My experience is that the two propositions set forth in the preceding paragraph are articles of faith among this crowd. The first -- distrust of U.S. power -- is the searing lesson of the Vietnam era. The second -- disdain for traditional religion -- is the lesson of the culture war. I may be wrong about this, but before confessing error I'd need to see, at a minimum, a satisfactory explanation for the intellectual left's hatred of President Bush that does not incorporate either of my two propositions, or others similarly fatal to the formation of a coalition with evangelicals.
Did someone call my name (I don't know if I qualify as part of the "intellectual left." I PLAN on being an academic, and my age isn't my fault!)? My immense distaste for President Bush stems from neither of the two premises Powerline puts out. The primary motivation for my ire is how Bush has delegitimized the exercise of U.S. power on the global stage, possibly for decades. I've already outlined the negative impacts of a world with an insular US, and I'm sure Powerline needs no persuasion on the matter. However, if it is important for the US to exercise power, than it must be EQUALLY important to create a climate in which US exercise of power to solve problems is supported, or at least tolerated. By undermining that sentiment, Bush has done the US (and the world) an immense disservice. In this respect, I loathe Bush for the OPPOSITE reason than the one ascribed by Powerline: It is my belief in the positive potential of US power that motivates my anger toward Bush's policies. I see him as destroying an ideal I deeply believe through arrogance, incompetence, and shortsightedness. An analogy that might work for Powerline would be if Bush was anti-tax zealot (not a hard picture)--but he expressed it by ONLY cutting taxes for millionaires. Powerline might be upset at the specific policy--I don't know--but it would be livid that now the whole enterprise of cutting taxes would be delegitimized by the idiotic actions taken in its name.
From a religious perspective, my faith dictates the extension of common decency to all mankind. Regardless of what I believe in private life, it is an important component of my spiritual beliefs that I believe them because I choose to, not because the government mandates them. I reject any attempt to impose religious views, whether I share them or not, on the population, because it is degrading to MY faith. Bush's cynical promotion of the FMA, which sought to degrade a class of human beings solely for the electoral benefit to be gained from it, was religiously offensive to me. And his and his allies' attempt to justify on the grounds of "Judeo-Christian morality," as if Jewish and Christian morality are remotely similar, was a distortion of historical realities (cf. Arthur A. Cohen, "The Myth of The Judeo-Christian Tradition," (New York: Harper & Row, 1957); Jacob Neusner, "Jews and Christians: The Myth of a Common Tradition" (London: SCM Press, 1991); and Stephen M. Feldman, "Please Dont Wish Me a Merry Christmas: A Critical History of the Separation of Church and State." (New York: New York University Press, 1997), esp. 17-18 and 258-59) that sought to falsely incorporate my religious views into his oppressive ideology. I'll concede that this stance of mine may not make for an easy common cause with evangelicals, but it is equally not an expression on my part that all religious persons (of whom a count myself as one) are "rubes."
Those are my biggest reasons, but others abound. The most important article on this is Jonathan Chait's aptly named article "Mad About You: The Case for Bush Hatred." Some of Chait's reasons are simply visceral emotion (and he is the first to admit it), but not all of them. A few of the reasons include Bush's extremism:
Clinton offended liberals time and again, embracing welfare reform, tax cuts, and free trade, and nominating judicial moderates. When budget surpluses first appeared, he stunned the left by reducing the national debt rather than pushing for more spending. Bush, on the other hand, has developed into a truly radical president. Like Ronald Reagan, Bush crusaded for an enormous supply-side tax cut that was anathema to liberals. But, where Reagan followed his cuts with subsequent measures to reduce revenue loss and restore some progressivity to the tax code, Bush proceeded to execute two additional regressive tax cuts. Combined with his stated desire to eliminate virtually all taxes on capital income and to privatize Medicare and Social Security, it's not much of an exaggeration to say that Bush would like to roll back the federal government to something resembling its pre-New Deal state.
When the September 11 attacks gave Bush an opportunity to unite the country, he simply took it as another chance for partisan gain. He opposed a plan to bolster airport security for fear that it would lead to a few more union jobs. When Democrats proposed creating a Department of Homeland Security, he resisted it as well. But later, facing controversy over disclosures of pre-September 11 intelligence failures, he adopted the idea as his own and immediately began using it as a cudgel with which to bludgeon Democrats. The episode was telling: Having spent the better part of a year denying the need for any Homeland Security Department at all, Bush aides secretly wrote up a plan with civil service provisions they knew Democrats would oppose and then used it to impugn the patriotism of any Democrats who did--most notably Georgia Senator Max Cleland, a triple-amputee veteran running for reelection who, despite his support for the war with Iraq and general hawkishness, lost his Senate race thanks to an ugly GOP ad linking him to Osama bin Laden.
And, while there has been no shortage of liberal hysteria over Bush's foreign policy, it's not hard to see why it scares so many people. I was (and remain) a supporter of the war in Iraq. But the way Bush sold it--by playing upon the public's erroneous belief that Saddam had some role in the September 11 attacks--harkened back to the deceit that preceded the Spanish-American War. Bush's doctrine of preemption, which reserved the right to invade just about any nation we desired, was far broader than anything he needed to validate invading a country that had flouted its truce agreements for more than a decade. While liberals may be overreacting to Bush's foreign policy decisions-- remember their fear of an imminent invasion of Syria?--the president's shifting and dishonest rationales and tendency to paint anyone who disagrees with him as unpatriotic offer plenty of grounds for suspicion.
One might disagree with some or all of these, although at least a few of them should be roots for common cause between liberals and evangelicals (both, for example, hold value systems which would support more government spending to alleviate the ails of poverty). But they stretch beyond "irrational." Insofar as liberals and conservatives value different things, liberals might dislike Bush for some of the very reasons Conservatives laud him. But there are certain facets of Bush's presidency that should be detested by all members of the political spectrum. The excessive indulgence in partisanship, the poor handle on foreign policy, and the tendency toward extremism in lieu of compromise all spring to mind. If there is a group of Bush haters whose feelings are beyond the scope of rationality, there is another sect of us who share many common values with our Conservative brethren--if only they would acknowledge them.