On Native Ground
TO REPUBLICANS, CRITICIZING USE IS 'HATE SPEECH'
by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie was in Vermont a few days ago to do some fundraising and spread his party's message for the 2004 campaign - to criticize President Bush is to be guilty of committing "political hate speech."
Gillespie codified this policy in a memo he wrote last month to Republican Party officials. According to The Boston Globe, the GOP strategy outlined by Gillespie is to dismiss the Democrats as the party of "protests, pessimism and political hate speech."
The GOP faithful can spin it anyway they like, but it's the duty of an opposition party to oppose. After all, they were doing same thing when Bill Clinton was president. But apparently Republicans believe they're the only ones allowed to attack and criticize. Democrats are supposed to shut up and support the president.
The opposition is coming in fits and starts, but the Democrats are finally starting to catch on that there is nothing preventing them from pointing out that President Bush has been an utter disaster for our nation and the world as a whole.
In his presidential campaign, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has been one of the most vigorous Democratic critics of the Bush administration. Gillespie singled Dean out in his Dec. 2 speech at the Vermont GOP's Annual Fall Dinner. He took exception to a comment that Dean made at one of the Democratic debates that "George Bush is the enemy here."
"We are a nation at war, and they think the President of the United States is the enemy," Gillespie said. "Their rhetoric goes beyond legitimate political discourse. Ladies and gentlemen, this is political hate speech, and while people appreciate passion in politics, they reject hatred."
They reject lies, too.
Gillespie's comments to the Vermont GOP came nearly verbatim from his November memo, including this gem here: "The presidential candidates have now called President Bush a 'miserable failure," a 'liar," compared him to a 'gang leader," and to Saddam Hussein himself. Americans instinctively know that anyone who's willing to diminish the presidency in order to gain it is not worthy of having it entrusted to him."
Has George W. Bush been a miserable failure? Is he the enemy? You better believe it.
Bush is the enemy of peace, with his stated policy - as demonstrated in Iraq - of attacking any nation for any reason at any time. The other major theme of Gillespie's memo - "pre-emptive self-defense" (or in other words, if the "war on terror" is not waged in places like Iraq, we will have it fight it in America) - will be repeated often in the coming months.
Bush is the enemy of international cooperation, with his snubbing of America's many allies in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq and his disregard for numerous treaties and agreements that have been in place for decades.
Bush is the enemy of the environment, with his steadfast rejection of all informed scientific evidence of global warming and his policies that encourage pollution.
Bush is the enemy of sound economics, with his tax cutting and giveaways for the wealthy and corporate America which have resulted in the biggest federal budget deficits ever.
Bush is the enemy of civil liberties, with his support of curbing the Constitution in the name of "fighting terrorism."
Bush is the enemy of education, with his "No Child Left Behind Act," which sets unreachable standards for public schools and provides no resources for meeting them.
Bush is the enemy of senior citizens, with his attempts to "reform" Medicare and Social Security by ultimately privatizing both.
Most of all, Bush is the enemy of truth, for virtually every word that crosses his lips and virtually every policy initiative he comes up with is a lie.
Now, if pointing out these things is "political hate speech" and if doing so "diminishes the presidency," Gillespie and the Republicans are full of it.
You can expect to hear virtually every Republican repeating Gillespie's words in the coming months. After all, dismissing and undermining your opponent's criticism is a time-honored method of attack politics - especially when you have nothing of substance to say.
Dissent is a legitimate and critical part of democracy. Pointing out the numerous failings of the Bush administration is part of the political process. But the Republicans seem to think that no one is allowed to criticize the president or question his policies.
Leaving aside the fact that the GOP did everything in its power to attack and undermine Bill Clinton's presidency, the Gillespie strategy goes beyond hypocrisy. It is an affront to democracy itself.
Randolph T. Holhut was a journalist in New England for more than 20 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.