George W. Bush and James Dobson are both gutsy guys willing to take on terrorists or those who terrorize American culture. That’s why they have enemies among establishment mediacrats who work to take down anyone who stands up.
Since press opponents will twist anything they say if given the opportunity, both have to be extraordinarily careful whenever they make public statements. They can’t let anyone over-promise: President Bush has been lambasted because a PR aide stuck a “Mission Accomplished” banner behind him in 2003 when the tougher Iraq war was not ending, but beginning. They can’t let down. The bashed brothers are always on stage.
President Bush has been careful in his statements specifically about Iraq to emphasize that we are on a long, winding and sometimes deadly road. His comments last week about the Iraq election showed joy but not irrational exuberance. Many pundits have complained that the president overreached in his pro-democracy commitments on Jan. 20, but a president’s reach often exceeds his grasp, or what’s an Inaugural Address for?
Nevertheless, some full-court pressers persist in their claims that President Bush is dumb. First, he didn’t know the names of world leaders. Then, he mispronounced them. Then, he didn’t grasp the complexities. Then, he didn’t understand sensitivities. Secular liberals who don’t believe in right vs. wrong believe instead in smart vs. stupid, so rather than discuss values they prate about brains and look for opportunities to debase rather than debate.
The biggest twisting, unsurprisingly, comes when an evangelical like Dobson argues that we need strong families with a father and mother to train children to use freedom without abusing it. That’s waving Red America before the lead bull of today’s cultural left, the idea that people are normally polyamorous and that an emphasis on how God made us male and female leads to “compulsory heterosexuality.”
Dobson mentioned a sensational fact during an inaugural week speech in Washington: that a pro-gay group planned to use a video starring children’s TV characters in schools nationwide during March to promote approval of homosexual conduct. When he referred to one of the characters in the video, SpongeBob Squarepants, the press frenzy began: Dobson the dope thinks SpongeBob is gay.
Of course he said nothing of the sort. Of course he was immediately Quaylized (as when Dan Quayle criticized the fictional TV character Murphy Brown for promoting single parenthood). And of course he will eventually be vindicated, as was Quayle (once safely removed from office) by an article titled, “Dan Quayle was right.” But in the short run among those with short attention spans, the word went forth: Christian leaders are idiots.
The New York Times, unsurprisingly, led the way on this. Columnist Maureen Dowd’s malicious megaphone shouted out the news that “Dobson outed SpongeBob,” and then quoted a Nickelodeon spokesman as saying, “It’s a sponge, for crying out loud.” Lots of other journalists did the same.
But Dowd went on to use Dobson’s remark as a way of renewing her attack on “Bush’s brain,” purportedly filled “with sugary visions of a quick and painless Iraq makeover.” She described “the lovable and malleable president” who merely soaks up the ideas around him, “almost like a sponge. SpongeBush SquarePants … lives in a bubble in D.C./absorbent and shallow and porous is he!”
Christians and conservatives can find good news and bad news in such mockery. The good news is political: As long as Dowdists are unable to engage arguments and instead depend on ridicule, the left will not rise again in American politics. The bad news is cultural: Those people who believe that people like Bush and Dobson are idiots are less likely to hear and absorb their message of personal and cultural renewal.
More people need to understand the games secular liberals play. Here’s one rule-of-thumb: No matter how bad a story sounds — particularly if it sounds bad — recognize the pattern of defamation.