I think you’ll enjoy Paul Krugman’s column today — “Gore Derangement Syndrome.” I don’t entirely agree with this part of it, however.
What is it about Mr. Gore that drives right-wingers insane?
Partly itâ€™s a reaction to what happened in 2000, when the American people chose Mr. Gore but his opponent somehow ended up in the White House. Both the personality cult the right tried to build around President Bush and the often hysterical denigration of Mr. Gore were, I believe, largely motivated by the desire to expunge the stain of illegitimacy from the Bush administration.
Maybe sorta kinda. The true believers never saw a stain of illegitimacy, of course. Righties don’t think much of elections, except as a kind of ritual; a motion that has to be gone through (one way or another) so that a government can call itself “democratic.” Righties never believed Bill Clinton was the “legitimate” president, even though he won two elections decisively. They spent eight years trying to take him down and nullify those elections, any way they could. And when the American people continued to support Clinton, William Bennett was all over media pushing his book The Death of Outrage and complaining the American people had lost their sense of morality.
In other words, to a rightie “legitimacy” is not something conferred by the expressed will of We, the People. It is conferred by decisions made behind closed doors in right-wing think tanks and disseminated to the true believers through right-wing media. And they’d been smearing and vilifying Gore for years before the 2000 elections.
And now that Mr. Bush has proved himself utterly the wrong man for the job â€” to be, in fact, the best president Al Qaedaâ€™s recruiters could have hoped for â€” the symptoms of Gore derangement syndrome have grown even more extreme.
The worst thing about Mr. Gore, from the conservative point of view, is that he keeps being right. In 1992, George H. W. Bush mocked him as the â€œozone man,â€ but three years later the scientists who discovered the threat to the ozone layer won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In 2002 he warned that if we invaded Iraq, â€œthe resulting chaos could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam.â€ And so it has proved.
But Gore hatred is more than personal. When National Review decided to name its anti-environmental blog Planet Gore, it was trying to discredit the message as well as the messenger. For the truth Mr. Gore has been telling about how human activities are changing the climate isnâ€™t just inconvenient. For conservatives, itâ€™s deeply threatening.
They won’t admit he’s right, of course. Their lips would fall off first. But yes, they are threatened. They want to look at the world and see their vision perfectly reflected back at them, as in a mirror. When the world reflects back something else, they can’t stand it. They’re like the evil stepmother in Snow White when the Magic Mirror told her someone else was more beautiful than she was.
This is why the Right wants to destroy Al Gore — they are jealous. All admiration and adulation belongs to them.
Today, being a good Republican means believing that taxes should always be cut, never raised. It also means believing that we should bomb and bully foreigners, not negotiate with them.
So if science says that we have a big problem that canâ€™t be solved with tax cuts or bombs â€” well, the science must be rejected, and the scientists must be slimed. For example, Investorâ€™s Business Daily recently declared that the prominence of James Hansen, the NASA researcher who first made climate change a national issue two decades ago, is actually due to the nefarious schemes of â€” who else? â€” George Soros.
Which brings us to the biggest reason the right hates Mr. Gore: in his case the smear campaign has failed. Heâ€™s taken everything they could throw at him, and emerged more respected, and more credible, than ever. And it drives them crazy.
Krugman himself has been the target of rightie search-and-destroy missions. Andrew Leonard writes at Salon, in a review of Krugman’s new book The Consciences of a Liberal:
For those who go the extra step of publicly making their living inveighing against conservative triumphalism, the reward has been ridicule and scorn. In “The Conscience of a Liberal,” Krugman recounts how after the 2004 election, some colleagues told him that it was time to ease up on his constant hectoring of George W. Bush. “The election settled some things.” …
…If they can bring themselves to skim through its pages, conservatives, naturally, will not find much to like in “The Conscience of a Liberal.” Perhaps one of the best things you can say about it is that Krugman will drive them mad with rage (kind of like Al Gore winning a Nobel Peace Prize).