A Dislike Unlike Any Other?
On the left: Slate columnist Michael Kinsley writes that he and other liberals view Bush as "pretty dumb -- though you're not supposed to say it and we usually don't." Bush is also, writes Kinsley, "a remarkably successful liar."
On the right: Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, writing in Time, sees the anti-Bush "contempt and disdain giving way to a hatred that is near pathological. . . . Bush's great crime is that he is the illegitimate president who became consequential -- revolutionizing American foreign policy, reshaping economic policy and dominating the political scene ever since his emergence as the post-9/11 war president."
On the left: Paul Krugman sees a huge double standard, insisting there is "no way to be both honest and polite" about the administration's deceptions.
"There's nothing on the liberal side that compares to the bile we've routinely gotten on the right," the New York Times columnist says in an interview. "After years of extreme attacks from conservative pundits and politicians, now there's a little bit of feistiness on the other side and it's 'Oh, those rude people!' They themselves continue to do slash-and-burn, and the other side can't. It's amazing how thin-skinned some of these guys are."
What, in the end, is the impact of this anti-Bush animus?
To hear conservatives tell it, the liberals are being self-destructive by constantly and fervently denouncing the president.
"After a while," says Ingraham, "it sounds like they're not respecting the intelligence of the average American. It's become a brand for the angry left."
To hear liberals tell it, the fury at Bush could fuel a Democratic surge in 2004 and helps explain the improbable success of Howard Dean. In this view, the party doesn't need milquetoast Democrats who blur their differences with Bush as much as two-fisted candidates ready to punch him out.
"Many Democratic partisans looked for a champion who would take on Bush directly, with passion and vigor, who would call Bush on his false statements," David Corn says. Dean "mirrored the anger and disgust felt by many grass-roots Democrats."
It was against this backdrop that Chait felt compelled to speak out. "It's become social taboo to question Bush's legitimacy in any way, or even his fitness to hold office," he says. "It's seen as a mark of being hyper-partisan and bitter."
Chait's New Republic editors urged him to write a coolly analytical piece about Bush's failings, but he waved them off. "I felt I was being slightly dishonest by not confessing my own feelings," he says.
Bush-hating, it turns out, can be good business. Chait has gotten so much reaction that he and Ponnuru have been making the talk show rounds and are working with a speaker's bureau. But he's also gotten some nasty e-mail messages, one of which, perhaps inevitably, was titled: "Why I Hate Jonathan Chait."
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