Hating the president is almost as old as the republic itself. The people, or various factions among them, have indulged in Clinton hatred, Reagan hatred, Nixon hatred, LBJ hatred, FDR hatred, Lincoln hatred, and John Adams hatred, to mention only the more extravagant hatreds that we Americans have conceived for our presidents.
But Bush hatred is different. It's not that this time members of the intellectual class have been swept away by passion and become votaries of anger and loathing. Alas, intellectuals have always been prone to employ their learning and fine words to whip up resentment and demonize the competition. Bush hatred, however, is distinguished by the pride intellectuals have taken in their hatred, openly endorsing it as a virtue and enthusiastically proclaiming that their hatred is not only a rational response to the president and his administration but a mark of good moral hygiene.
In short, Bush hatred is not a rational response to actual Bush perfidy. Rather, Bush hatred compels its progressive victims--who pride themselves on their sophistication and sensitivity to nuance--to reduce complicated events and multilayered issues to simple matters of good and evil. Like all hatred in politics, Bush hatred blinds to the other sides of the argument, and constrains the hater to see a monster instead of a political opponent.
Prof. Starr shows in "Freedom's Power" that tolerance, generosity, and reasoned skepticism are hallmarks of the truly liberal spirit. His analysis suggests that the problem with progressives who have succumbed to Bush hatred is not their liberalism; it's their betrayal of it. To be sure, Prof. Starr rejects Bush administration policies and thinks conservatives have the wrong remedies for what ails America today. Yet at the same time his analysis suggests, if not a cure for those who have already succumbed, at least a recipe for inoculating others against hating presidents to come.
The conflict between more conservative and more liberal or progressive interpretations of the Constitution is as old as the document itself, and a venerable source of the nation's strength. It is wonderful for citizens to bring passion to it. Recognizing the common heritage that provides the ground for so many of the disagreements between right and left today will encourage both sides, if not to cherish their opponents, at least to discipline their passions and make them an ally of their reason.
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