There is a reasonable worry voiced by Jonathan Chait in The New Republic about right-wing, over-the-top rhetoric, and its deleterious effects on the health-care debate, and he references inter alia Rick Perlstein for support. But the essay should become the locus classicus for the problem with all this sudden liberal angst as President Obama’s polls dive.
It was Jonathan Chait himself who wrote a 2003 essay, ”The Case For Bush Hatred: Mad About You” that began with the inflamatory “I hate President George W. Bush,” a piece that became emblematic of a visceral furor that in those years did much to poison politics.
And Rick Perlstein? I think he was the same author of a Village Voice article about Bush sucking American democracy dry, accompanied by a creepy cartoon picture of President Bush as a hideous vampire with his bloody fangs on the exposed neck of the Statue of Liberty (on the level with much of the blood-libel pop art in the Arab world directed at Israel).
Graphic expressions of such hatred at the time earned not much rebuke from liberals. Many think that the present screaming at legislators at town halls becomes rude when replies are booed down and it descends into agit-prop. And the “birthers” follow no logic and should cease. But much of this over-the-top expression was matched or trumped by the very voices who now want it stopped — once Obama began to experience a fraction of what the present critics themselves unleashed against Bush.
If we are all not careful, the republic is heading toward the brawling days of Milo and Claudius. But those who proclaimed in print “I hate George Bush” unfortunately won’t convince any now to rein in their own trademark venom.