won't need Willy Horton to knock out a 'contendah.' You'll get the gift that keeps on giving ... Gray Davis will be responsible for single handedly handing this state over to Karl Rove's excellent machine.

Stop screaming.

Posted by: Carol in California at October 21, 2003 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

NC nailed it on the head.

However the definition of ?extreme? as used by Calpundit and his follower travelers here is ?any policy I do not like or any policy advocated by a person or party I do not like? whereas ?moderate? is defined as ?any policy I do like or any policy advocated by a person or party I like.? It has nothing to do with whether or not a particular policy is in or out of the ?mainstream? of American thought.

Calling Bush an ?extremist? while trying to label someone like Howard ?I Nearly Tripled State Spending in Eleven Years? Dean as a ?moderate? is simply a spin job by the Democrats because they frankly have no real issues they can win with in 2004.

The economy is getting better and will probably be roaring by next November, real progress has been made on the War on Terror including in Iraq, and the budget deficit is because Democrats got most of the spending increases they wanted. Add to that expected GOP gains in the House and the Senate and the upset in California and it is no wonder that they are so desperate.

Barring any major calamity, the GOP will probably increase their (virtually unprecedented) 2002 gains in 2004 and we will finally be able to deal with the entitlement mess created by Democrats who have demonstrated zero interest in fixing or mitigating the damage done by their favorite Ponzai schemes.

Posted by: Thorley Winston at October 22, 2003 06:44 AM | PERMALINK

Lileks has an exellent post today (10/23), where he points out how marginalized the democrats are becoming with their anti-war stance. Daschle is doing Bush more favors than you can imagine.

Bush isn't doing anything at all and his numbers are bouncing upwards (again).

If the fault for this lays in the way the democrats handle the ball, the best favor you can do for the democrats is to advise them that they're losing the game. (Some people have already walked out of the stands and gone home.)

Will politics change soon? IF the money factor means there's one side spending bucket-fulls of money and losing ANYWAY ... And, then you see creeps like Gray Davis signing away California's future in deals with the Indians (who can now build yet another casino, and give the State a measily 5%) ... you've got to wonder what are the democratic leaders realling thinking?

You've got the 3 grandmas, Pelosi, Boxer and Feinstein, no longer proving they know how to shove a tampon in ... meaning they couldn't find their brains now, with both hands free ...

And, you talk about Bush as if the republicans have done anything except CAPITALIZE on the stupidities of democratic clowns?

Oh, well, it never really mattered to the stoners 'what was happening, man' ... and now you're collecting this inheritance.

WHY CAN'T THE DEMOCRATS WHO WOULD LIKE TO SEE A MORE VIABLE PARTY EMERGE (before it gets to crash again) ... why can't the PEOPLE inform the idiots ... just the way some candidates are now 'informing' Iowan's ... Heck, the party may be over? You think?

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