Jewish World Review March 15, 2005 / 5 Adar II 5765

Paul Greenberg

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In praise of honest liberals | I almost drove off the road when I heard it, the shock was so great. I really should have known better than to be listening to the "news" on National Propaganda Radio instead of the classical music station. But it's kind of a duty. Know Your Enemy and all that.

At first nothing seemed amiss. There was the ageless Daniel Schorr going on and on in that soporific way of his that can make five minutes seem an eternity, when suddenly he said something about George W. Bush perhaps having been right. I had to pull over and get my bearings. Too much coffee, I figured. It had to be my caffeinated imagination working overtime, an aural hallucination, a hoax, an April Fool's joke a little early.

Whatever it was, it couldn't be real. I resolved to stick to Mozart. But later that day, an e-mail arrived from an equally astonished friend, who not only confirmed what I'd heard but sent along a copy of a piece by Mr. Schorr in the not all that good but very gray Christian Science Monitor, in which he said, well, read it for yourself, in undeniable black and white:

"WASHINGTON (CSM) — Something remarkable is happening in the Middle East — a grass-roots movement against autocracy without any significant 'Great Satan' anti-American component. . . . The movements for democratic change in Egypt and Lebanon have happened since the successful Iraqi election on Jan. 30. And one can speculate on whether Iraq has served as a beacon for democratic change in the Middle East. During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, President Bush said that 'a liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region.' He may have had it right."


The moral of this story: Keep the faith. Even in American liberals. They may be the last to get it, but they're starting to.

First The New York Times acknowledges the courage and vision of this much-bashed president, and now comes praise from . . . Daniel Schorr! On NPR! And that wasn't all. The miracles kept coming.

Here was Kurt Andersen in, of all blue-state publications, New York magazine:

"Our heroic and tragic liberal-intellectual capaciousness is facing its sharpest test since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Back then, most of us were forced, against our wills, to give Ronald Reagan a large share of credit for winning the Cold War. Now the people of this Bush-hating city are being forced to grant the merest possibility that Bush, despite his annoying manner and his administration's awful hubris and dissembling and incompetence concerning Iraq, just might — might, possibly — have been correct to invade, to occupy, and to try to enable a democratically elected government in Iraq. . . .

"It won't do simply to default to our easy predispositions — against Bush, even against war. If partisanship makes us abandon intellectual honesty, if we oppose what our opponents say or do simply because they are the ones saying or doing it, we become mere political short-sellers, hoping for bad news because it's good for our ideological investment."

Wow. Talk about intellectual honesty. And intellectual courage.

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Kurt Andersen has to know that, by saying such things, he risks disappointing his natural audience, the Bush-bashers who look to commentators like him for the strength to shake off any sign of good news out of the Middle East. The guy deserves a salute or, if that is too military a gesture for his tastes, then a respectful nod of the head. At this rate, that over-worked epithet "knee-jerk liberal" is going to lose all meaning.

Kurt Andersen now has contributed the best, shortest description around for those betting against American policy in this war on terror: political short-sellers. Perfect. As perfect as Jeane Kirkpatrick's phrase back in the Reagan Years for those who saw this country, not our adversaries, as the chief source of danger to the world: the Blame America First crowd.

Speaking of short-sellers, there will always be those who never lose faith in the bright, shining possibility of American defeat. Here is Nancy Soderberg, who served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration and long sleep, as she tried to keep up her spirits during an appearance on the Jon Stewart show:

"It's scary for Democrats," she began, "I have to say." But refusing to give up, she added: "Well, there's still Iran and North Korea, don't forget. There's still hope for the rest of us . . . . There's always hope that this might not work."

Later, after her words embarrassed her, Ms. Soderberg said she was just kidding. She could have fooled me. Only after being hard-pressed would she give this Republican administration any credit for these hopeful developments in the Middle East.

But you have to forgive her. It can't be easy rooting for tyranny these days.

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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.

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