The Iraq connection? As President Bush ever so delicately touched on the subject in a press conference with then-Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin: “”There’s a lot of people in the world who don’t believe that people whose skin color may or may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern. I reject that stronglly…I believe that people whose skins are a different color than white can self-govern.”
Left unsaid by Bush is the very, very long record of the Democratic Party in believing precisely that “people whose skins are a different color than white” cannot govern. ~Jeffrey Lord
There are a lot of problems with this article–more than can be done justice in any one blog post, so let’s focus on the exceedingly silly attempt to tie in Mr. Bush’s obnoxious pro-war rhetoric.
Presumably Mr. Lord cites the example of Iraqi self-government with a heavy dose of irony. I know I certainly feel silly for saying that Iraqis would not succeed in representative government. Ahem. There are quite a few arguments that could be made about why some nations and peoples are ill-suited to self-government (especially the very particular kind of self-government that we understand by that term) that need not touch on race at all. One might point to social structure and see a fragmented, tribal society as uniquely unsuited to such government. One might look at the religious culture of a people and see in it principles and habits entirely inimical to free government. One might note that ethnically and religiously heterogenous societies are among the worst possible places to try to create stable representative democracy. In any case, “racially,” even if we were speaking at such a crude level as skin colour, Arabs are not very different from Europeans and white Americans, so it has never been at all clear what Mr. Bush was talking about here–unless we are meant to tendentiously read into Mr. Bush’s remarks some racial ‘othering’ of Arabs. That would, of course, be fairly silly, as is this entire article by Mr. Lord.
Indeed, Mr. Bush’s statement never made any sense, since he was knocking down the flimsiest of straw men: the antiwar argument from Arab racial inferiority. There never was any such argument, and you can’t cite a single article of any consequence that advances this argument. He was doing what he often does: he repudiates a weak, untenable position that no one holds to give the false impression that his position is that much more noble and admirable. “Unlike you people, I am not some stinking racist,” he says, as he is cheered on by legions of admirers who will repeat, mantra-like, “The only thing those people understand is force.” There is an unusual degree of cheekiness in those war supporters (whose colleagues cite The Arab Mind as if it were religious scripture) to repeat charges of racism against opponents of the war and critics of the program of democratisation of Iraq.
Perhaps Mr. Bush left unsaid any remark about the views of mid-19th century Democrats about black capacity for self-rule because that would have forced us all to remember that Republicans of the day, including Father Abraham himself, held the exact same low opinions of black competence and, with the exception of the very most radical egalitarians, possessed the same hostility to full black equality. It is doubly odd for conservatives to want to remind people that they have allied themselves with the party that was originally the party of egalitarianism, social revolution and progressive liberalism, especially when they would like to make the implausible attempt of damning the Democrats for both their old racial attitudes and their new radical attitudes that embody hostility to any hint of those old attitudes (especially when the targets of this hostility today tend to be conservatives).
Perhaps Mr. Bush left it unsaid because he probably knows, as we all know, that his party’s electoral strength in many parts of the country originated in the dissatisfaction of old Democratic white voters with the combination of civil rights activism, spectacles of lawlessness and the urban and predominantly Northern liberal response to all of these things. Perhaps the last thing these voters want to hear is some lousy Northeastern transplant running down the reputation of their fathers and ancestors. He might also have left it unsaid because it was completely irrelevant to the question of Iraq. He might have left it unsaid because virtually no one in this country, much less “a lot of people in the world,” believes anything like this. Had he added partisanship and South-bashing to his already-tendentious pitch for democratising Iraq as a fight against American racism, he would not have only made a fool of himself, but he would have caused the overwhelming majority of his voters to groan in disbelief.
When you grow up reading a lot of conservative commentary as I did during the ’90s, you find that the ever-so-cute and amusing attempts to show that Democrats and liberals are the “real” racists got old about ten years ago. It served the purpose of trying to hoist the race-hustlers and exploiters by their own petard, but it was, had to be, purely tactical and a way to puncture liberal claims to moral authority on these things. As of five years ago, they became really tiresome, because you began to sense that some of these people were deadly serious. “No, really, we’re the true anti-racists! I’m so not racist, you can hardly believe it!” Now I consider them an embarrassment of sorts, a kind of irrepressible tick that conservative writers feel the need to express every once in a while to get it out of their system. Indeed, the whole of Mr. Lord’s exercise in condemning the entirety of the history of the Democracy is something that was probably better left unsaid.