Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuesday talk radio update

I swear, I just heard Dave Rye say, "Liberals are more moral than the rest of us, at least in their own minds." Liberals also think they are smarter than conservatives, he went on.

Do liberals actually think that? I thought one of the tenets of liberalism was that people have considerable freedom to set their own moral codes. Pretty hard to believe that and at the same time believe that whatever moral code one person chooses is all that much better than anyone else's.

If what Dave says is typical of how conservatives think, then I guess I would concede that he's right about his second point.


Matt Singer said...

It may be true insofar as I think most people think themselves above average in both the moral department and the intelligence department. Add in team player mentality and people probably think their like minded cohorts share their good natures and smart brains.

Does Dave Rye think conservatives are less moral or less intelligent than liberals or more moral or more intelligent?

I'm admittedly torn as there are a lot of good (and bad) and smart (and stupid) folks on both sides. Finding correlations between smarts and morals (either directly or inversely) is probably also problematic.

Chuck Rightmire said...

I think that liberals don't think they are more moral than conservatives; they just feel that they go through a more analytical approach with less regard for a "word."

Mark T said...

Dave Rye needs to spend a little more time with real liberals and less constructing these straw men. He's forever telling us what liberals think. He occupies both podiums in that debate.

The quest for moral superiority is an unending pursuit - we're almost all engaged. Liberals are part of it, but no one is worse than conservative Christian Republicans. Good grief.

(There is the guy holding the sign begging for money that says "I won't lie - it's for beer" He might be morally superior to the rest of us.)

Anonymous said...

I don't know that I've ever met anyone who claimed to be immoral.

From my conversations with liberals, I think they see themselves as more moral than conservatives because they view most conservatives as hypocrites (see David's regular posts on such things). Their morality is based on secularism, not religion, and many are downright contemptuous of "Bible thumpers," as one of my relatives calls Christians.

Interestingly, though, one of the liberals' primary heroes, Martin Luther King, was a religious man. (contrary to what many liberal might think, I think King is revered by many on the right as well).

Liberals often cite morality when they argue against conservative positions. For example, they blast the "immorality" of the Iraq war or Bush tactics to track terrorists. Same with Gitmo and "torture."

In fact, as a handy example in the prior post, David made the point that "...down inside we know that we did something terribly, terribly wrong. If it leads to our comeuppance in the world, we will, regrettably, have earned it."

Sounds like the Day of Judgment is nigh.

Likewise, when liberals cited their reasons for voting for Obama, many cited his "compassion" -- a moral component that the other guy lacked.

So yes, we all think we are moral. And liberals do think they are more moral than conservatives. Even though they also think that one of the tenets of liberalism is that people have considerable freedom to set their own moral codes.

In fact, one of the reasons they think they are more moral than conservatives is because they believe the latter.

David said...

I do not think conservatism is hypocritical at its core, although I do think there is a lot of political hypocrisy around masquerading as conservatism (the same probably could be said of liberalism, but I don't pay as much attention to that because that is not the world I live in).

Torture is a perfect example. American prohibitions against mistreating prisoners are older than the country itself. They are fundamental to what America is about and as such should be a cornerstone of conservatism. Yet it is people who claim to be conservatives (with some honorable exceptions) who seem most eager to abandon 200 years of American tradition in pursuit of a forced confession or two.

That isn't what it means to be a conservative, and those who claim it is are, I am afraid, hypocrites.

Mark T said...

Anonymous - Most liberals are also Christians. I'm not, but I don't think I'm typical.

Anonymous said...

I don't really know much about this issue. What prohibitions are you talking about that were in place before we became a country? There couldn't be any laws, obviously. What would be put in place that had the force of law? Were there specific laws that then replaced these guidelines or whatever they were?

Even if there was some sort of prohibition--strong or not--I'm sure many people who had been taken prisoner by American soldiers in the 1700s or 1800s or even the 1900s would be surprised to learn that they were not supposed to be mistreated. In fact, my guess is that the prisoners at Gitmo have been among the best treated POWs in world history.

Be that as it may, I'm sure you and I will never agree on this issue. But there is another side to the story, and if there folks out there who want to know more about it, they can find a good summary in the Wall Street Journal at


This issue is not black and white. And as the Journal notes, much of the hyperbole coming from the Left regarding "torture" is partisan noise that's laying the groundwork for pushing war crimes cases against Bush administration officials.

If that happens, it ought to really help unite the country in these trying and divisive times.

David said...

Anonymous, Here's a link on American policy toward prisoners of war before we were a nation: http://nationalexpositor.com/News/826.html

Unlike Bush, Washington was extremely concerned about how our actions looked to the rest of the world. He knew it was important to demonstrate that we weren't just rebels and terrorists but a real nation, and he set a standard for humanity and decency that has served us well throughout our history -- especially in World War II. I guarantee you, I never met a German war veteran who didn't want to be captured by the American Army rather than the Soviet army (of course, one reason for that is that not many Soviet prisoners lived to tell the tale). Our reputation for treating prisoners decently saved the lives of thousands of U.S. soldiers.

The Wall Street Journal article grossly distorts reality. Water boarding is, for example, without question torture under international law and the Geneva Conventions (and arguably under U.S. law, too). There also can be little doubt that the other techniques the Journal describes can constitute torture when used to extremes and particularly when used in combination with one another -- as has frequently happened.

The fact that Democrats played along excuses nothing. They, too, must be held accountable.

Anonymous said...

I think you are sugarcoating a lot of history, as you try to portray the Bush administration as a bunch of torturers, unlike past American officials who have taken care to treat POWs with kid gloves. I don't buy it.

In the Civil War, for example, there were the horrors of places such as Andersonville on the southern side, but as historian Bruce Catton has noted, the "Northern camps killed their
full quota of Southerners." Over 56,000 Americans on both sides died in captivity.

I don't need to go into the atrocities committed against Native Americans warriors and their families.

In the Philippine-American War (1899-1902), US soldiers burned and destroyed entire villages, used water torture against captured enemy soldiers, and put civilians into concentration camps, where many died from famine and disease. More than a million Filipinos, including POWs, were killed in the US pacification program. The Philadelphia Ledger said at the time: "The present war is no bloodless, opera bouffe engagement; our men have been relentless, have killed to exterminate men, women, children, prisoners and captives, active insurgents and suspected people from lads of ten up, the idea prevailing that the Filipino as such was little better than a dog...."

While the US generally treated German soldiers well in WWII, there were violations of the Geneva Convention. After Germany's surrender in May 1945, Allied powers established a vast system of POW camps for millions of surrendered German soldiers, many of whom died from starvation, exposure and disease.

In the Vietnam War, there was a secret prison system for civilians suspected as Communist Party members, and they were held without habeas corpus or international inspection in
terrible conditions such as those at Con Son Island.

And if you don't believe the US has used harsh coercion methods to get intelligence out of its enemies since the country's early days, I've got a proverbial
bridge to sell you....

In contrast to these examples, the incidents you cite are rare, isolated. Those held at Gitmo are probably among the best treated POWs in world history.

Regardless of what I think, Democrats now control Congress and the administration and have a chance to remedy the problems you see. I encourage you to join Glenn Greenwald and other Democrats in pushing for war crimes prosecution so we can clear the air, get all the facts on the table. Take up the campaign and get Baucus and Tester on board. We'll see what the American people think. Could be quite entertaining and informative.

David said...

Anonymous 517,
I would certainly never dispute that there have been atrocities in America's past, but our history has not looked kindly on those acts. We have tended to regard them as aberrations, deviations from a norm of decency and respect. The Bush administration is the first that I know of to adopt torture as a matter of policy, in direct contravention of our own laws and international treaties.

And yes, I do support a full investigation of war crimes.