- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Hating George W. Bush is a full-time job, but it’s a labor of love for most of his critics, even for those who get paid to do it.

Frank Rich of the New York Times, a perfectly nice man if you run into him at a party or at the deli, goes off his meds when he sits down to write about anyone who doesn’t lust to throw a rotten egg, an overripe tomato or a shoe at the president. Frank thinks getting shot by an overeager Secret Service bodyguard, trained to rough up bystanders and ask questions later, would be a small price to pay for such a satisfying expression of hate and contempt.

He even calls up the ghost of columnist Joe Alsop (“the now forgotten columnist and Vietnam War cheerleader”), dead for decades, as an example of how the thoroughly modern media should not treat George W. and the war against terrorists in Iraq. Frank is having a hot flash because editors and reporters showed good manners toward the president at the White House Correspondents Association dinner the other night in Washington. You might think Frank’s mama never taught him that you’re obliged to be polite to someone you invite to dinner.

“This fete,” he wrote of this year’s dinner, “is a crystallization of the press’ failures in the post-9/11 era: it illustrates how easily a propaganda-driven White House can enlist the Washington news media in its shows. Such is literally the case at the annual dinner, where journalists serve as the supporting cast.”

Frank is not a reporter, of course, or even a journalist. He’s a pundit who sees everything through the eyes of an especially bitter partisanship. He’s typical of a certain kind of partisan who thinks everyone who doesn’t (or can’t) call up his brand of venom, spraying it at the landscape to poison anyone in the way, is a compliant enabler of evil.

Why do Frank and his friends hate George W. with such consuming passion?

We’ve had dedicated president-haters since the beginning of the republic Washington was reviled, Jefferson was mocked, Lincoln was ridiculed. The favorite pastime of certain Republican critics of FDR was famously portrayed in a classic New Yorker cartoon of the era: “Let’s all go down to the Bijou and hiss Roosevelt.” Bill Clinton was mercilessly derided for his clumsy rutting (some of it only attempted rutting) with a succession of prey ranging from doxies to thoroughly respectable women (some of them more bystanders than prospects). But much of the ragging of the 42nd president was pointed banter, not harsh scolding. The question every morning was, “What now?”

With George W. Bush, it’s unalloyed hate. No doubt part of it is envy, part of it jealousy, and a large part of it rage against the new media order. The liberal left controlled the culture for decades, with the great unwashed the rednecks, the evangelicals, Joe Sixpack and his friends kept on the sidelines to be seen and not heard, to pay their taxes and send their sons to war, but never to have much say about the why and the wherefore. That changed with talk radio, the ascent of “conservative media,” beginning with the birth of The Washington Times at the dawn of the Reagan era, then cable television, and nothing has been the same since. The Internet followed, and soon the New York Times, The Washington Post and the television networks no longer decided what was suitable for public discussion. Conservative candidates were elected to office, and the great unwashed finally had an effective voice.

Nobody likes losing a monopoly. Now it’s the liberal left thrashing about in wild frustration, making ever more foolish denunciations of imagined high crimes and low misdemeanors. The rhetoric of these worthies mirrors the rhetoric of the frustrated sages, savants and wise guys on the rightmost ramparts of yesteryear.

The Bush-haters should brace for more grief. Nearly everybody collecting eggs, tomatoes and shoes to throw at George W. regards as a certainty that the next president will be a Democrat. And he (or she) may be. But Gallup suggests that red-hots on the left take a cautionary cold bath, or at least a cool shower. Public-opinion polls are meaningless this far out from Election Day 2008, but the likeliest Republican candidates are running ahead, or even with, Hillary and Barack Obama in several big swing states. The front-runners today may, like chewing gum left on the bedpost, lose a little flavor overnight, but hating George W. won’t be much fun when he’s not on the ballot. Frank and his friends will have to find a new hate object.

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.

Thomas Jefferson

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