Having read Sidney Blumenthal’s column “Apocalyptic president,” I feel inspired to write my first real, full-length fisk, so be forewarned.
… , [President Bush] called on a citizen in the audience, who homed in on the invisible meaning of recent events in the light of two books, American Theocracy, by Kevin Phillips, and the book of Revelation. Phillips, the questioner explained, “makes the point that members of your administration have reached out to prophetic Christians who see the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism as signs of the apocalypse. Do you believe this? And if not, why not?”
Bush’s immediate response, as transcribed by CNN, was: “Hmmm.” Then he said: “The answer is I haven’t really thought of it that way. Here’s how I think of it. First, I’ve heard of that, by the way.” The official White House website transcript drops the strategic comma, and so changes the meaning to: “First I’ve heard of that, by the way.”
So the starting point to Blumenthal’s column illustrating how Bush is dangerously following the Christian Right is the different placement of a comma. That’s all he has? CNN put a comma there and the White House did not. That’s it?
Regardless of whether it changes the meaning or not, how does he know CNN was right in the first place? Just like always, Blumenthal is quick on the accusations, but slow (or low) on the evidence.
He then yapped about how Bush has met with evangelical leaders, including some who *gasp* believe in the book of Revelation and Armageddon.
Blumenthal then spends a paragraph attacking Southerners and urban Catholics as racist, while building up Kevin Phillips, a former strategists for Nixon. This should raise a red flag because liberals like Blumenthal never praise anyone associated with Nixon, unless that person happens to be a turncoat and can be used to advance liberal agendas. Phillips fits that bill.
In American Theocracy, Phillips describes Bush as the founder of “the first American religious party”; September 11 gave him the pretext for “seizing the fundamentalist moment”; he has manipulated a “critical religious geography” to hype issues such as gay marriage. “New forces were being interwoven. These included the institutional rise of the religious right, the intensifying biblical focus on the Middle East, and the deepening of insistence on church-government collaboration within the GOP electorate.” It portended a potential “American Disenlightenment,” apparent in Bush’s hostility to science.
Let me tell all of you liberals and atheists out there something. Even for those of us who believe the book of Revelation to be a prophetic account of future events (and not all evangelical Christians do), we do not think that if we bomb Iraq it will bring Jesus back any faster.
If you believe that, you are completely ignorant of Christian theology. I’m sure you can find a loon here or there or even a pulled quote from a Christian leader that may seem like they believe a Middle East war will spur on the Second Coming, but most of us don’t. Most of us understand that those events are in God’s hands and nothing we do or don’t do in terms of a war will speed or slow down God’s plan.
Also by Blumenthal’s throw away line about “hostility to science,” I am assuming he means essentially two things: 1) limiting funding on embryonic stem cells and 2) not advocating teaching evolution as an established fact. We can discuss each of those issues till we are blue in the face, but a position on either issues does not determine whether we hate science or not.
After rambling about the sin of Bush “funneling” money to churches to help in the Katrina clean-up, Blumenthal saves his “best” for last:
Within hours of its publication, American Theocracy rocketed to No 1 on Amazon. At US cinemas, V for Vendetta – in which an imaginary Britain, ruled by a totalitarian, faith-based regime that rounds up gays, is a metaphor for Bush’s America – is the surprise hit. Bush has succeeded in getting American audiences to cheer for terrorism.
Who exactly do you think bought American Theocracy, Sidney? Well let me tell you – the people who already believe Bush to be a crazy, theocratic dictator. No undecided person out there is lapping up Phillip’s book and saying, “Now I believe Bush wants to institute Christian law and begin Armageddon against the forces of darkness.”
As for V for Vendetta, I’m so glad you decided to bring that up. The “surprise hit” was moved to this weekend because there was no competition. None of the political themes were highlighted in the advertising – only that this was the latest movie by the Wachowski brothers, of Matrix fame. The movie was pimped to high heaven, over and over and over again on TV.
The top movie released the same weekend was She’s the Man, with Failure to Launch and The Shaggy Dog as the top holdovers. If V wasn’t first, it would have been a mass disappointment. This week, when it faced actual competition from Inside Man, it dropped to second and lost almost 52% from the opening weekend take.
Not to mention the fact that Alan Moore, on whose comic the movie is based, hated the movie and ripped the Wachowski brothers a new one [mild language warning].
But aside from the idiocy of viewing American Theocracy and V as proof America hates Bush, how can anyone make the jump from people bought the book and people saw the movie to Bush makes us cheer terrorists. That jump just about broke my neck the first time I read it.
My question becomes Sidney – who wrote the book and produced the movie? It wasn’t the Bush administration casting terrorists in a positive light. How is Bush to blame for liberals attempting to hurt him by softening the image of terrorism? Even Karl Rove could not pulll off a stunt like that.
Blumenthall should stick to simply being an apologist and defender for the Clintons because he has no future in crafting an offensive-minded political column. Unless of course he stays with the Guardian, in which case, he will be employed for years to come.