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Are You Joking, Jenkins?

As promised, here is a partial transcript of British journalist, Simon Jenkins making his anti-Bush case to Bill Kristol at the Intelligence Squared U.S. debate on Tuesday night. If you have a beverage, put it down:

SIMON JENKINS

What I think is extraordinary to people abroad, is that those of us who are enthusiasts for America and American liberties cannot see why you needed to do these things. You will never persuade the outside world that you have not restricted liberty in America. You will never persuade them that you have not taken out Muslims as a particular group, and you will never, and you never persuade them that you really needed to do these things.

WILLIAM KRISTOL

What things?

SIMON JENKINS

Because-

WILLIAM KRISTOL

What have we done to Muslims in America? What has happened?

SIMON JENKINS

Arrested them.

WILLIAM KRISTOL

We’ve arrested Muslims in America? [LAUGHTER]

SIMON JENKINS

Incarcerated them without trial.

WILLIAM KRISTOL

We’ve incarcerated-

KARL ROVE

Rounded them up?

WILLIAM KRISTOL

…Muslims in America without trial?

KARL ROVE

Rounded, rounded them up? Name one?

WILLIAM KRISTOL

Nonsense.

KARL ROVE

Name one instance.

SIMON JENKINS

The, [UNCLEAR] belabor me all day with lists of people who have vanished. Vanished.

KARL ROVE

You know-

WILLIAM KRISTOL

Well, that-

KARL ROVE

This is on the border of lunacy, with all due respect.

SIMON JENKINS

But you didn’t need to do it, you didn’t need to do it-

KARL ROVE

We didn’t do it!

Bush-vilification, like all therapeutic mythologies, depends on fantasy for survival. With their vanishing Muslims, torture chambers, and evil corporate overlords, Bush haters are better suited to the Dungeons and Dragons, sci-fi convention circuit than to the political sphere. It’s clear that the delusional expectations placed on Barack Obama by his fans are a necessary counterpart to their own delusional indictments of George W. Bush. That’s why the enthusiasm about Obama is similarly not of a fact-based nature. His acolytes seek in him fake antidotes to fake problems.

There are respectable liberal arguments to make against Bush. But liberals never make them – conservatives do, in the form of thought experiments. On Tuesday, Bill Kristol mentioned reality-based misgivings about Alberto Gonzales and the coddling of Middle East autocracies. But when the Simon Jenkinses of the world open their mouths, it’s never to challenge the efficacy of monitoring America-bound phonecalls, but to rail against the illegality of tapping outgoing phonecalls without a warrant (which simply doesn’t happen.) It’s never to question the usefulness of waterboarding Khalid Sheik Mohammed, but to scream at the top of their lungs about the crime of torturing thousands of innocent Muslims (also a myth.) It’s to decry the rounding up and disappearing of American Muslims.

There’s one more myth that needs to be exposed. On Tuesday, Simon Jenkins described himself as an “enthusiast for America and American liberties.” Earlier this year, he wrote that Americans have an “atavistic love affair with war,” and wrote of America, “Above all it is full of soldiers.” He went on:

Americans still do not travel abroad, and rely on television news for their knowledge of foreign places, which they continue to regard with bizarre suspicion. Hence a world view is lumped in with defence and security in a collective paranoia.

[...]

To visit America at present is to be reminded of the continuing trauma of post-9/11, of a nation that craves a cohering substitute psychosis for the lifting of the Soviet menace. It is seen in ubiquitous threat alerts, hysterical airport security, the continued acceptance of Guantánamo Bay and even jibes about public figures not wearing the American flag in their buttonhole.

Strange brand of enthusiasm for our country, don’t you think?



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