In late 2004 I got into a dialogue with Kevin, a conservative blogger who maintains the weblog Strategy Revolutions, who made some interesting comments to a series of my posts. This is an index of all of those posts, plus a few relevant posts from his website.
The post that started it all. I note Bush's repeated use of the expression "hard work" during the first Presidential debate. In comments, Kevin suggests that I pay a visit to his blog "for a different perspective on the debate and other things."
A post on Kevin's blog. He argues that John Kerry is a particularly lazy Senator, and therefore unqualified to be President.
Another post on Kevin's blog. He argues that though John Kerry — the “professor” — is intelligent and knowledgeable, George W. Bush — the “cowboy” — has a superior work ethic, and therefore is better equipped for the hard work of the presidency.
My first open letter to Kevin. I answer some of the criticisms that he leveled at Kerry, and suggest that Bush's hardworking cowboy image is only a manufactured image, very different from the reality. I tell Kevin that I find his reading of Bush's and Kerry's personal characters "puzzling," and ask him to further explain how he came to see them that way.
Kevin responds, criticizing Kerry as a flip-flopper willing to say anything to get elected, and expresses concern over Kerry's use of the expression "global test" during the first debate.
I discuss what Kerry meant by “global test,” saying that Kerry used it in reference to the Bush administration's failure to provide a credible reason for our invasion of Iraq.
Kevin responds that he does not accept my reading of Kerry's meaning, and that the problems in justifying the invasion represented an intelligence-gathering failure, rather than deceit on the part of the US.
I explain why I believe that the US's rationale for invading Iraq was deceitful, talking about both the information available and evidence of the Bush administration's deceitful character. I suggest again that Kevin's thinking reflects an assumption that the Bush administration is honorable and that Kerry is deceitful, and ask why he holds those ideas.
Kevin responds that in the examples I cited, Bush was speaking metaphorically and Colin Powell's aides were untrustworthy observers. He describes telltale signs of deceit in Kerry's rhetoric, including vague references to unspecified plans.
I confess that I'm trying to find underlying reasons why Kevin trusts Bush and distrusts Kerry, and point to examples of these varying levels of trust surfacing in his reasoning. I specifically point to how Kerry's plans are hardly unspecified, but rather well documented on his website. Then I confess that my three main reasons for opposing Bush do not hinge on his administration's deceitfulness: fiscal irresponsibility, Iraq undercutting the war on terror, and torture.
Kevin responds with a range of points. He again paints Kerry as ineffectual and irresolute, and credits Alan Greenspan as having more influence over the Federal budget than the President. On torture, he argues that "torture is bad, but so is terrorism," and suggests that Abu Graib reflects degraded cultural values which represent “the society that Senator Kerry would have us live in.”
In a post not addressed explicitly to Kevin, I quote Mark A.R. Kleiman talking about some good reasons why many Americans distrust liberals. I note the regional character of Kleiman's example of the Civil Rights Movement, saying that this helps explain the anti-liberalism of the South.
Kevin comments on the post, saying that he does not trust liberals because he believes in "personal responsibility," that Kerry's "tax the rich" plans are unappealing, and that it is arrogant for the North to claim moral superiority to the South because many workers in the North were wage slaves.
A post on Kevin's blog, in which he asserts that “pasty-face English liberals” who participated in a UK Guardian-sponsored letter-writing campaign to American voters urging them to vote for Kerry “are as much terrorists as those in Al Queda.”
In comments, I suggest that he reconsider this statement. Kevin responds that it follows from the logic of John Kerry's reading of terrorism. I comment again, disputing that logic.
I try to clarify the red state thinking post, emphasize the differences between Southern slavery and Norther wage slavery, and pointedly ask Kevin to clarify some "strange moral points" he has made: that Southern black slavery was equivalent to wage slavery, that the Guardian letter-writers are equivalent to Al Qaeda terrorists, and that the 9/11 attacks justified Abu Graib.
Kevin responded with a defense of his comments, saying that I exaggerated them. He says that I practice a rhetoric of insults in describing his position, and also in accusing the Bush administration of lying.
Commenter Thread asks Kevin to clarify how his link of Abu Graib to Senator Kerry's conceptions of duty and rights. Kevin responds with a discussion of the basis for rights claims, including narrow interpertation of the Constitution's protections. He and I follow up with posts about the language protecting rights in the Constitution.
Looking in detail at the red state thinking and missing the point? posts and their comments, I confess that parsing Kevin's comments, and attempting to respond thoughtfully, has become demanding and unrewarding.