The End of Argument
Victor Davis Hanson writes that if you type "Bush + Hitler" into a Google search, the result is 1,350,000 hits. Virtually every major figure in the Bush administration has been compared to some Nazi official or other. Bush has been likened to Hannibal Lecter, Ted Bundy, Mussolini, Napoleon, Nero, Caligula, and the Japanese warlords of World War II. Howard Dean, who says he hates Republicans and considers them evil, recently introduced a Communist theme, charging that Republicans "are essentially the best propaganda machine since Lenin."
We may be into another big anti-Clinton assault, this one aimed at Hillary Rodham Clinton. Last week a breathless item on the Drudge Report said that an anti-Hillary book, out next September, will be the equivalent of the Swift Boat Veterans campaign against John Kerry and may well derail her chances to be president. This is a cringe-making prospect. Do we really need yet another major assault on a prominent politician, or can we spend some time discussing actual issues?
We have reached the point where much political debate consists of insults and name-calling, every attack is likely to be called a "lynching," and tired expressions such as "institutional terrorism," "institutional racism," and "intellectual McCarthyism" are supposed to be taken as real arguments. Political polarization is an obvious cause. But so is the democratization of the media, particularly the arrival of the Internet and big-time talk radio, which allow all of us to say whatever we like, no matter how crude. Mail to columnists is much more abusive than it was a few years ago. Inarticulate people, many of them celebrities, are finding it hard to make their cases without lapsing into abuse. So political discussion more and more consists of angry feelings instead of rational argument. Our political rhetoric is routinely awful. Let's work to clean it up.