a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Pledge this

Posted by Thomas Nephew on November 5th, 2004

On the evening of the election, I watched CNN’s Aaron Brown solemnly recite Jeff Jarvis’ popular if somewhat sanctimonious pledge:

I promise to… Support the President, even if I didn’t vote for him….. Criticize the President, even if I did vote for him….. Uphold standards of civilized discourse in blogs and in media while pushing both to be better…. Unite as a nation, putting country over party, as we work together to make America better.

I have little problem with any but the first part, but that’s enough. (I’d also quibble that I just can’t unite as a nation, but whatever.) Clearly, a lot depends on what you mean by “support.” In an addendum, Jarvis explains what he means is

…acknowledging that the president is the president and especially in a time of war, we need to stand together against our enemies — namely, Islamofascist terrorists — and not act, as too many have during this administration (and the one before it) that the enemy is in the White House. No, we’re on the same side.

No, we’re not on the same side. Has Jarvis — who gave Kerry his lukewarm endorsement — really been paying attention the last four weeks, let alone the past four years?. His pledge is possibly appropriate for a first-term president, but not for an incumbent one who ran the kind of campaign Bush did, and has the kind of track record Bush does.

Bush plans to use a “mandate” mainly supplied by people who hate gays, believe there were WMD in Iraq, believe Saddam had something to do with 9/11, and/or believe Swift Boat ads have a bearing on any of that to launch the domestic agenda that may well have been his principal war goal all along. From Bush’s Thursday press conference, that will mean putting Social Security money in the stock market, “reforming” taxes (like taking out the state and local taxes as a deduction!), and limiting medical lawsuits — none of which figure in much of anyone’s estimate of Bush’s 51% “mandate.”

The time to oppose him on these things is absolutely right now, and therefore Bush will definitely not get my support right now.

That may seem to miss Jarvis’ point: he’s talking about the fight against “Islamofascist terrorists”, not the one to “reform” tort law or wreck Social Security. But Bush has abused his undeserved stature with respect to the former to pursue the latter. So I shouldn’t and won’t say “let’s see how he does for a while with Iraq or with Al Qaeda,” because I already know how he does: he and his crew are screwups who have the gall to call their screwups successes, and the great good fortune to have an unscrupulous Rove campaign machine to help confirm them in that. I certainly support the troops in Iraq and elsewhere, and I hope for real progress with, say, democratizing Iraq, or in taking down Al Qaeda instead of growing it. But by now it’s approaching the same kind of hope I’d have waiting for a chimp to type Hamlet.

So I pledge to (now) remain somewhere between highly skeptical to actively hostile to any plan coming out of the White House. And that’s that.

Matt Welch has a similar reaction, but with different reasons — he mainly just doesn’t like pledges, although I guess that’s a lot of my reaction, too. Welch concludes:

…when you confuse your own justifications for voting with some kind of serene Adulthood, you are not “uphold[ing] standards of civilized discourse”; most likely, you are fooling yourself while spouting nonsense.

And it’s not that I’m above any of that, no matter how I sporadically try. It’s just that reading a thousand fiercely partisan webloggers suddenly reciting “peace pledges” about Elevating Discourse after 18 months of tar-and-feather is like watching a kleptomaniac lecture a bum about not stealing. I wish them much luck, expect very little, and pledge only to keep writing like I always have. Except maybe with more curse words.

He got that shit right.

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