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After the Battle: Don't Raise Taxes A Very American Hero

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How Much Ruthlessness is Enough?

by Christopher Chantrill
May 24, 2005 at 3:58 am


A COUPLE of weeks ago the left-wing blogger Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos told us what the Angry Left is all about.

“We will be quick, ruthless, and diligent. We won’t show mercy, because we haven’t gotten any. We will play their game, and play it better. And we will prevail.”

He was talking about the grand plan of the Angry Left to stop the GOP nuclear option dead in its tracks. When the GOP triggers the nuclear option on the nomination of Priscilla Owen to the U.S. Court of Appeals, they will text-message all their friends and swamp the Senate switchboard with calls.

It makes sense that Kos and his lefty friends should believe in ruthlessness. It’s been a feature of the anti-capitalist movement ever since Marx and Engels spent their days ruthlessly purging and repurging the nascent socialist movement back in the nineteenth century. The revolutionary tradition worships the ruthless strike, the one savage coup that will transform the world. Lenin conceded nothing in the ruthlessness department, and his best-known epigone was recently featured in the movie Downfall lecturing his pretty blonde secretaries about the importance of ruthlessness—just hours before his whole revolutionary project collapsed in ruins. He seemed to think that his only fault was that he had been too soft.

When Kos & Co. justify their ruthlessness by insisting that they must play the game that the Republicans are playing, but “play it better,” they misunderstand the nature of the conservative project. Republicans know better than to be ruthless. First of all, Republican ruthlessness never plays well in the mainstream media. And secondly, Republicans actually believe all that silly stuff about playing by the rules. That is why they are called the stupid party.

If there is a defining characteristic of conservatives and Republicans it is not ruthlessness. Instead, they are relentless. If you look at the great conservative heroes, their great virtue was their relentless commitment to the conservative project, day in, day out, year in, year out.

They said that Ronald Reagan was a lightweight, an amiable dunce. But it turns out that he was fooling us. Reagan worked relentlessly—on his ideas, on his speeches, on his weekly radio addresses, and endlessly answering letters from the American people. But he projected an deceptive image of amiable ease, and his political adversaries bought the deception.

Some Democrats have started to wake up to the relentless nature of the conservative movement. They want to block the conservative message machine with a magic bullet, a message machine of their own, as if they were not already fielding a vast army of think tanks, universities, media, the left-wing activist community, and now the on-line fever swamp of MoveOn.org and DailyKos.com.

But mostly all they can think up is ruthlessness. In opposing the president’s foreign policy they have done a fine job ruthlessly exposing every mistake and abuse that the U.S. armed forces have committed in Iraq and Afghanistan and have trumpeted each one to the hills. They spent three months fearlessly exposing and re-exposing the Abu Ghraib scandal and now are ruthlessly digging up two-year-old dirt in Afghanistan. Next, we are all meant to be shocked at the Pentagon’s perfidy in allowing photos of Saddam in his skivvies to be published on the front page of The Sun and The New York Post.

The message of the abuse scandals may be rather different than the left supposes. Here and there, people may be noticing that in the American imperium abuses get investigated and grievances get redressed. The soldiers of Abu Ghraib got court-martialed; the abusers of Bagram Air Force Base eventually were charged with crimes. And Saddam can sue—from his jail cell—for suffering the humiliation of being featured not The Sun’s world famous Page 3 but on Page One.

No doubt the vaunted Arab Street is outraged at the perfidy of the hated Americans that piled prisoners in a heap, flushed Korans down the toilet, and published embarrassing photos of the deposed Saddam. And they should be. But they may be even more impressed as they witness the United States investigate, triy, and convict the perpetrators of these abuses. They are more familiar with the kind of justice that used to be available to the fathers of the many nubile young Iraqi maidens defiled by Saddam’s late sons.

Kos and his chums should think about where all their ruthlessness and diligence and mercilessness will lead them. How ruthless will they have to get to prevail against President Bush and his relentless policies of putting conservative judges on the bench in the United States and planting democracy in the Middle East? The record of history and the verdict of superhero comics suggest that there is not much to ruthless people—except ruthlessness.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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presented by Christopher Chantrill

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