American History, Bush Administration, conservatism

Per Glenn Greenwald, don’t miss this audio essay by rightie Rod Dreher.

As President Bush marched the country to war with Iraq, even some voices on the Right warned that this was a fool’s errand. I dismissed them angrily. I thought them unpatriotic.

But almost four years later, I see that I was the fool.

In Iraq, this Republican President for whom I voted twice has shamed our country with weakness and incompetence, and the consequences of his failure will be far, far worse than anything Carter did.

The fraud, the mendacity, the utter haplessness of our government’s conduct of the Iraq war have been shattering to me.

It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this. Not under a Republican President.

Like so many loyal soldiers of movement conservatism, Dreher’s earliest political memories are of the Carter Administration and the Iranian hostage crisis, followed by the triumphant ascension of Ronald Reagan. He was 13 years old when Reagan was elected, so you can’t fault him for viewing these events through a child’s eyes. The problem is, as it is with so many of his fellow travelers, that his understanding of politics remained childish. He seems to have retained a child’s simple faith that Democrats (and liberals) are “bad” and Republicans (and conservatives) are “good,” so one does not have to think real hard to know who’s right or wrong. In the minds of righties, Republicans/conservatives have an inherent virtue that keeps them on the side of the angels. What passes for “critical analysis” among righties is most often just the unconscious jerking of their knees in support of their faith.

Dreher’s is the voice of a man who realizes his faith has been betrayed.

As I sat in my office last night watching President Bush deliver his big speech, I seethed over the waste, the folly, the stupidity of this war.

I had a heretical thought for a conservative – that I have got to teach my kids that they must never, ever take Presidents and Generals at their word – that their government will send them to kill and die for noble-sounding rot – that they have to question authority.

On the walk to the parking garage, it hit me. Hadn’t the hippies tried to tell my generation that? Why had we scorned them so blithely?

The answers to your questions, Mr. Dreher, are (1) yes, and (2) because you were brainwashed. As I wrote here,

I noticed years ago that the rank-and-file “movement conservative” is younger than I am. Well, OK, most people are younger than I am. But surely you’ve noticed that a disproportionate number of True Believers are people who reached their late teens / early twenties during the Carter or Reagan years at the earliest. They came of age at the same time the right-wing media / think tank infrastructure began to dominate national political discourse, and all their adult lives their brains have been pickled in rightie propaganda.

Because they’re too young to remember When Things Were Different, they don’t recognize that the way mass media has handled politics for the past thirty or so years is abnormal. What passes for our national political discourse — as presented on radio, television, and much print media — is scripted in right-wing think tanks and media paid for by the likes of Joseph Coors, Richard Mellon Scaife, and more recently by Sun Myung Moon. What looks like “debate” is just puppet theater, presented to manipulate public opinion in favor of the Right.

In this puppet theater “liberals” (booo! hisss!) are the craven, cowardly, and possibly demented villains, and “conservatives” are the noble heroes who come to the rescue of the virtuous maid America. Any American under the age of 40 has had this narrative pounded into his head his entire life. Rare is the individual born after the Baby Boom who has any clue what “liberalism” really is. Ask, and they’ll tell you that liberals are people who “believe in” raising taxes and spending money on big entitlement programs, which of course is bad. (Read this to understand why it’s bad.)

Just one example of how the word liberal has been utterly bastardized, see this Heritage Foundation press release of March 2006 that complains Congress is becoming “liberal.” Why? Because of its pork-barrel spending.

But I want to say something more about betrayal. One piece left out of most commentary on the freaks (not hippies, children; the name preferred by participants of the counterculture was freaks) was how betrayed many of us felt. Remember, we’d been born in the years after World War II. We’d spent our childhoods dramatizing our fathers’ struggles on Normandy Beach and Iwo Jima in our suburban back yards. Most of us watched “Victory at Sea” at least twice. Most of our childhood heroes were characters out of American mythos, like Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone (who seemed an awful lot alike). Further, some of the scariest times of the Cold War unfolded during our elementary and middle schools years. We grew up believing the Communists would nuke us any second. Our schools (even Sunday School, as I recall) and media made sure we were thoroughly indoctrinated with the understanding that liberty and democracy were “good” and Communism was “bad,” and America Is the Greatest Nation in the World.

For many of us, these feelings reached their apex during the Kennedy administration. I was nine years old when he was elected. He seemed to embody everything that was noble and good and heroic about America. I remember his tour of Europe the summer before the assassination. I watched his motorcade move through cheering crowds on our black-and-white console television and never felt prouder to be an American.

But then our hearts were broken in Dallas, and less than two years later Lyndon Johnson announced he would send troops to Vietnam. And then the young men of my generation were drafted into the meat grinder. Sooner or later, most of us figured out our idealism had been misplaced. I was one of the later ones; the realization dawned for me during the Nixon Administration, which began while I was a senior in high school. Oh, I still believed in liberty and democracy; I felt betrayed because I realized our government didn’t. And much of my parents’ generation didn’t seem to, either.

The counterculture was both a backlash to that betrayal and to the cultural rigidity of the 1950s. And much of “movement conservatism” was a backlash to the counterculture, albeit rooted in the pseudo-conservatism documented earlier by Richard Hofstadter and others.

(And how weird is it that anyone is still talking about “hippies”? Did some hippiechick sitter drop Dreher on his head when he was a baby?)

Rod Dreher and others of his generation are now old enough that their children are at least approaching adolescence, if they haven’t already arrived. What “earliest political memory” will imprint on them? What form will the inevitable rebellion against their parents’ generation take?

Update: Sorta kinda related — Jonathan Zasloff speculates how much the Carter/Iranian hostage crisis episode caused the Dems to lose credibility on foreign policy. The fact is, to get the whole sad story of how the Dems lost credibility on foreign policy you have to go back to the 1940s. And it has little to do with anything the Dems actually did, or didn’t, do.

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  1. grannyeagle  •  Jan 13, 2007 @11:19 am

    Maha: I am older than you. I was 21 when Kennedy was elected. I didn’t know much about politics then, not even now, but I felt good about him being president. I think it was mostly that he inspired me. Although I was married and had three kids and far removed from the “hippie” culture, today people refer to me as an old hippie. Guess there are some things you can’t hide.
    My heart was also broken when he was assassinated and no politician has arisen that can replace him. Seems kind of silly as I think about it cause it must be emotional. But so be it!
    Over the years, I have become more jaded which may be good, may be bad.
    I would like your opinion on Barack Obama as he is invoking the same feelings in me that Kennedy did. Is there hope? Grannyeagle

  2. Incertus  •  Jan 13, 2007 @11:44 am

    I have to wonder how much class plays a part in Dreher’s continued conservatism. I was a child of the Reagan era as well–12 when he was elected–and I found myself relating to the very feelings he described. But here’s the difference. When I finished high school, I didn’t go to college right away. I grew up in a trailer in south Louisiana in a fundamentalist home and that wasn’t much of an option at the time. Instead, I went to work and got married and had a kid right off the bat, and found myself in the first Bush administration’s economy trying hard just to feed myself. That’s when I realized the Reagan rhetoric was crap and began my move toward the political left. If I’d grown up in different circumstances, had different opportunities, I might never have seen the world the way I do know.

    And man, would I be an asshole.

  3. Common Sense  •  Jan 13, 2007 @11:44 am

    It’s always seemed to me that the virulent anti-hippie feelings of so many guys on the right are really “None of those free love hippie chicks would do me.” rejection reactions. Just like the anger of so many non-dating young Arab men…

    just thinkin out loud about it

  4. maha  •  Jan 13, 2007 @11:55 am

    Incertus — good point. A lot of them are upper-middle class AND forty-something, you’re right.

  5. randron  •  Jan 13, 2007 @11:58 am

    Thank you! I am one year older than you, so your memories and mine are virtually the same. Here’s another thought about our generation.

    Our parents were raised (many of them) during hard times; namely the Great Depression and WWII. But THEIR government was competent and AT LEAST, trying to do what was right in a competent and compassionate way. I know that all of Roosevelt’s programs were not unqualified successes and that we didn’t win every battle in WWII, but government truly WAS trying to help people and protect the “American Way of Life.”

    When Johnson and Nixon started doing their “thing,” they were apparently NOT trying to do what what was right in a competent and compassionate way. They lied to us; they succumbed to the influence and pressures of the “Miliatary Industrial Complex” that President Eisenhower had so passionately tried warn us about. But my parents simply could not allow themselves to believe that their government would lie to them; or that it would be willing to send their children to die so that coporatists could make more money. They believed in the goodness of American GOVERNMENT, instead of the goodness of AMERICA!

  6. wmr  •  Jan 13, 2007 @12:00 pm

    Another Republican betrayal: Eisenhower took over VietNam from the French after DienBenPhu. Kennedy and Johnson were stuck with the tarbaby because they knew the Republicans would use it against them. “Who lost SouthEast Asia?

  7. mbb  •  Jan 13, 2007 @12:04 pm

    all you guys need to learn your history… carter didn’t fuck up the hostage situation… the republicans were dealing with iranians in the backroom, and delayed the release of hostages till after the election to make carter look bad.


    “JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Bob Parry, in politics at every election time there’s always talk of an “October surprise” that will affect an election. And obviously the phrase “October surprise” actually goes back to even before this Iran-Contra scandal: the election in 1980 between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Could you talk at all about — was Bob Gates, did he have any role and involvement in that first alleged October surprise?

    ROBERT PARRY: Well, when we were doing the Iran-Contra investigations, one of the mysteries was when it really started, and we were able to trace it back initially to 1984, when there were these contacts between some Iranians and some Israelis and some former CIA people, which sort of led to the scandal that we knew at the time. But as we went back, we learned that there the shipments of weapons did not begin in 1985, as we had first thought, but really back in 1981. So we had to look at some of these issues of these allegations that were sort of longstanding from some people who had sort of been in the intelligence world that there had been earlier contacts, that during the 1980 campaign, when 52 Americans were being held hostage in Iran and Jimmy Carter was trying desperately to get them out, that the Republicans went behind his back, first to get information, but also then to make contacts with the Iranians directly.

    And the evidence on this has built up over time. We now have a lot of documents. We have some records from that period. We have statements from former Iranian officials, including the former Iranian president, Banisadr, the former defense minister, the former foreign minister, all of whom saying that they had these dealings with the Republicans behind the scenes. So, as we went back through that, the evidence built up that there had been these earlier contacts and that Bob Gates was one of the people involved in them. “

  8. redwretch  •  Jan 13, 2007 @12:10 pm

    IMHO, Rod Dreher, at age 40, has finally matured, and joined the adults who know independent thought requires the application of common sense.

    Common sense requires the results be compared to the claims made pre-action. Accountability to conservatives, in this segment of history, has absolutely zero to do with the comparison of claims vs. results, but is predicated on the trust of a cult of personality.

    Although he is miles above Stalin, the despot of measure even 60 years later, the basis of Bush 43’s true power resides purely on a trust given to the leader, clearly not earned by any measurable unit, by faith from hordes of people like Rod Dreher.

    That Bush 43 is losing people like Rod is, of course, welcomed by those of us in the ‘hippies’ camp.

    In 2007, how anyone can take a US Defence Dept. spokesman’s word at face value, let alone the White House, or a Congress-person’s word, is amazing to me.

    Common sense requires that one apply a very basic set of weights and measures to every utterance of this bunch.

    I’m not an American. Unfortunately, in today’s world, it’s apparently excusable that these groups lie to me. It is inexcusable that they lie to US citizens, Congress, amd residents at all, let alone daily, as has been Bush 43’s sad performance.

    At least, even at 40 years old, some of the idiots, like Rod used to be, have had to confront their egregious errors in judgement.

    It gives me hopes, Barbara, just as you and GG do.

  9. randron  •  Jan 13, 2007 @12:11 pm

    To finish my thoughts:

    We “freaks” saw through the lies and hypocrisy – something our parents simply were not wired to do. Near the end of Nixon’s reign, my parents began to see just how corrupt government could be. They were crushed, disillusioned, and sorely disappointed.

    Most of us hippies went on to successful lives in our various careers; some even becoming conservatives. But instead of believing that our government was good, conservatives became convinced that ALL government was bad.

    Now, hopefully, we have begun to realize that American GOVERNMENT is NEVER without sin. But what we need to consider is whether or not our government is trying to do RIGHT in a competent and compassionate way, or whether it has been co-opted by the corporate interests of the MIC.

    We know where the Bush Administration stands; we know where their interests lie. They do NOT care about their citizens; they do not care about “The American Way.” They have gutted our Constitution, done away with checks and balances, and have shown an unswerving willingness to send our best and brightest to their deaths for what? PROFIT! CRONYISM! THE LUST FOR POWER!

    The “freaks” were right! Love our country and the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the rule of law, but ALWAYS be skeptical of the GOVERNMENT! They are NOT the same thing! We “hippies” saw that in the sixties and seventies. Now, we see history repeating itself and it makes us sick, and sad, and resolved to stand up and resist, again, when our government goes astray!

  10. Michael  •  Jan 13, 2007 @12:11 pm

    Rod Dreher used to come to our Progressive Student Network meetings in Baton Rouge back in the 80’s (roughly 1986-1989 or thereabouts). I dunno: maybe he DID hate us with a passion. Or maybe he was sent to “monitor” our activities by a conservative group or something like that.

    Not that we cared: we had nothing to hide, and our major activities were, I guess, of the educate/agitate variety–lit tables, small demonstrations, a little bit of street theater…after all, LSU isn’t exactly a progressive hotbed. Anyway, Dreher went to the meetings, attended at least some of the demos, and never expressed, at least to me, any underlying hatred of “hippies,” and I remember speaking to him several times. Go figure.

    Then again, maybe he’s just so repressed that it took him all this time to finally let his inner angst out.

    Or maybe he’s remembering that, while sure, we had long(ish) hair, smoked weed when we could afford it, and drank a lot of cheap beer back then, we were fundamentally RIGHT about the issues we felt were important, and that the folks on the other side of the fence are the same mental midgets who now have us stuck in Iraq…and losing Afghanistan.

  11. janinsanfran  •  Jan 13, 2007 @12:13 pm

    I too am a little older than you. Cheer up — we’re out here trucking on, trucking on.

    I’ve been fortunate enough to spend much of the last 15 years working politically with a subset of the 20-40 set who are frequently somewhat immune to the media culture: young people of color. Oh sure, they get the garbage drummed into their heads too, but they come to it with the gut knowledge that they are lied to, day in and day out. And some have the idealism to think this country could do better and that is worth working on.

    California has sunk into a morass of public squalor through the effort of the wingers, but we have a lot of very promising young folks coming up.

  12. Wanderer  •  Jan 13, 2007 @12:13 pm

    Anyone with a modicum of reading skills should be aware that the main difference between the foreign policy of Jimmy Carter and the Republicans who suceeded him was that the Repbulicans were more than willing to pay tribute and grovel before those who were opposed to US interests.

    We know for a fact that Reagan sent a plane load of arms and the cake shaped like a Bible to beg for the release of American hostages.

    We know for a fact that Reagan turned a blind eye while the Chinese were providing nuclear weapons technology to Pakistan for fear of alienating the Saudis.

    That the those who supported such cowardice would also support the policies of a Petulant Coward like Bush is not the least bit surprising.

  13. maha  •  Jan 13, 2007 @12:13 pm

    mbb —

    all you guys need to learn your history… carter didn’t fuck up the hostage situation… the republicans were dealing with iranians in the backroom, and delayed the release of hostages till after the election to make carter look bad.

    Of course, but that wasn’t the subject of the post. (And don’t EVER presume to tell me that I need to learn history.)

  14. Art James (clownsense etc)  •  Jan 13, 2007 @12:14 pm

    Thanks for the insight and memories. My older sister cried so painfully when Bobby Kennedy was shot. The morning news tore our family up and apart. My sister, Katheleen, nicnamed ‘shaw,’ reminded me of you. My dad often called her Princess…Kathy just sent me a beautiful ‘paper’ she prepared from her work in hospice. The study she did as a youngster always meant she landed a ‘A’…A Sophia at the second from the H.S. top in the class. I got my education in ‘experiences’ with the flop-flop mired crowd you’ve represented fairly. Same-same, just so we learn. My sister is too esoteric for many ‘folk':…tunnel of light, bardo, nameste, slight bows when she speaks streams of…Light. Thanks.

  15. hell's kitchen  •  Jan 13, 2007 @12:18 pm

    I was 21 during Kennedy’s campaign and that was my first of many faithful votes as a citizen of this country. Unlike grannyeagle, above, I did know about politics. For better or worse, my parents treated my sister and I like little adults and as soon as we could put a sentence together we were expected to take part in dinner table talk about social and economic justice, the glory of our constitution and bill of rights, ethics, history and politics.

    My parents came out of the working class and, for them, the New Deal was not just the a new deal it was a New World. It changed the lives of millions of people and showed the true promise of democracy.

    Like many young people, when I was young I was intolerant of some of my elders, especially those who held conservative views. I remember an argument I had, at age 21, with an old man who was arguing a conservative viewpoint on local politics. I was sharp at the time and countered every argument of his with a liberal answer. Finally, the frustrated old man said: “You should listen to me because I have experience and I’m older and wiser than you.” And I answered, “Well, you know that there’s no fool like an old fool.”

    Despite the fact that I am still a liberal (“still crazy after all these years”), I’m embarressed by my youthful arrogance and disrespect.

    In my head are all the working class voices I heard as a child: the fireman, the bus driver, the switchboard operator, the midwife, the building superintendent, the waiter – wonderful voices of people who worked hard and were the salt of the earth.

    These voices live on only in some old movies, television shows like the Honeymooners, and in the heads of people like me. These people were FDR’s army – both civilian and military – and as important to understanding our heritage as studying our founding fathers.

  16. Brooklyn Girl  •  Jan 13, 2007 @12:26 pm

    The problem is, as it is with so many of his fellow travelers, that his understanding of politics remained childish.

    Which is not surprising considering Reagan’s simplistic rhetoric, which defined things in terms like “good” and “evil”, “right” and “wrong” … it was the era of dumbing down, and all nuance got lost in the process. When dealing with rigid extremes, creative debate and the free exchange of ideas cannot flourish. This does not mean we must move back to the center, which is what I am afraid might happen. It means we must embrace subtlety, shades of grey, and out-of-the-box thinking.

  17. Quentin  •  Jan 13, 2007 @12:27 pm

    When the Iraq disaster finally reaches its horrible end, which we can only speculate about, I would say the hostage affair in the U.S. embassy in Tehran will finally have come to a close. Before this Iraq disaster, no event has probably imprinted itself so strongly on the U.S. public’s mind, as Dreher and so many others can testify: the humiliation, the ‘unacceptable’ defiance of the U.S. And this all ultimately goes back to the glorious reign of the repressive King of Kings in Iran who was the darling of the U.S. and all the western countries, at least until he got ideas of reginoal hegemony in his head, which the present Iranian government is only continuing to play out, including their nuclear program,which, by the way, the U.S. helped to set up in Tehran in about 1953, after orchestrating the overthrow of the truly democratically chosen government. Much can be said about Ayatollah Khomeiny, for instance that his revolution has kept influencing and determining U.S. policy for the last quarter of a century. Over and over, the specter of Iran is invoked in Washington rites and rituals, maybe never so much as today. ‘Real men go the Tehran’, a right-winger famously said. I’ve only recently realized the meaning of the statement: the source of all our woes can only be cut off there. The present U.S. configuration of politicians and power brokers has unnecessarily made the country and the entire world a much unhappier place.

  18. jerry  •  Jan 13, 2007 @12:32 pm

    At 13 you are not a child, and though he was exposed to lots of bullshit, I would not say that “you were brainwashed.”, and 40 – 13 = 27.

    You are far too easy on Dreher.

  19. jayackroyd  •  Jan 13, 2007 @12:32 pm

    And how weird is it that anyone is still talking about “hippies”? And how weird is it that anyone is still talking about “hippies”?

    I think you can blame the blogosphere, particularly atrios, for that.

    It has become sardonic shorthand to characterize the continued dismissal of all of us (including Howard Dean, Russ Feingold and Scott Ritter) who were right as not being “Serious.”

  20. Dan Ancona  •  Jan 13, 2007 @12:42 pm

    Nice piece: a perfect example of starting to unspin their narrative and replace it with something a lot closer to reality. I’m younger (born in 1973) but I grapple with the results of thirty years of right wing marination every day in trying to organize my fellow Gen Xers. Very, very few of them have been able to cut through the slag of “common sense” that Reagan and his machine baked into their minds.

    The answer to your last question is that that data is already showing that Bush has created an army of more or less permanent Democrats in Gen Y. The rightie’s infrastructure is still formidable and will always be able to peel huge chunks of folks off and win elections, but there’s a persuadable leftward base there that simply did not exist six years ago.

  21. gisleson  •  Jan 13, 2007 @12:42 pm

    From one freak to another, well said.

  22. Doug  •  Jan 13, 2007 @12:45 pm

    Wonderful essay. Thank you. I found you through Glenn Greenwald.

    I was born in ’61, and somehow I escaped the conservative brainwashing. I often attribute this to my Berkeley education, but I think you’re right, our politics are shaped by much younger memories. For me, it was the Vietnam debacle and Nixon’s resignation. I saw the protesters as heroic figures, the returning vets as unfortunate victims of bad policy. Nixon and Watergate forever convinced me not to trust authority.

    I wonder if some folks have a powerful drive to believe in the goodness, righteousness of their leaders, and in the goodness of their country. It almost becomes an aspect of their self esteem, and God help you if you challenge that.

    We’re raising our son (11 years old) on Howard Zinn and Keith Olbermann. He questions everything. I doubt he’ll be easy to brainwash.

  23. RandyH  •  Jan 13, 2007 @12:47 pm

    Incertus tells a (sort of) similar story to my own. I was born in 1970 in Guam, a Navy brat. Ours was a staunchly republican lower-middle-class northern California family (I remember as a child putting Gerald Ford campaign literature on people’s doorsteps, even.) I liked Carter, but my parents always scowled about what a terrible president he was. I was too young to really understand this, though. Reagan inspired me to some degree with the space shuttle program, but blew it with his handling (if you can call it that) of the AIDS epidemic. Many good people around me were dying of a mysterious disease that the government refused to address as I was just leaving high school. As a closeted gay kid, this was very disturbing and showed what value our country that claimed to value “equality” and “diversity” placed on my sorry ass. Diane Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi became early political heroes to me after Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Milk were murdered and the AIDS epidemic was out of control. I still didn’t really understand the difference between Republicans and Democrats though.

    I couldn’t afford college either and worked on and off, going to a technical school. Then the Bush (41) recession happened and also a hurricane (Andrew?) that he was unprepared for and I realized that this guy hadn’t a clue about regular people”s lives. (remember the first time he saw a supermarket scanner? They’d been around for 15 years or so. Whew.)

    So, when the ’92 campaigns started up, I realized we needed something better. Paul Tsongas seemed like a good guy, but wasn’t charismatic enough. When asked in a town hall debate what a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread costs, Bill Clinton knew, while George Bush (41) looked at his watch and talked about how “people with means” shouldn’t be taxed for being successful and showed us his American Express card… ugh.

    Since then, I’ve seen the light and I’ve always been sceptical of the Neocon dreams of world domination. My rich kid friends from high school all went off to be successful republican idiots. Now they must be seeing the errors in their ways. Pity. Maybe I should actually go to a High School reunion and see how they’ve all turned out.

    Maha’s stories help me understand my parent’s generation a bit better, from a perspective I can relate to. My mother died a few years ago and my dad won’t talk about how he came to his political beliefs now that he realizes that by not questioning his leaders’ motives, we have allowed ourselves to repeat the unrepeatable… Vietnam. He stopped paying attention to current events (other than the weather) around the time of Katrina.

    After reading the (very inpsiring) Glenn Greenwald piece this morning, I am glad I found this one next. Thank you for all you do, Maha.

  24. maha  •  Jan 13, 2007 @12:50 pm

    At 13 you are not a child

    Are too, especially boys.

  25. maurinsky  •  Jan 13, 2007 @12:58 pm

    I was only 11 when Reagan was elected, but my parents were virulently anti-Reagan, because my father was a member of Carpenters Local 43. We were the only house in town that had Carter signs on our lawn in 1979.

    My politics are definitely shaped by my parents. My father always said the Republicans are for the rich, and the Democrats are for the working man. He believed it then, although we both feel that both parties are for the rich these days, and there are precious few elected officials who give a damn about the working man.

    I’m more socially liberal than my parents – my father is prejudiced against various minorities and doesn’t like to even think about homosexuality. My mother thinks “the gays” (as she calls them) deserve the same rights as everyone else.

    But none of us vote Republican.

    My husband was raised in a pretty staunch Republican environment, and with the exception of his mother, all of his family are now Democrats. That’s because of George W. Bush. My father-in-law, lifelong Republicans, was flabbergasted when Bush was chosen as the candidate. He couldn’t understand why everyone couldn’t see what a fool Bush was.

  26. maha  •  Jan 13, 2007 @1:00 pm

    Before this Iraq disaster, no event has probably imprinted itself so strongly on the U.S. public’s mind, as Dreher and so many others can testify: the humiliation, the ‘unacceptable’ defiance of the U.S.

    I can understand that, if you aren’t old enough to remember, say, the Cuban Missile Crisis or the Kennedy Assassination(s) or MLK’s assassination or the 1960s generally, that would seem to be so. To me, it was interesting at the time but I can’t say I was imprinted with it. I think I’d run out of room for imprinting. :-)

    For some reason, I can’t look back on the hostage crisis without thinking of Tony Orlando and Dawn. A grim and better forgotten time, I say.

  27. maurinsky  •  Jan 13, 2007 @1:00 pm

    I should have said that I agree with my mother about “the gays”!

  28. Nemo  •  Jan 13, 2007 @1:06 pm

    Dreher’s an idiot if the first major event he remembers is the Hostage Fiasco.

    I’m only a year older than Dreher, and my memories stretch waaaaay further back than ’79-’80. I remember vividly Carter’s speech the morning that the rescue attempt went so horribly wrong … but I also remember Watergate, Three Mile Island, Love Canal, “Hi, I’m Jimmy Carter, and I’m running for president” in ’76, a good chunk of the Nixon years, Vietnam, and — for good measure — the night HHH Jr. died. And I remember other kids talking about this stuff in school, too. I dunno, maybe Dreher’s head was just too deep in the paste jar to be paying attention to the rest of us — but we knew what was going on, and we were talking.

    And hippies: If Dreher was really paying attention, he would have noticed actual, in-the-flesh, hippies all around him when he was a kid, rather than the longhaired, patchouli-reeking monsters lurking in his closet. He still probably wouldn’t have liked them very much (I never did … or at least, I never took them seriously), but he wouldn’t have automatically associated them with Demon Liberalism.

  29. whig  •  Jan 13, 2007 @1:18 pm

    I was born in 1971, and grew up in a Republican household.

    Becoming liberal is something that takes more than time to think through. It requires communication. We need to be engaged with responses to our questions when they are respectful.

    You are dismissive of righties for good reason, they want to convert you to their very broken way of thinking.

    Those of us who are living through these events for the first time are nonetheless having to learn what will preserve what is good and end what is evil in the government.

    You may call me an idiot or other names, and I accept my limitations. I am not so old and wise.

  30. Undercover Blue  •  Jan 13, 2007 @1:23 pm

    As a kid in Chicago I spent many summer afternoons at the Montclair Theatre at Grand and Harlem. Double features were twenty-five cents. Many included war pictures. I saw “The Longest Day” there. (I was six when Kennedy was elected.)

    Americans were the good guys. We went to war reluctantly, only against countries that attacked us or our friends. The bad guys mistreated prisoners. Americans did not. It violated our principles. We were better than that. That’s what made us the good guys. For America, right made might.

    Vladimir Posner, for years the mouthpiece of the Soviet state, said in a 2005 interview how he recalled that when President Kennedy was shot, people on the streets of Moscow wept.

    This was the height of the Cold War, after the U-2 incident, the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban missile crisis. Muscovites may not have known much about American democracy or everyday life here, just the promise of the United States the youthful Kennedy represented.

    Kennedy was dead. Moscow wept. That was 1963.

    After the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, the French newspaper Le Monde proclaimed, “We are all Americans now.”

    By 2005 that goodwill had been squandered, lost in a thicket of secret prisons, torture, murder charges, beatings, abuse photos, “ghost detainees” and “extraordinary rendition” practiced by few and excused by too many inside and outside of this administration as justified by Sept. 11.

    It’s one thing to boast of conviction and principles. Holding onto them when tested is the real proof of character. That is perhaps what Benjamin Franklin meant at the close of the Constitutional Convention when asked whether delegates had crafted a republic or a monarchy. “A republic,” he replied, “if you can keep it.” A decade earlier, signers of the Declaration of Independence pledged to defend principles they held dear with their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. There was no footnote saying, “in case of terrorist attack, principles and honor be damned.’’

    By 2004, John Le Carré and others in England were writing to Clark County, Ohio voters, pleading for them to oppose Bush: “Give us back the America we loved.”

    Amen to that.

  31. Incertus  •  Jan 13, 2007 @1:24 pm

    all you guys need to learn your history… carter didn’t fuck up the hostage situation… the republicans were dealing with iranians in the backroom, and delayed the release of hostages till after the election to make carter look bad.

    We’re not talking about history–we’re talking about perception at the time events were happening, and in this particular case, the perceptions of teens and pre-teens, and the way it seemed at the time was that Reagan represented strength. That that didn’t turn out to be the case is irrelevant.

  32. herk  •  Jan 13, 2007 @1:25 pm

    When Johnson and Nixon started doing their “thing,” they were apparently NOT trying to do what what was right in a competent and compassionate way.

    I have always hated this painting of Johnson and Nixon with the same brush.

    Johnson was a great progressive leader who did a lot of good things for this country but stumbled badly with Vietnam. His regret was visible, genuine, and he died the day before Nixon’s deal went into effect, which wasn’t any better than the one Johnson was trying to get in ’68

    Nixon always was a cynical opportunist who saw the Vietnam war (and the aftermath of the civil rights movement) as his opening to the presidency. He used the war for another four years to his re-election. Nixon lived on another twenty years or so, and unlike the obviously guilt-ridden Johnson, perpetually sucking the sour grape that he had been betrayed.

    It was enlightening the way Repubs circled the wagons in Nixon’s later years, and I hope someday, the same can happen to Johnson.

  33. Talapus Pete  •  Jan 13, 2007 @1:25 pm

    The first time I ever voted was for JFK. I was impressed by him. But right about then I met one of the freedom bus riders and I realized there was a huge gap between the illusion and the reality of America. I was lucky. The gap has never ever gone away. It’s got bigger, in fact. The disconnection between Bush’s mouth and the reality of Iraq is indicative of the size of the gap. But I’m afraid it’s permanent, now—most people have got too much to lose (too much stuff) if America was to surrender it’s world domination.

  34. Den Valdron  •  Jan 13, 2007 @1:28 pm

    Take a second look at Dreher’s words. He’s not crushed by the immorality of the enterprise, by the lies, the corruption, the horrific numbers of dead Iraqi’s. He’s not bothered by the shredding of the bill of rights, no fly lists, or any of the rest of it.

    The source of the pain? We’re losing. Once there are some new neonazi’s in power, or if the old bunch manages to get on a winning streak, all his concerns will be resolved, and he’ll return back to the fold of might makes right and America uber Alles.

    We’ve seen it before. We’ll see it again.

  35. maha  •  Jan 13, 2007 @1:29 pm

    whig, you are right. It’s just that I have fought this fight for too long, and spent too many wasted hours trying to “communicate” with people who would not be communicated with, and I have no patience with the bullshit any more.

  36. maha  •  Jan 13, 2007 @1:30 pm

    Take a second look at Dreher’s words. He’s not crushed by the immorality of the enterprise, by the lies,

    Oh, I think he is. Did you listen to the entire audio? I only quoted a little bit.

  37. Mooser  •  Jan 13, 2007 @1:32 pm

    Methinks Rod Dreher’s latest Wingnut Welfare check bounced! Don’t worry, Roddy, baby! Just an administrative error. We’ll send you a new check this week.

    Furthermore, I don’t think the moment at which you go looking for a new political direction to minipulate is the right time to expose just how shallow and cheap your political thinking is. I wouldn’t want this schmendrick on my side no matter how much he hated conservatives.
    Stick with the tried and true till it gives out on you, Roddy. Then drop out of sight and change your name to go with your new politics.

  38. whig  •  Jan 13, 2007 @1:34 pm

    mbb, I really need to learn more about the October surprise and Iran-Contra. I think this is a good time to be blogging about that, as we should hope to bring down this entire Republican regime by showing their criminal collusion with terrorists since the 1980’s or earlier.

  39. RandyH  •  Jan 13, 2007 @1:39 pm


    It goes on way back before the 80’s. Watch the BBC series “The Power of Nightmares” free at Google Video. 3 1-hour segments. You’ll see.

  40. whig  •  Jan 13, 2007 @1:48 pm

    Honesty is the most important attribute in a leader, and the most dishonest dealing people know this well. So they groom idiots to be fed on a diet of lies, provide them with every advantage when they follow their assigned script, and unto the next generation the lies spread and are believed even by the parents and grandparents themselves.

  41. whig  •  Jan 13, 2007 @1:51 pm

    Someone said, “Always be sincere, whether you mean it or not.” I think that sums up my point. Sorry for the verbosity.

    A genuinely honest person is what we’re all hoping for. Few genuinely honest people seem to rise to positions of high authority. We want to believe the fairytale, that there will be a good person who will lead us, and we are defeated whenever we look outside ourselves for that person. We must make our own paths.

  42. Fred  •  Jan 13, 2007 @1:54 pm

    What a difference a few years makes. My first political memory was freshman year in a Jesuit high school in 1973-74 and learning that our government had a hand in the assasination of Salvador Allende in Chile. That’s not what I had learned in my history classes just a few years before, that our government helps destabilize and kill political leaders it didn’t entirely like. (Now, as an adult, I realize, no sh*t Sherlock, that’s why we have to be politically engaged.)

    I also was profoundly upset by Reagan’s initial responses to the AIDS crisis, as RandyH noted above. Glad to see someone else saw that, too. I lost friends and a boss in the mid to late 1980s and the Republicans lost me forever on that one.

    I agree with Den Valdron, there’s more than a touch of anger due to losing rather than an internal moral realization and change. I don’t know how you wean fascists from their love of order, however. People are adults. They have to decide to change. They have to grow an awareness beyond themselves.

    Personally, I teach our kids (8 & 10) to question authority early and often (in a mostly polite way, naturally), even mine. And they know not to get me started on talking about Bush or politics. So I think they’ll turn out okay. I worry about Dreher’s kids, though.

    Thanks, Maha, for the excellent essay, and for the comments.

  43. Jeany  •  Jan 13, 2007 @1:55 pm

    Nice to know where my fellow freaks hang. Full props to Incertus for the statement, … man, would I be an asshole; I would have been happy for that to be the last word on the subject.

    Yep, both my parents lived the struggle through the Depression and the war, and managed to push their noses into the middle class tent. Just. As the legacy of the New Deal has been eliminated, I’ve come to understand how many elements combined to make that upward mobility possible; it wasn’t just their hard work and sacrifice, it was the GI Bill and Social Security, without which my parents would have surely had to constantly choose between supporting their parents and their children.

    I’d always self-identified as an independent, socially liberal and fiscally pragmatic-conservative. I tended to vote Democratic at the top of the ticket, based on policy, certainly from Reagan forward and did a lot of ticket-splitting downballot, believing that the tension of opposition makes for balance. The last of that disintegrated under Bush. Had I voted in Indiana in 2004, I would not have voted for Richard Lugar. That would have been a first for me.

    But the point I started out to make is this: my concept of sacrifice is a product of my childhood, of my parents’ stoop labor in childhood that kept their families from going hungry. I was never very hungry for very long, but I was damn well aware that there were people in my own country who had been, and there were children all over the world who were.

    My dad only told a few stories about his service; most of them were funny, or about the comraderie of those on his boat, and in his squadron. I knew he had schrapnel in one leg, and had almost died from dysentary, and that he hated the Red Cross for being f*cking useless when my older brother was born. These are the forces that shaped my concept of sacrifice, and I suspect they’re shared my most of my age cohort, we boomers, hippies, freaks.

    So here comes Bush Jr., and I didn’t like him much to start with. I knew I wouldn’t be voting for whatever Republican was nominated, and I had little regard for his daddy. The final snap came when, after 9/11, he came out blazing, with his mouth full of revenge. and told us to go shopping. Patriotic sacrifice through shopping, that’s what our country and our countrymen required of us. That remains to this day the single most offensive and contemptible thing I’ve ever heard a politician say, and there’s lots of competition. I was astonished when he recently repeated it.

    Thanks for this thread; maybe it will be possible to reanimate the America we loved, to reassert OUR traditional values.

  44. Anne  •  Jan 13, 2007 @2:02 pm

    It always amazes me that cons use the aborted rescue mission in Iran on Carter. I know the man who was the commander of that mission. He happens to be the bravest (maybe some say fool hardy) man I and many of his contemporaries know. It was a sand storm that caused the mission to be aborted. Already one helicopter had crashed and it was apparent there would be more death and destruction if they didn’t get out. Guess they prefer Reagan standing up and yelling “tear down this wall” or sneaking around and negotiating with the Iranians. I was better when I didn’t know how ridiculous cons world view is.

  45. Aunt Deb  •  Jan 13, 2007 @2:07 pm

    I must agree with Maha that at 13 boys are indeed still boys. But I can’t help thinking that Mr. Dreher has had quite a few years to move beyond that stage. After all, he was older that 13 when Iran Contra took place. I think that he must have been one of those Young Republicans who found sex abhorrent, but cakes and keys and big guns — oh boy. Now, he’s upset because we aren’t winning; that’s the real problem for him, isn’t it? We’re ‘weak’. The president has made us look ‘weak’. Does Dreher regret Guantanamo, I wonder. He clearly regrets Iraq, but were we ‘winning’, I’m sure he would still be on board.

    I don’t know if feeling betrayed really qualifies as coming to one’s senses. And his conclusion, that he will teach his children to distrust government etc etc, seems to me to be a prolongation of his immaturity.

  46. charley  •  Jan 13, 2007 @2:12 pm

    i was 12 delivering the news paper when nixon resigned in shame.

    it really shook me, but then i figured the press had done it’s job, and that was the power, and the beauty of democracy.

    oh well, live and learn, or not. propaganda, all is phony.

    i don’t really belive in voting, in fact i resent it. but you bet your ass i voted in 2004, and i wish i had voted in 2000. no opinion on liberals, but i know republicans are evil, liars, and a lot of them are criminals too.

  47. Chuckles  •  Jan 13, 2007 @2:18 pm

    I don’t know what is more funny, reading about a Conservative realizing that he has been duped his whole life, or reading the assinine comments from people who think that “their side” is better. Screw them all, Republicans, Democrats, the whole damned lot.

    I also find it funny that some of you feel seem to feel “enlightened” for realizing that people in power lie. Fucking A!! A chimpanzee should be able to see that. It is a sad sad commentary on humanity and Americans that we are so easily duped time and again.

    People in power are the same today as they were 5,000 years ago, as they were 500 years ago, and as they will be 500 years from now. They only care about power, getting more power, and then getting some more and keeping it. Everything and everyone else, be damned. And that includes the sainted John F. Kennedy.

    So, forget about them all. Take care of your family, yourself, and your community in that order. Try to figure out what is right in every situation and then DO IT. Fuck all the presidents, senators, kings, and other assholes. They are dirt and the lowest scum of the earth. All of them deserve nothing but contempt.

  48. Che Pasa  •  Jan 13, 2007 @2:20 pm

    It might be worthwhile recalling that Reagan was elected governor of California in 1966 on an anti-DirtyHippie platform, and then he took office on Jan 1, 1967, at a time selected by his and Nancy’s astrologer. Go figure. But the point is, he came to elective office on the premise that Progressivism was Bad, and the evidence was the hippies, freaks, and students in the streets. None of which would have occurred, according to the conservative theories of the times if the Progressives hadn’t had decades of free rein to indoctrinate the children and provide them with free educations.

    So, right from the outset, Reagan saw his mission as the dismantlement of Progressivism in California — and then the nation, and oh, heck, why not world-wide?

    We see the legacy all around us: particularly in an uneducated populace incapable of critical thinking.

    The irony is that the student and DirtyHippie revolt that Reagan and his ilk were so intent on crushing came about in part because students (starting at Berkeley in 1964) and later DirtyHippies felt utterly betrayed by the very Progressives who had given them so much, from freeways to free education through university.

  49. maha  •  Jan 13, 2007 @2:21 pm

    i know republicans are evil, liars, and a lot of them are criminals too.

    It’s not a bad thing to remember that they didn’t use to be. I don’t think either party is inherently better or worse than the other. The people in the parties, however …

  50. Jim  •  Jan 13, 2007 @2:23 pm

    RE: Aunt Deb

    Perceptive, Deb. What struck me, aside from a shot of schadenfreude, was how absolutist Dreher seems. Either it’s all right or it’s all betrayal. As I read through the thread, the thought kept coming back to me: conservatism is really nothing more than a failure of nuance. While sleeping they’re conservative. Prod them awake and they’re reactionary. Put them in a room together and they invent “neoconservatism” which is really just reactionaries fuelled by oil and Jesus.

    There’s no appreciation that sometimes a little government is good, or that sometimes you need a lot of it, and sometimes none is best. This constant searching for the grand unified theory of politics–the one answer that answers every question. That’s the endstage of conservatism that we’re living through right now.

    Dreher may think he’s growing up. But he’s just abandoning one answer in the search for another. As soon as he finds it, I’m sure he’ll become just as insufferably rigid about it as he was about the greatness of the GoP.

  51. maha  •  Jan 13, 2007 @2:26 pm

    None of which would have occurred, according to the conservative theories of the times if the Progressives hadn’t had decades of free rein to indoctrinate the children and provide them with free educations.

    Which is hysterically funny, because the “free education” most of us got in public schools in the 1950s and 1960s was designed to turn us into super-patriots. We learned only about the good things America had done, and how superior we were to anyone else. They even cleaned up the Civil War to make it seem kind of cute. But all that added to the sense of betrayal. After My Lai lots of shit hit lots of fans. Lots of skeletons (e.g., Wounded Knee) came out of the national closet.

  52. apocalipstick  •  Jan 13, 2007 @2:27 pm

    I am always amazed by the fact that Dreher is seven years younger than me. He always seems like a cranky, fusty old man. He only remembers Reagan? He always seems like he’s harkening back to the salad days of Silent Cal Coolidge.

    What a twit. Oh, and I tend to agree w/ Den Valdron. Let Bush have a string of successes and Dreher’s rod will be firm once more.

  53. maha  •  Jan 13, 2007 @2:27 pm

    Jim — well said.

  54. Jim  •  Jan 13, 2007 @2:28 pm

    sorry; bad link. this is it:

  55. Bobby St. Chomsky  •  Jan 13, 2007 @2:33 pm

    My feeling is that if one is a Pacifist, one has a head start in determining that leaders dupe their citizens into killing and dying in wars which benefit a handful of millionaire profiteers.

  56. jillian  •  Jan 13, 2007 @2:33 pm

    Oh, I remember the late Carter and early Reagan years and all that was about. And I see it in this fellow Rod Dreher too.

    It was all about ego and vanity, violated ego and violated vanity. It was all about the 1950s and its selfcongratulatory, undereducated, provincialism and its flip side, brain dead paranoia.

    The nostalgic side of it is Mayberry, the Leave It To Beaver America. The bad side of it is the Reagan Eighties America, and wingnuttery selfabsorbed in its various ideations of Cold War nuclear apocalypse and psychological annihilation- The Twilight Zone, the endless projections of the Cold War as interplanetary alien takeover, etc up to The X Files.

    What I remember most about the Eighties is that right wing people truly and emphatically asserted their right to be intolerably stupid. It was some form of bliss and a God-bestowed right to be Utterly Unbelievably Infernally Wrong, utterly beyond contempt. They knew some form of Paradise awaited them, and the dirty f-ing hippies were just some horrid annoyance on the way to that place who deserved to be kicked until they bled. Then again, cocaine was the drug of choice of the time…being high on it puts people in the frame of mind that defined every right wing pathology of the time.

    Then again, the last years of the Cold War were pretty eerie stuff, neither side dared look at reality- the horrible edge-of-the-abyss situation the sides were in- very closely. The real stalemate move was by Schmidt and Carter in 1977, stationing the Pershing IIs along the Rhine. But that left no meaningful military moves for either side, so what was left to do was bluff and create imaginary threats, e.g. “Star Wars” and try to freak each other out with talk and propaganda. And to create myths on your own side asserting your ability to endure and prevail- ‘Top Gun’ and the like crap in retrospect.

    It was all bullshit, of course. But the Rod Drehers bought into it, because reality was much harder to bear.

  57. charley  •  Jan 13, 2007 @2:36 pm

    It’s not a bad thing to remember that they didn’t use to be. I don’t think either party is inherently better or worse than the other. The people in the parties, however …

    oh i know. my father was a goldwater conservative, although he did vote for wallace (that’s sort of evil). he thought the rich had earned the right.

    and during the reagan administration i had republican freinds, they all thought he was somehow magically going to make them rich. i’m actually more concerned about the poor. and that’s really the dividing line. as i once heard george carlin say “i’m not political, but if you threw me out of a helicopter i’d probably fall on the left side of the line. i’m more concerned with peoples rights than property rights.”

  58. Artful Dodger  •  Jan 13, 2007 @2:38 pm

    Count me as another 17 year old, from a Republican family, raised in a small conservative town, who was pissed off at Carter and was glad Reagan won. But I figured out the Reagan gambit about 2 months into his term, when he refused to follow Stockman’s recommendations for cuts on corporate welfare, like the Ex-Im bank. It helped that I was attending a college and was surrounded by people who could think for a change. Haven’t voted for a Republican since.

    One of the greatest ironies of the fact that so many neo-cons based their lifetime belief on the Iranian hostage crisis is that the real bad guys were Reagan’s goons. With historical perspective it is self-evident that the January 21, 1981 hostage transfer could not have been arranged on inauguration day — that it would have been arranged in October to prevent Carter’s “October Surprise”. In addition, the failure of 3 of the 8 helicopters is very suspicious. Many military leaders at that time desperately wanted Reagan to win, and it is at least plausible, if not likely, that internal sabotage had taken place.

    So, just as they did back then, today’s Republican leaders are happy to sacrifice American lives and American interests to advance their own. Welcome to reality.

  59. john  •  Jan 13, 2007 @2:42 pm

    You know, I’m forty and my first politcal memories are of Watergate and Vietnam, I was 7 when Nixon resigned. The hearings and that made a big impression. In my 13 year old male lizard brain I liked Reagan for a minute, but soon Central America changed my mind. Like Reagan’s crew, this Bush gang has nothing to do with “conservative”. They’re about having real world power (weapons, energy, money) and using it. Period.

  60. dale  •  Jan 13, 2007 @3:14 pm

    The Iranian hostage rescue attempt was planned by the US military- not by President Carter. The fact that it failed should say more about the leading lights in the Pentagon- and not so much about the character of the President.

    What does reflect Carter’s character is that he resisted calls for war and invasion. The absence of war in the face of provocation- that WAS a great moment in American history.

  61. R. Porrofatto  •  Jan 13, 2007 @3:18 pm

    Except for the wealthy constituency that created him, Reagan’s terms in office was a disaster in every respect. But his puppeteers were absolute masters in P.R., marketing and mythmaking (recall that the Reagan didn’t even appear in his “Morning In America” campaign commercials), and Reagan was a competent actor who could read his lines. At the same time, his administration paralleled the ascendency of right-wing radio and the Scaife, Bradley, Olin, etc. machine. The result of their non-stop 24/7 efforts is a stunning mass misperception of history, to the point where, for example, the accident of the Carter’s failed hostage mission is now mythic, while the disastrous decisions that led Marines to be sitting ducks in Lebanon, and the deaths of 241 of them with hundreds more wounded, are all but forgotten. The Reagan myth was a brilliant, if despicable, propaganda coup, engineered by many of the same folks who’ve brought us the disaster of George W. Bush.

    There is one thing that would cause a lot of these under-40 dittohead conservatives who’ve bought into all this mythology to turn around: a draft. It’s apparent that they view the volunteer military more as employees, not members of their own communities or class. If they were the cannon fodder, much of the strutting bellicosity and pseudo-patriotic jingosim would cease overnight.

  62. Mark Garrity  •  Jan 13, 2007 @3:38 pm

    The Geneva Conventions were civilization’s reward for winning WW11. Learning that we should never, ever engage in another occupation of a hostile nation was our consolation prize for Vietnam. Like it or not all of Vietnam, not just the north wanted their independence.

    The Bush Administration sadly has trampled on the sacrifices of the people of all nations who fought and all who suffered in those conflicts. It particularly saddens me that my Uncle Harry who almost died in both the Battle of the Bulge and the Tet Offensive did die a couple years ago and saw some of the most important accomplishments of his generation and his life personally cast aside
    by the much lesser men who now hold power.

    He didn’t help empty the death camps in Germany to make the world safe for American torture at Abu Ghraib. He didn’t dodge Viet Cong death squads on the streets of Saigon so his old unit could ride around Iraq waitng to get blown up.

  63. Nathanael Nerode  •  Jan 13, 2007 @4:14 pm

    Brought up left-wing — first election I remember was 1984. I was eight. Reagan was obviously either lying or delusional, or both, and was hip-deep in Iran-Contra. Mondale was fabulous, and trashed. Defining moment.

    I’m on the leading edge here. People a few years older than me grew up “conservative”. People younger than me uniformly grew up liberal, and specifically anti-Republican. From Iran-Contra onward, the Republicans have been producing unmitigated disaster and lying continuously right up through the present day — worse each year. And those younger than me *noticed it*. The percentage of conservatives drops as you go down each age bracket from me. The media’s been untrustworthy since before we were born, so we knew never to accept what it said, unlike the older folks. Nothing wrong with the kids under 30, folks.

  64. randron  •  Jan 13, 2007 @4:15 pm


    Your point about me unfairly conflating Johnson and Nixon is correct. The context of my thinking involved Vietnam, not any of the “Great Society” programs that did, in fact, help our nation (especially those involving equal rights). But Johnson did lie to us about Vietnam (The Gulf of Tonkin comes immediately to mind) and deserved to suffer the consequences of his wrong-headed policies that led to the unnecessary deaths of thousands.

  65. Nathanael Nerode  •  Jan 13, 2007 @4:16 pm

    To clarify — Mondale “was undeservedly trashed by the media and the Republicans”. Trashed can have multiple meanings.

  66. N=1  •  Jan 13, 2007 @4:26 pm

    First time visitor to your blog via Glen Greenwald via Eschaton.

    I agree with your argument and historical context of the mis-use of the concept, liberal, and how the demonization of it re-framed the spectrum of conservative/liberal to a right/wrong spurious one.

    There are so few who can critically think and correctly and logically frame arguments that I hope you will continue to write more posts in this vein.

    It’s time to re-claim concepts that have been mis-used and misconstrued.

  67. JayArcey  •  Jan 13, 2007 @4:49 pm

    I went from noisily pro-Viet Nam war in my early teens ca. ’67 – ’68 (I must have been insufferable, actually) to anti-war, then hippie (specifically that) dropout by my late teens – precisely because I started seeing through the lies and hypocrisy and began to understand how contrary the war (and its attendant policies and politics – and of course Nixon and his cronies themselves) were to the American ideals I had been raised on and believed in – and still continue to believe in.

    I dropped back in, of course, becoming a mildly-lefty lawyer – but have continued to be deadly aware that government is both a tool which can and should be used for the greater good, and must be watched carefully and controlled since it can also do awful things, and will if in the hands of some factions.

    My son is now a very-aware 15-year old, a political news junkie with a precocious awareness of history. His “moment of dawning awareness” has been the last two or three years – and he will not come away from it easily fooled.

  68. Kevin Hayden  •  Jan 13, 2007 @4:52 pm

    I was 7 when Kennedy was elected. My worldview was so limited that I wanted him to win because he was handsomer than Icky Dick. Three years later, the earth shook at my foundations when he took the hit. I knew then that something was wrong with the world, that the explanations would no longer wash.

    Historians who say he was overrated always minimize so much he did that inspired us and made us think: visiting Appalachia, fending off anti-Catholicism, making the right choices about civil rights (even if reluctantly), the Peace Corps, playing with his kids, his self-deprecating humor, and more. Inspiration is a deed in itself.

    Carter? I really disliked him when he got elected. He seemed decent enough, but he was too conservative for my tastes. By 1976, I was definitely a freak, into Mother Earth News and the Rodale Press. I wanted solar. He was ethanol and nukes.

    I remembered Ford’s rescue mission of the USS Pueblo. He lost more troops than he saved. What Carter did that pissed off the Iranians was he let their dying dictator get medical care in our country. He tried a rescue which – as Anne noted, above – only was aborted due to equipment failure, not cowardice or poor planning. And then he used patience and negotiations.

    It was tough for him and moreso for the hostages. But at the end of his presidency, I realized he’d accomplished something no other president had achieved even in my parents’ lifetime: he didn’t lose a single troop in combat. After he went back to Plains, I wrote him a thank you note for that.

    Freak that I am, I grew so anti-materialism that when Jerry Rubin joined millions of freaks that became Yuppies, I viewed him – and them – as sellouts. Firesign Theatre had an album titled “Everything You Know Is Wrong” which summed up my feelings about the perception change that occurred when MLK and Bobby were shot, and I started learning the difference between real history and nationalist indoctrination.

    Though I was outwardly able to maintain a degree of conformity, out of economic necessity, I was into my forties before I began to accept that some of my rebelliousness to the status quo was just as rigid as Dreher’s acceptance of it. But I don’t think I can ever be a nationalist, because I claim ownership of nothing, really.

    We’re all mortals, so we ultimately are just temporary renters on this planet. And one of my favorite quotes comes from Pablo Casales: “The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?”

    Thank you, Maha, and so many commenters, for so much thoughtfulness and insight, which triggered so many memories, and hopes, and reminded me that idealism never has to surrender, or apologize.

  69. LWM  •  Jan 13, 2007 @4:57 pm

    “I remembered Ford’s rescue mission of the USS Pueblo.”

    Kevin Hayden

    You mean the SS Mayaguez, but your point is well taken and it should not be forgotten.

  70. Brian  •  Jan 13, 2007 @5:08 pm

    N=1: “There are so few who can critically think and correctly and logically frame arguments that I hope you will continue to write more posts in this vein.”

    Amen. I think this post should be required reading at colleges and universities, and perhaps even high schools. When I see what passes for right wing “political debate” in this country, I can’t help but wonder when our educational system stopped teaching basic logical reasoning and elementary critical thinking.

    When I was in college, we were taught to recognize the logical fallacies and techniques of manipulation commonly used in both political and product advertising. In addition, at least one professor often reminded us that:

    “Especially in public policy debates, it’s important to ask yourself how you ‘know’ what you ‘know’ because, very often, things that you ‘know’ are no more than things you’ve heard repeated often enough that you don’t stop to question them.”

    When did our colleges and universities stop teaching these things?

  71. Sully18  •  Jan 13, 2007 @5:11 pm

    I am one of the “freaks” that you talk about.Every day that I wake up,I feel the pain of that betrayl that started for me at age 19 when a fellow student from a dorm window informed me that John F. Kennedy had been shot.
    Call me “freak,;”call me “liberal;”call me what ever the hell you want to,but it will not change the fact that our alleged leaders since then have shamed us on an astronomical basis.It is worse today than I have ever seen it.Our leaders have become criminals of the utmost.
    Thanks for this great post honoring the folks that tried to make a difference.We may well yet.

  72. sm  •  Jan 13, 2007 @5:17 pm

    I was 10 when Kennedy was elected. I had no particular appreciation of his virtues when he was alive but of course bought into his martyrdom 3 years later.

    In retrospect though I don’t see him a lot better or different than Ronald Reagan.

    Anyone who seeing Bush in action starts to reconsider Reaganism instead of putting it on a higher pedestal has learned something.

  73. maha  •  Jan 13, 2007 @5:44 pm

    In retrospect though I don’t see him a lot better or different than Ronald Reagan.

    Too harsh. Kennedy was more flawed than most of us realized at the time, but he didn’t try to dismantle the New Deal, appeal to white racist voters with “Cadillac queen” stories, or allow a terrible disease to spread just because most of the sick were homosexual.

  74. The Oracle  •  Jan 13, 2007 @6:02 pm

    Rod, I do believe, just realized that Bush 43, the neo-cons and the “bowel” movement conservatives have sold out the future of his own children.

    From huge budget and trade deficits, to massive spending on an unnecessary war in Iraq (with more wars planned by BushCo), to global warming and environmental degradation, Rod must have started thinking about what future he and his fellow “bowel” movement conservatives will be handing off not only to his children but to all the children in America. And it is not a pretty sight.

    The question is, though, will the Democrats in the new Congress be able to roll back some of the worst abuses and excesses of the “bowel” movement conservatives, bring our democracy back from the brink of destruction fostered by the “bowel” movement conservatives, or will it be business as usual up in Washington?

    We shall see.

    Impeach Bush and Cheney now.

    The White House needs an enema, to flush out all the “bowel” movement conservatives. who have done what they’ve done to our great nation.

  75. Quentin  •  Jan 13, 2007 @6:03 pm

    maha 26, I don’t get the smiley. I remember all that stuff, too, because I was born in 1945. The hostage affair has not yet been resolved and that’s why it’s still in the background of U.S. foreign policy, with Tehran as the goal. The Iranian revolution showed the way for Muslim countries to challenge the U.S. and that’s where we are today. Marx has hardly made it into the 21st century, the Ayatollah has spectacularly.

  76. maha  •  Jan 13, 2007 @6:34 pm

    The hostage affair has not yet been resolved

    I realize that. The point is that even though it was important event, it didn’t have the kind of personal impact, or color my entire worldview, the way earlier events did.This is about how events are perceived subjectively, remember.

  77. Ric Caric  •  Jan 13, 2007 @7:41 pm

    I have somewhat of a different take on the treatment of liberalism by conservatives and the media. The odd thing to me is that conservatives so often view themselves as rebelling against a “dominant” liberalism even when they’re in charge. That’s why right-wing commentators insist so much on structuring their arguments in terms of knocking down liberal straw men. Instead of seeing their conservatism as natural, they view themselves as responding to and undercutting a consensus liberalism. They’re right about this. Polls regularly demonstrate that most people agree with liberal positions on social and economic issues. Right-wingers and their allies are always rolling against a liberal current.

  78. Concerno  •  Jan 13, 2007 @7:42 pm

    Artful Dodger, you only know half of it. The fix was in. How about the total disappearance of, yup, gasoline?

  79. skippy  •  Jan 13, 2007 @8:17 pm

    i am a bit younger than you, maha, i heard about kennedy’s assasination while sitting on the swings in my grade school yard…i thought the girls who were telling me the news were joking with me.

    i remember watching jack ruby shoot lee harvey oswald on tv a few days later. those were exciting times!

    i was and always will be a hippie…not in terms of (non) bathing or tie-dyes, and i lost most of my hair to let it grow long, but in terms of believing the government should conform to the will of the people, and not visa versa.

    but enough of me, now let’s talk about drehr. you are much too easy on him, in both your amazement at his conservative roots turning liberal, and what it means.

    drehr was always half-way to hippiedom. he fashioned a political subset known as the “crunchy conservative”: conservative in family values and patriotism, but ready to be open to organic food and alternative lifestyles (to a point, which i discuss a bit later). he is quoted in 2006:

    crunchy cons prefer old houses and mom-and-pop shops to mcmansions and strip malls…. many of us homeschool our kids, and cheerfully embrace nonconformity. i read edmund burke and wear birkenstock sandals. go figure.

    so it ain’t that far a stretch for him to become a hippie.

    however, as i said above, there are limits to his tolerance. he’s always been a homophobe, and so, i for one, don’t particularly welcome him into our anti-establishment contrarian group with open arms.

  80. skippy  •  Jan 13, 2007 @8:26 pm

    whoops! so sorry! i was so busy bashing dreher i forgot to blogwhore!

    maha’s reminiscing of those days as youngsters in the cold war reminds me of my essay about how these kids today are willing to soil their pants at the mere mention of the word “terrorism” when we faced a daily prospect of the entire world blowing up in a nuclear holocaust:

    we are sick of panty-waisted namby pamby cowards who pee their pants at the thought of a rag-tag bunch of disorganized zealots from the desert who screech “death to america.” have these nancy boys no gumption, no spine, no grit? have they no balls?

    we grew up during the 60’s, when america had a real enemy, an enemy that could actually blow this country up: the soviet union. a country with a real government, a real army, a real cadre of nuclear missiles and submarines which, at any moment, was poised to shoot across the oceans onto our heads.

    we grew up with the fear of air raid sirens going off at any possible moment; we grew up with the constant rehearsals in school of “duck and cover,” as if the wooden slate of our desks were going to shield us from the 20 megaton nuclear bomb implanted in the nose of the icbm theoretically heading down towards our quivering little bodies.

    from we are just sick and tired of it all – a skippy rant may 23, 2006.

  81. anonymoose  •  Jan 13, 2007 @8:48 pm

    Rod Dreher is a whining loser who’s having an embarrassing public midlife crisis meltdown. Hopefully his wife will have the sense to divorce him and take custody of his children before he has the chance to inflict permanent damage upon them.

  82. Bonnie  •  Jan 13, 2007 @9:37 pm

    I agree with Maha on Kennedy, he wasn’t as perfect as we thought; but, he was human like the rest of us who are far from perfect. I was an impressionable 15 when Kennedy ran for President and I remember him having a great energy that rubbed off on the American people. He was eloquent and witty. And, most of all, he kept us out of a nuclear war. I shudder when I think of W having control of nuclear weapons.

  83. Don  •  Jan 13, 2007 @9:44 pm

    Carter’s attempt at a rescue, really was not that far from Ford’s somewhat succesful response to the Mayaguez incident. Both were thrown together without much of a plan and were in a lot of ways debacles. It was something of a historical accident that one “succeeded ” and the other failed. Both were near the low point of US military’s capabilities. By the time Reagan and Bush came to power the military had rebuilt from Vietnam.

  84. Steve J.  •  Jan 13, 2007 @9:47 pm

    And how weird is it that anyone is still talking about “hippies”?

    A lot of the neo-cons were scared shitless by the hippies and they have spread that fear.

  85. whig  •  Jan 13, 2007 @9:54 pm

    RandyH, a much shorter video, I found this to be quite interesting.

  86. whig  •  Jan 13, 2007 @9:56 pm

    Posted here.

  87. Elizabeth  •  Jan 13, 2007 @9:56 pm

    Sorry: the aberration was the 60s and 70s. It’s just that since we grew up in those years, we thought it was normal to be at war with the status quo all the time. It wasn’t. Before and obviously afterwards, the top kept down the bottom and intimidated the middle to play nice. So– though I can totally confirm the psycho-ness of growing up thinking my little neighborhood in the sticks of Southern Ohio was going to be nuked at any moment, that was the beginning of A Different Time. We all went back sometime in the late 70s to where it was in 1959.

  88. Tommykey  •  Jan 13, 2007 @9:59 pm

    I think you’re right about the Carter years as a formative moment in making young people like me at the time into conservative Republicans.

    I was still in elementary school when Carter was president, but growing up in what I was taught to believe was the greatest country in the world, I could not understand what was going on. Between the Iran hostage crisis and the failed rescue mission, the Soviets invading Afghanistan, and the odd/even gas days, it struck me even at that early age that things were seriously wrong with America.

    I still remember a commercial run by the Republicans during the 1980 election that featured a bunch of old Democratic men in a car that had stalled out, and the narrator declaring “The Democrats have run out of gas.”

    There really was this sense that Reagan was going to set things right, and the freeing of the hostages on his inauguration day only seemed to confirm that.

  89. Marc  •  Jan 13, 2007 @10:02 pm

    Wow, reading through the comments here I realize how lucky I am in many ways. I was born in ’78, and my earliest political memories are of the ’84 elections when I liked Reagan for no particular reason other than he seemed like a nice guy even though my parents gently cautioned me that he might be a nice man but did not make a very good president.

    However, the important thing in my upbringing was that my parents always taught me to think and question–they were and are both fairly liberal folks, but they didn’t indoctrinate me with any particular philosophy. Further impressive still is that my father is a member of the WWII generation (enlisted as a Marine in the South Pacific toward the end of the war), and my mom was born about a generation later on the early end of the Boom. Both were part of “the establishment” during Vietnam (my mom was a professor during a lot of the big protests), and neither was anything like a Hippie, yet both ended up being quiet, analytical liberals.

    Perhaps this is why it sickens me such when I see modern “conservatives” on the web ranting about spineless liberals and dirty hippies. I happen to live in a town that attracted a lot of the hippies who never “outgrew” being hippies, and I, nor my parents, are anything like a hippie, not that there would be anything wrong with that if we were. But I find it upsetting when you call my father–a man who spent his late teen years sleeping in foxholes in godforsaken jungle islands and watching kamikaze pilots attack the ship he was on–a coward or a dirty hippy for being intelligent enough to see through the lies of government officials of EVERY political leaning, and who fought in a war specifically so his sons would NOT have to be shipped off to fight somebody else’s battles in a faraway land.

    I am sorry, but while I may not have served in the Marines, my father did, and calling him a coward or “loony lefter” for being able to see when a war is pointless belies a serious lack of anything resembling honor or intelligence. Further, if he could spend several of his formative years being shot at by Japanese yet realize that just because they were sent to die by their leaders their race and nation was not inherently evil, but that our interning of patriotic Americans was, then the generation today decrying the “evil” of Islam can figure out the same thing themselves.

    Do not presume that because you are bigoted or shortsighted that you have the right to invoke great men like my father to serve your needs, and growing up in ANY era is no excuse for an inability to see past your own predjudices.

    If two men–one whose formative years were spent being inundated with propaganda about the evils of the Japanese and being shot at by them and the other who spent the same period being steeped in propaganda about the evils of the US and with our bombs falling on his home–can each welcome one of the “enemy” into their family with open hearts, then anyone can learn to forgive and understand in terms more nuanced than black and white.

  90. illotus  •  Jan 13, 2007 @10:16 pm

    “The counterculture was both a backlash to that betrayal and to the cultural rigidity of the 1950s.”


    And the latter was in turn a reaction to the uncertainty of the Depression and the foreign chaos of “the war” (WWII), and so forth and so on.

    Perspective. History. Jesus, how many jillions more people have to die before our society finally begins to take it seriously?

  91. Robin  •  Jan 13, 2007 @10:41 pm

    I was born into a solidly Democratic family in San Francisco and learned politics from reading about the Free/Dirty speech movement in the SF Chronicle. My mother wept with joy when Kennedy was elected and said “I finally feel like an American”. She was first generation American, born in the Irish ghetto of San Francisco. Her father was a union organizer on the rail yards and docks, descended from the IRA, and my grandmother was sent to San Francisco by the IRA because the British had hung her entire family after the 1916 Rising. Yet the night Nixon announced that he had a secret plan to end the Vietnam War, she celebrated. Until I turned to her and said, “Mom, he’s lying.” She literally gasped. She turned to me and said, “Presidents don’t lie!” During the Beserkly riots, my father was in a police communications van borrowed from the SFPD, directing the attacks. And that was the state of America in Nixon’s time. We were raised with the ideal of America as the land of the free and the home of the brave, where everyone had rights and prosperity afforded everyone a good living. And when we learned of Appalachia and Jim Crow and Mai Lai, when JFK, MLK and Bobby were shot, when it dawned on us that we would all be dead by thirty because some insane jerk would push the damn button, there were only two choices. We could turn on, tune in and drop out, or hide in the jingoism. Some turned into Yuppies. The rest of us merged uneasily into the mainstream to feed our families. Some of us kept to our ideals of simplicity, service and awareness of our impact on the planet.
    I will never forget the day (was it 1996?) when I learned that Russia’s government had turned its nuclear weapons away from our continent. I felt I could breathe for the first time in my life, and I was grateful that my sons would never know the terror of raising their children under a nuclear threat. My first grandchild will be born in the next week or ten days, and though I welcome him, I grieve for the suffering he will endure. I hope there is reason to hope.

  92. eztempo  •  Jan 13, 2007 @10:54 pm

    Many phrases in Dreher’s essay indicate that what we’re seeing as an adolescent simplicity in casting Republicans and Democrats as “good” and “bad” is, I think, a manefestation of plain ol’ American anti-intellectualism. He says he has to teach his children “they have to question authority.” Well, it’s a basic that someone that thinks, questions. Maybe that’s the real challenge to the “core political beliefs he has held since childhood.”

  93. The Ugly American  •  Jan 14, 2007 @12:07 am

    “He seems to have retained a child’s simple faith that Democrats (and liberals) are “bad” and Republicans (and conservatives) are “good,””

    Funny if you just change a few words around you just described yourself.

  94. AngieW  •  Jan 14, 2007 @1:18 am

    As someone from the deep south, I to grew up listening at the dinner table to “political” talk from my parents that shaped my later political views. The language was unsophisticated and easy for even a child to understand (though only much later would it sink in and begin to influence my own political views).

    You see I grew up in the south during the civil rights movement – the child of a lower middle class – white working class family. I started school in one of the first fully integrated school years of my small town. And while integration and the rest of the changes the civil rights movement brought were transparent for me (since they were my normal world), in the adult population it left scars that have never went away.

    These scars are ugly – deep – and have kept the south voting Republican.

    But my generation and the generations after us (the children of integration and our children) do not own these scars and we hold no loyalty to the Republican’s who’ve taken advantage of them.

    I do not believe that Vietnam, 60’s style counterculture or any other factor had a bigger influence on the roll to the right of the south – my belief is that it was racial (or more specifically forced integration).

    Their are worlds between the upper middle class upbringing of Mr. Dreher and the world of the tide of voters in the working class south.

    As a deep south living centrist, I believe the tide in the south is starting to turn just a little back to the middle. And it wasn’t Mr. Dreher and his peers that elected the second president Bush into office – it was working class southerners.

  95. Rusty Austin  •  Jan 14, 2007 @1:44 am

    I guess it’s gone down the memory hole, but our hostages in Iran were literally getting off the plane after being released as numbnuts Reagan was being inaugurated. Once the republicans got away with that, it became a free for all which has led us directly to where we are today. The evidence is indisputable, those sons of bitches were in cahoots with the Iranians. The Iranians went along with it, because they wanted to get weapons from numbnuts Reagan. And they did, hence Iran Contra. Numbnuts Reagan is surely roasting in hell now, but that is little comfort to those of us that have to live with his legacy of hatred and class warfare.

  96. Incertus  •  Jan 14, 2007 @1:52 am

    Perspective. History. Jesus, how many jillions more people have to die before our society finally begins to take it seriously?

    I’m beginning to think that as a species, we’re the type that has to step in it to find it. By the time we realize we can actually learn from others’ mistakes, we’re damn near close to death.

  97. HopeSpringsATurtle  •  Jan 14, 2007 @2:20 am

    I loved this piece. Linky-loved it to my place.

  98. Mary Whalen  •  Jan 14, 2007 @3:18 am

    I remember the time I was only 12 or 13 and I was very HIPPY. Althouth I am oldest child of still then growing large Catholic religous irish Family (ended up oldest of 10) We wer always making room for draft dodgers.
    I remember how young these little boys, sometimes younge family’s were and we all watch the horrors on the news after dinner and I would be thinking “thank you God that these ones don’t have to go.
    They would be home sick, just out of high school, feel guilty because their govrnment/country was calling them cowards and traitors and I was getting a little older and thinking alot and asked all my friends. It was a false conclusion, we explained the U.S. government for reasons of their own failed them. They failed that generation, I do not know why, hunting non existing commies under every bush/getting rich in war profiteering/ flexing power/Opening new Markets? What ever I do know that a generation of poorest were fed the patraism and rallied for fodder, and demonized for having no intention of killing or dying for vague reasons in a place they could not find on a map.
    This generation as well the suffering and slaughtering should not countie, they are precios. Why. The Elite robbed the U.S. treasury and are stalling. Die for that? Cheney can raise a larger defense fund? how many lives?…Mary

  99. John Booker  •  Jan 14, 2007 @4:02 am

    He didn’t help empty the death camps in Germany to make the world safe for American torture at Abu Ghraib. He didn’t dodge Viet Cong death squads on the streets of Saigon so his old unit could ride around Iraq waitng to get blown up.

    Comment by Mark Garrity

    My thoughts exactly. Maha’s essay also talks about the generation coming out of the Depression, what their expectations were, and how they were unprepared to think of their government as evil or incompetent. I was 18 in 1967, and my parents had at least 6 more of my siblings to raise. They couldn’t bring themselves to question Vietnam. And one characteristic of the boomers who became freaks was, obviously, their idealism.

    Now, they are dying, or have died. I’ve taken care of my 92 year old mom these 5 years, the years that she’s really really needed just to watch the news all the time on the TV. And what’s been on? War, murder, incompetence, malfeasance, propaganda, sock puppetry, you name it. How discouraging! How despicable! I’m afraid that while it took the entire decade of the 70’s, and most of the 80’s for me to come around to thinking my country was a pretty good place again, now, the chance is gone. And I’ll be gone (again), too, to another country, as soon as my duty here is over.

  100. Lucian K. Truscott IV  •  Jan 14, 2007 @4:22 am

    I’ll tell you who we’ve got to thank for the notoriety of the “hostage crisis” and the “Desert One” debacle that apparently drove so many poor little teeniebop whiners into the conforting arms of the Republican Party and the conservative “movement.”

    Ted Koppel and the a-holes at ABC who gave him that slot at night they turned into “Day One,” “Day Two,” etc etc that eventually sluffed off into “Nighline.” Please recall that the vaunted, “liberal”, “smart,” “informative,” Nightline got its start as a hype machine for the so-called “hostage crisis.”

    It was all downhill after that. The television “news” media learned a big lesson from Koppel’s nightly pounding of the crisis-drums. They could hype “news” like Koppel’s 24 hours a day and not only get away with it, but get ratings. Witness yesterday and today’s “Miracle in Missouri” rescue of the kidnapped kid. CNN has apparently concluded that there are no other stories worth covering in the world. There weren’t 31 bodies in Baghdad. The nutcases in the White House are not still running things. No, there’s nothing going on in the world but the “miracle in Missouri.” That is the legacy of Ted Koppel and his nightly pounding of the crisis drum over the so-called “hostage crisis.”

    You want to know how many more whiners like Roddie-poo I want to hear from as they discover how being a lame-ass frat-boy-golfer-true-believer didn’t quite prepare them for the real world of shit like wars that are lost instead of magically “won”?



  101. Art James (clownsense etc)  •  Jan 14, 2007 @5:11 am

    A second comment thought: We are alive in these times and sure do feel lost in a national forrest. The government will betray and we do need to learn we are to be the responsible ones, tending our homes, raising our children how to thing, and not be lulled asleep assuming another paid employeee working for corp-crap’s-dem-repubs will guide us along…and make our Life secure.

    If we/ve not been able to face reality, at any age, we remain lost.
    Maha’s essay points the way> walk and meditate along the Way.
    There is beauty too.

    FROM Windsor Forest.
    Not chaos-like together crushed and bruised,
    But as the world, harmoniously confused:
    In order where in variety we see,
    And where, though all things differ, all agree.

    Sound sleep by night’ study and ease
    Together mixed; sweet recreation,
    And innocence, which most does please,
    ………………..With meditation.

    Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
    Thus unlamented let me die;
    Steal from the world, and not a stone
    ………………..Tell where I lie.

    Those comments were very helpful, and revealing.
    Maybe yes, maybe no? I might retype the Windsor Forest thought in Glenn’s U.T.

  102. softdog  •  Jan 14, 2007 @5:53 am

    I’m Rod Dreher’s age and there’s no excuse for his blindness. And I question giving him any leeway for being Too Young To Know Different, which is sort of insulting to the 50% or more of the country, who are capable of reading newspapers, studying history and perceiving reality, especially for events which occurred while you were alive and before the age of 40.

    Perhaps I was raised right and unnaturally curious. I would watch the news with my skeptical parents, who were very far from hippies, just old fashioned progressive midwesteners. They loathed Nixon and the war. My love of cartoons included Oliphant and Doonesbury and my Dad’s McCarthy Era Pogo collections, which led me to find out what they were writing about. “Richard Nixon Superstar” was one of my favorite comedy records, although I didn’t understand all the jokes until later. And so on.

    It was possible to be a kid and still figure out how to get a bigger picture of history by observing multiple sources. You didn’t have to be a genius to realize The Velvet Underground and Hippie culture co-existed, which indicated the 60s was a bit more complex than a tie-dyed shirt.

    With the hostage situation, you didn’t need to be tapped into the underground press to know there were many reasons why it happened, such as our dealings with the Shah. You didn’t have to be a fan of Carter to understand he was at least partially a victim of circumstance.

    I was born at the start of November so I turned 18 in time to vote against Reagan. My mother despised him because she was a teacher and “A Nation At Risk” a report which made false claims to support a radical change in education policy. Again, something which was there in the press if one cared to look.

    More importantly, Rod was 20 by the time Iran-Contra rolled around, and fully adult enough understand it. Even pot smoking punks I hung with in college were capable of picking up a newspaper – not counterculture stuff, but the Chicago Tribune – and grasping something was wrong.

    The idea adults – and we did think of ourselves as adults in college – naturally ignore politics until age 30 was a convenient assumption for both the media and the truly apathetic. I wonder if the concept isn’t also a byproduct of reactionary politics, perhaps unintentional, but certainly a response to the mass youth protests of the 60s.

    Even during the Reagan era, the propaganda machine was not in full control. It wasn’t until the Rush Limbaugh era Rod’s well financed elders and peers – and our generation is old enough to have planned and financed this stuff – creating a media bubble for conservatives and pushed Republicans into unified hard right.

    Like any fanatic, once denial crumbles he pretends there’s no way he could have known otherwise, as if the only dissent was hippie nutcases, rather than people just like him who had the same information he did.

    At age 40 the undertone of “too young to have known better” crap is positively embarrassing coming from Rod and annoying coming from his critics. It perpetuates this unfortunate idea of Gen-X’ers clinging to a youthful idiocy and connects a more general infantilization of youth which presumes a teen like stupidity now extends to age 29. It’s ironic how this has arisen at the time there’s even fewer reasons for being uninformed.

  103. stevie  •  Jan 14, 2007 @7:02 am

    good stuff, just want to add a few thoughts.

    Most of the Right is brainwashed, the rest want to protect their money. Greed and reactionary fear are the right’s main motivating factors. I remember one study of preschool-aged children showed after 30 years that the whiny, crying, fearful children grew up to be conservatives and Republicans, and the more self-assured and confident children grew up to be liberals.

    Kennedy inspired our generation to change the world and we did, obviously though, not enough. I always said that if the Vietnam war had lasted another 5 years, another generation of young people would’ve been politicized and the left would’ve had a larger and stronger base. (At least that would’ve stopped the Reagan Puppet Government and the rise of the Bushes).

    John Mitchell (Nixon’s AG), said the country was going to move so far to the right that no one would recognize it (it has). Martha Mitchell had a falling out with hubby John and said she was gonna spill the beans on Watergate and Nixon’s Administration, and then died within a month from a CIA-induced heart attack.
    It was George Schultz & George H. Bush who met with Iranians in Paris to swap arms for hostages and keep the wraps on until after the election. –traitors (had to say it once)

    Republican ties to Nazis and fascists has been documented since the 1930’s, when fatcat Republicans and rich bankers liked Mussolini’s corporate-style government so much that they tried to overthrow Roosevelt with a coup — foiled only by Gen. Smedley Butler (google it); and rich traitors like Preston Bush/ Union Bank, who supported Hitler into the 1940’s until forced by Roosevelt to end their dealings–

    But that’s not all, the propaganda techniques they learned from the Nazis was used in the McCarthy era and lives on today, as you’ve shown in your writings, and as we can see in the neo-convict efforts at Revisionist History: attacking liberal heroes of the past while promoting their own morons (i.e. changing the names of Kennedy Airport and Cape Kennedy while simultaneously trying to change the name of everything to Reagan).

    I have a dream of having enough money to buy up various toilet manufacturers and change the name of all the toilets to Reagan Toilets. That would be so fuckin’ cool.

    But I digress.

    I still remember abbie hoffman.

  104. Chief  •  Jan 14, 2007 @7:17 am


    I am not going to read all 100 + comments to see if anyone has mentioned this. The ‘right’ has called the Dems weak on foreign policy since Truman “lost” China. The fact that China was corrupt and ripe for a fall, makes no difference. JFK was extremely sensitive to that charge. Schlesinger in his book on “Robert Kennedy: His Life & Times” says as much plus that JFK was going to reduce the US commitmnet to SE Asia after he won re-election.

    I am about 10 years older than you and can remember the promise of the “New Deal” and an uplifting of the common person (average one worker family).

  105. r€nato  •  Jan 14, 2007 @8:35 am

    Any American under the age of 40 has had this narrative pounded into his head his entire life. Rare is the individual born after the Baby Boom who has any clue what “liberalism” really is. Ask, and they’ll tell you that liberals are people who “believe in” raising taxes and spending money on big entitlement programs, which of course is bad.

    well I guess I am one of those rare individuals though I fall smack between the very tail end of the Baby Boom and a tad too early to be a Gen X’er (1965 – 41 yrs old at the moment). I never fell for that right wing crap. I have been a liberal since I was old enough to read about and comprehend current events and politics (probably 11 or 12 years old).

    Then again, I’ve always insisted on thinking for myself, and doesn’t that make all the difference in the world???

  106. FlyingCircus  •  Jan 14, 2007 @10:49 am

    I grew up in Appalachia (born in 1943 in an Army hospital). I clearly remember the Eisenhower/Stevenson campaigns and the newscasts portraying Stevenson as an “egghead” (he was an incredibly intelligent bald man) as though that were something to be scorned. I have children that are teachers in the public schools system in Texas (where I currently live), and it seems that everything is being “dumbed down” to fit the wishes of their student’s Rethuglican (already dumbed down) parents. I’ve retained my memories of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush1 and Clinton while currently living under BushII’s thug government. Lord, how low we have sunk..

  107. Pennypacker  •  Jan 14, 2007 @1:23 pm

    I’m older than Dreher by just a couple years. I remember even then being struck by the ‘amazing coincidence’ that the Iranian hostages were released just minutes after Reagan’s inauguration. Dreher and I must have very different personalities, or the few years between us made a huge difference, because the miraculous timing of the hostage release made me suspicious of Reagan from the start. By the time I went to college and started learning about the secret wars in Central America, I was a committed anti-Reaganite.

  108. Pennypacker  •  Jan 14, 2007 @1:41 pm

    I should add: my first year in college (1983) brought me face-to-face with the Young Republican phenomonon. I remember being struck by the arrogance, dishonesty, and sexism of these frat-ring/greek letter/animal house douche-bags. That certainly pushed me further to the left.

    And then studying in Europe also helped me see Reaganism for what it was. Reagan could talk tough, but he didn’t have to live among medium-range nukes.

  109. diane  •  Jan 14, 2007 @2:06 pm

    I am always suspicious of people whose attitude is “do what I say not what I do”.
    Which is exactly the Republican philosophy.

    The lack of critical thinking, questioning and believing in absolutes is what governs the Republicans and the religious conservatives.
    They are cannot fathom anything but their own way of thinking.

    What I remember from the 60’s and what I have instilled in my children is

  110. sysprog  •  Jan 14, 2007 @2:37 pm

    Following-up on Lucian Truscott’s comment #103 @ 4:22 am.

    Rod Dreher:

    Carter brought the nation to a bad place; Reagan dug us out. My error was to think that all Republicans were like Reagan, or to be more precise, that “Reaganism” — standing tall, carrying a big stick — was always and everywhere the right response.

    Rod Dreher (and millions of Americans) believed that the Iranian hostage “crisis” proved Carter’s weakness and Reagan’s strength. Dreher was 12 years old when the hostage “crisis” started. As he was going through puberty, America was going through the nightly excercise of watching a new TV show, hosted by Ted Koppel, named “America Held Hostage” (the show was later renamed as “Nightline”) and airing nightly on ABC. Finally, in 1981, just as Dreher was about to turn 14, the hostages were released in the middle of Reagan’s inauguration ceremonies. Does any sane American think the Iranians did this because Carter had a wimpy little stick and because the Iranians were suddenly scared of Reagan’s awesome big stick?

    Dan Riehl, in his blog, says that our problem in Iraq is that George W. Bush’s stick isn’t big enough.

    Mr. Dreher, we are having problems in Iraq precisely because we did not go in there like some wholly external and unreasonable force of empire crushing everything in sight.

    Damn, what we need is a real man, like Margaret Thatcher.

  111. skippy  •  Jan 14, 2007 @3:37 pm

    “he seems to have retained a child’s simple faith that democrats (and liberals) are “bad” and republicans (and conservatives) are “good,””
    funny if you just change a few words around you just described yourself

    absolutely not. i have met maha personally and know her to be quite open-minded. she doesn’t think conservatives are “bad.” she does, however, like a lot of us in blogtopia, and yes i coined that phrase, believe that most conservatives are inflexible, willingly out of touch with the reality of situations, unwilling to consider other viewpoints as even having merit, let alone listen to them.

    it’s not that conservatives are bad. we think conservatives refuse to think.

    come to think of it, that’s not so good, now that you mention it…

  112. Daniel Case  •  Jan 14, 2007 @5:26 pm


    It’s nice to see a baby boomer belatedly realizing how the events of the late 1970s shaped the political consciousness of the generation that came after you. I’m almost as old as Dreher, born probably while you were protesting the war, and that was always obvious even to those of us who identified as liberals even then (and were frustrated for years at how out-of-touch that side of the political spectrum seemed when it came to dealing with younger people, especially when we saw how the opposition was successfully taking advantage of it. No wonder so many nominally liberal GenXers drifted away from politics during the ’80s. And should it be any surprise that Kos is about the same age, and that it was after the Dean campaign that finally showed the same youth energy could be used beneficially for a liberal/progressive campaign and finally brought about a Democratic resurgence?

    Anyway … I also want to add that the current conservative discourse on the war also shows another formative influence from the Reagan era: all those Rambo-era action movies. This whole idea that we just need to use enough force, do whatever it takes and do the right thing (all three of which were usually synonymous) is right out of the screens, cable channels, and video racks of the 1980s.

  113. maha  •  Jan 14, 2007 @6:37 pm

    I guess it’s gone down the memory hole, but our hostages in Iran were literally getting off the plane after being released as numbnuts Reagan was being inaugurated.

    It was too obvious that a fix was in, yet it sailed right over the heads of the media and most of the public.

  114. MamaLynn  •  Jan 15, 2007 @2:44 pm

    I have such a difficult time forming coherent thoughts these days. So much swirls in my head. So much hate, anger, frustration. Why won’t they listen? Why is there so much denial amongst the right? I am surrounded here in the deep south by ignorance. All the “Christians” who constantly spout words of killing, which really are just rhetoric picked up from their local or national propaganda machine. What are they afraid of? Isn’t what we are doing there the most anti-Christian thing since the Crusades? Are they afraid of losing their money? Those of the lower working class who struggle day to day to put food on the table, let alone keep the power turned on and the rent paid, why do they continue to vote for those who push them furthur down the food chain? I am 32, a single mother working two jobs and I can barely keep it together while I dig myself out from under 30% APR from debts racked up in college. Yeah, I went to college and make more than double the “new minimum wage” and still can’t make ends meet every month. I hear so much about how great the economy is doing, but have yet to see it really do anything good for those who need it the most. My sister hails Trickle down economics as one of the best things ever. Didn’t we see a huge rise in unemployment and homelessness during the eighties? Kind of like now? Sorry, I have a cold and am kind of stream of consciousness-ing this.

    Does it scare anyone else that in the Gallup poll taken last week 79% of Repubs still support Bush? They should ask how many of them get their news from the Fair and Balanced news network.

  115. JulieTexas  •  Jan 15, 2007 @10:01 pm

    Angie W nailed it….my father grew up hard-working poor in the Deep South: western and central Tennessee, southwestern Missouri. To him, the Democrats represent the party of the ni__ers, jews, mescans, homos, and poor Welfare-lovin’ trash. How anyone could recognize a black man as a full American is beyond him.
    When his generation is gone, a lot of that kind of crap will be gone with him. Thank god.
    Despite his views (and my mother’s, who is brainwashed to think just like him), I never agreed with him. Not even from the very earliest days as a child.
    I love my dad, and pity him for not being able to get his political thinking beyond his upbringing. But America will be better off when the older generation of ” a President can do no wrong” and “America can never do wrong” is gone.
    Even today, even though Dad knows that BushCo has screwed up, he tries to be a thorn in my side when he sees Bushie on TV and says to me, “there’s YOUR President on TV.” Like I should blindly support the guy no matter what. How sad.

  116. AnotherBeginning  •  Jan 16, 2007 @12:54 am

    Both Angie W. and JulieTexas have it right. Take it from someone who lives in the South and prays that Americans will finally realize that the Republican party and its conservative cohorts have become, since the last election, the Dixiecons. The GOP has become marginalized to the Southern states from whence they sprang. The old Dixiecrats simply morphed into the GOP and are now back again, as Dixiecons.

    I remember the Carter situation differently since I’m a bit older than most of those posting. What I remember, is that it wasn’t the rescue failure that killed Carter, politically; but, his taking responsibility for the failure. He wanted so badly not to be associated with Nixon, who like the Dixiecons and their leader George W., would rather lie than take responsibility for anything, that he refused to lie about the covert rescue operation, elected to be open with the American people and quickly took responsibility for what happened. The American people were not used to this kind of presidential candor and refused to forgive Carter for this.

    I grew up an Army brat in the early ’50s. My world at the time was so provincial as a direct consequence of living on military bases, that I thought the Military ruled the country, since after all the president was a General (Dwight Eisenhower). My father was an officer, and was relatively strict and attitudinally conservative, but my family was always liberal. We damned near had to be, because we are African Americans and we knew our bread was not going to be buttered by the Republicans.

    I realized too late that a conservative wing wave was sweeping over the country. I thought, like many other liberals at that time, that Americans would never fall for the insanity of the right wing ideologues. I realize now that the words we were told in school during the 1950s about the Holocaust “it could never happen in America” were wrong. The fascism that has overtaken this country in the form of the Dixiecons, with its rights/privacy stripping and torture, is a clear indication that it can and has happened here. God save us!

  117. Archie  •  Jan 18, 2007 @2:05 pm

    Born in ’61, but at 13 I had no doubt the Vietnam war was a lie and that Nixon was a really bad president.

    And I don’t claim to be a political pundit like Dreher. He’s supposed to be sharper then the rest of us.

    Americans would do well to realize the media punditry are actually stupider then the average citizen.

  118. Che  •  Jun 18, 2007 @2:33 pm

    One should rather die than be betrayed. There is no deceit in death. It delivers precisely what it has promised. Betrayal, though … betrayal is the willful slaughter of hope. ~
    Steven Deitz

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