America the Beautiful: Has it All Come Down to Labeling – Liberal or Conservative,
Patriot or Sympathizer?
By Bernard Levy
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being labeled by someone who doesn’t know what he or she is talking about.
President Bush, his advisors and administration deftly and wrongfully have used the terms “liberal” and “liberals” to label patriotic, caring, questioning Democrats as unprincipled, unpatriotic Americans, Americans who back down in the face of terrorism. They label all Democrats as Liberals and charge that all such Liberals do not support the government in its efforts to combat terrorism and its accompanying evils.
Karl Rove, Bush’s Deputy Chief of Staff, brilliantly conducted President Bush’s last two campaigns, smearing those opposed to Bush and his policies in inflammatory and anti-American rhetoric, railing against all Democrats and the Democratic Party by slathering the term “liberal” all over them. Needless to say, Rove’s tactics worked.
What is important to note is that the terms “liberal” and “liberalism” were originally held dear by the G.O.P. party and favored by such famous and important authorities in economics and government as Adam Smith, who wrote “The Wealth of Nations” in 1776; Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and even a current conservative economist, Milton Friedman. These persons believed (Mr. Friedman still does) in “classic liberalism,” a political ideology that embraces individual rights, private property and a laissez-faire economy, a government that protects the liberties of each individual and promotes a Constitution that protects individuals from governmental power. That’s today’s credo of a Libertarian.
A Classical Liberal believes in private property, free markets, economic competition, limited government, the rule of law and individual rights and focuses on the individual, freedom, reason, justice and tolerance.
Before you cut me off and stop reading, it’s true that modern liberalism deviates from this strict “liberal” definition because it supports the use of government to achieve a variety of goals, such as “social justice” and “economic equality.”
Karl Rove and his people didn’t mess around with definitions and technicalities and kept it simple; that’s what most people wanted, because it’s easier to understand.
Let’s consider current events, particularly the defeat of Senator Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary last week. Many mainstream media (MSM) commentators, columnists and analysts are getting it wrong. They have painted the winner of the primary, Ned Lamont, as a liberal candidate dedicated to cutting and running from Iraq. Other commentators, particularly those of a Democratic bent, insist that it is a voter reaction against the policies and practices of President Bush, including deceptions, mismanagement and miscalculations in entering into and running the Iraqi war; in other words, it’s a negative response to President Bush.
Well, folks, George W. Bush is not running for anything in the near future; it’s not about that, but about sensible, realistic, understandable and honest government.
I live in a conservative community where most of the inhabitants voted for and still support the war effort. These voters feel that the damn liberals are ruining our country, and President Bush is right in maintaining his stand on Iraq. However, there comes a time in every citizen’s life (actually many times) when that person must consider current facts and make informed and intelligent decisions. These decisions should include what an elected official has declared in the past and is saying in the present. President Bush and the military have stated that, if Iraq turns into a civil war, we will take leave of that country.
Well, civil war has been occurring for many months, and continues. Although Muslim clerics have appealed to their minions to cease the blood-letting, it’s not working. For reasons that would take too long to list here, there have been centuries of differences between the Sunnis and the Shiites in Iraq and elsewhere, and these differences continue to be debated, not only in words but now in blood.
Timing in life is everything; the U.S. has had ample time and money to equip and train Iraqi military and police to assume the protective functions in that nation, but we have squandered these many opportunities at great cost. Corruption, an activity that often follows a change of government, is rampant in Iraq, both within the government and otherwise. Most importantly, our sons, daughters, husbands and wives continue to both sustain serious physical and mental injuries and die.
Second to these injuries and deaths, and the death of countless innocent civilians, is the tremendous economic toll that has been imposed upon us; estimates of the cost of the war range from three-quarters to a full one trillion dollars or more. We have to accept that burden, yet we haven’t begun to sell war bonds as we did in prior major conflagrations.
Thirdly, our complete mismanagement of the Iraq war and our tactical and diplomatic decisions and efforts have not endeared us to the world community. Make no mistake about it, it clearly is a world community today with a global awareness of events, deeds and words.
A basic G.O.P. mantra is the familiar saying, “The best government is the government that governs least.” Smaller and more effective government has been the watchword of the G.O.P. for years. Take a look at the federal government now; true, we’re under great pressure from terrorism, within and without, and we must take suitable measures to effectively protect ourselves. However, honestly examine our bloated government, its greatly increased bureaucracy and the many examples of mismanagement.
I am a Democrat and believe in most of the classical liberalism message – strong individual rights and the protection of the liberty of each individual, ownership and use of private property. But, I also believe in a “modified laissez-faire” economic structure. As was accurately proven in our most recent recession, businesses unfettered by reasonable and effective government controls go irresponsibly wild. They must be monitored and even sanctioned, when necessary.
In answer to the question, “Are we (the government) our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper?” I respond that we are to the extent that we can and should be responsible, particularly in those areas in which individuals cannot protect themselves. Most of all, as a fiscally responsible Liberal, I believe we must have a balanced budget and live within our means. I wonder how many Congresspersons balance their own checkbooks? That would be a revealing survey, wouldn’t it?
Yes, I am a Democrat and a Liberal who believes that when a policy has failed, it’s time to recognize the failed policy and get on with life. I am not a cut-and-run advocate. I am not anti-war. When and where there is a real threat, we should fight like “hell.” But, in these times, we must pick our fights intelligently and with meaningful military intelligence. The Bush Administration’s actions have weakened our military capabilities, and I anticipate some “real fights” are looming on the horizon.
We must protect this country against terrorism and real enemies. We must maintain a strong and healthy economy, as well as a powerful military. We must attend to those domestic needs that have gone unattended for these past six years.
Take that, President Bush, Vice-President Cheney and Karl Rove! Put that in your failed policies pipe and smoke it!