Determinations of what is liberal or conservative are often framed by inflammatory observations that do little to define the true nature of either position. While it is perfectly valid to hold opinions that favor one point of view over another, it is not acceptable to describe, as those on the right tend to do, all social programs as creeping Socialism or, in more extreme rhetorical instances, Communistic. Neither is it correct for the term “conservative” to be used as cover for a far-right agenda.
Political discussions can be insulting or informative. Partisans can make their points honestly or strive to confuse and hide their underlying motivations. Liberal has always implied openness, free expression and human rights; Conservative used to mean compliance with standards that also ensured the rights of the individual through limited government and a high level of fiduciary responsibility. Somewhere along the line Republicans were successful in making “liberal” a dirty word and in confusing classic conservatism with right-wing activism.
Today, the spectacle of White House or near-White House personnel either not responding to congressional subpoenas or refusing to answer questions when they appear is disturbing to liberals and conservatives alike. And it raises questions about whether the president, his cabinet and other appointees have a right to use the veil of executive privilege to avoid proper oversight by our elected representatives – – adding to an unpleasant feeling that our legal system has become simply an arm of the Executive rather than the guardian of the nation’s institutions and the rights of the American people.
Now as Congress addresses the issue of modifying surveillance guidelines, the possibility that, with revisions, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales could sidestep the FISA Court and assume responsibility for the program’s targets is meeting with resistance on both sides of the aisle. It is beyond imagining that this AG, in whom there is so little confidence, would ever be allowed to function in that role. But the president never seems to feel the pulse of the people when it comes to how far they are willing to suspend their disbelief and follow mindlessly his fear-inducing pronouncements and his appeals to trust him one more time.
Instead of reaching out to the general population Bush calls in right-wing talk show hosts – – people like Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Neil Boortz and Michael Medved, a team of partisans whose propaganda is shockingly deceptive and mean-spirited. And in the time-honored tradition of Republican reliance on such stalwarts as these, Representative John Boehner, House minority leader, appeared on Hannity and Colmes recently to promote the revised surveillance legislation providing, some have suggested, the classified tidbit that a FISA judge had declared parts of the president’s surveillance program illegal. That the information was classified is a charge his spokesperson has denied; it’s just that no-one was aware of it before Boehner said so in public, kind of like how Valerie Plame wasn’t covert, or her status classified and White House operatives didn’t out her for revenge.
Never mind, we’ve become accustomed to the use of classified material when it suits the purposes of this administration, and we have, unfortunately, gotten used to the twisted logic of right-wing supporters. It is why Neil Boortz can blithely say that in the case of a national disaster the proper course of action would be to “save the rich” because who else would be able to provide jobs? That might help to explain why those poor folks in New Orleans were left stranded on roof tops after Katrina. Who knew it was something close to a policy agenda of the far right? If those are the kinds of people the president listens to, the intransigence of his administration becomes easier to understand. Of course his own mother opined that the Astrodome was “working quite well” for displaced Katrina victims since they didn’t have much to begin with. Actually the apple not falling far from the tree works quite well here.
For his part Bill O’Reilly, at his wild-eyed best on The Factor confronted Senator Chris Dodd about the fact that Democrats planned to appear at a “Daily Kos” convention. O’Reilly contends that the blog spews hate because of some reader comments. As in the past O’Reilly becomes incensed when confronted by opposing views, tries to institute boycotts of countries like France for not joining us in Iraq (I’ve been buying Evian ever since) or Jet Blue for sponsoring the Kos convention. He ended up calling Dodd a propagandist for reasons conjured somewhere in the dark recesses of his obsessed mind and said that, if he were Joseph Lieberman, he’d never speak to Dodd again.
As a Connecticut resident who contacted both Senator Lieberman and Dodd in reference to the Immigration bill I will just say that in response, I received a generally meaningless fluff piece from Lieberman and an extended reply from Dodd explaining why he believed as he did. It would be something of a relief not to have hear from Senator Lieberman I should think, his sole usefulness being that he is pivotal in Democrats’ ability to chair Senate committees.
There is great interest in the Kos conference and surely no reason to attack attendees. Right-wing rants should never be confused with genuine conservative viewpoints, and liberals should never be afraid to champion the free expression of ideas.

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