Sensible Words from (Gasp!) The New Republic

It’s difficult to pin down the exact genesis of epochal world events such as the demise of The Soviet Union. It’s harder still to look at small, isolated events and accurately predict they will lead to major developments. But an extraordinary column by Martin Peretz, the Editor-in-Chief of The New Republic may be one of those small events which could lead to a major shift in American political discourse.

The New Republic is a Liberal magazine which has been tough on Conservatives in general and George W. Bush in particular. And, yet, here comes Mr. Peretz with an article for the April 11 issue of his magazine (posted on its website on March 31), in which he thoroughly and thoughtfully looks at events in the Middle East and judges them to be positive and, what’s more, gives full and ungrudging credit to President Bush.

At the same time he chides Democrats for their unrelenting negativity and suggests they had better stop ignoring the tides of history out of distaste for the President. (Indeed, the article is called The Politics of Churlishness.) As Mr. Peretz puts it, “If George W. Bush were to discover a cure for cancer, his critics would denounce him for having done it unilaterally, without adequate consultation, with a crude disregard for the sensibilities of others.†

I’m sure Mr. Peretz will suffer a fusillade of invective hurled at him by some of his readers for even suggesting that Mr. Bush is anything but an evil, self-righteous dolt, but I’m hopeful others will see the wisdom in what he says. More importantly, I hope people across the political spectrum might give some thought to the notion we can have strong disagreements without the demonization which has become so commonplace in our political discourse.

I don’t expect hand-holding and the singing of “Kum Ba Ya,” and I’m not naà ¯ve enough to believe that politics will ever be anything but rough-and-tumble (nor should they be), but I don’t think it would be a bad thing to get past the notion that if my opponent believes in it, I don’t. If he did it, it must be bad. If he said it, it’s wrong.

It seems to me we have been in a rhetorical arms race in this country, with each side unwilling to lay down its weapons for fear — usually justified — the other side would beat them to a pulp. The idea of giving credit where credit is due has gone out of fashion.

It’s obviously too soon to announce a new dawn in the world of political debate, but if we can restore even a bit of civility and common sense, we will be better and stronger for it. And we can tip our hats to Martin Peretz.


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