Post Traumatic Bush Derangement Syndrome

It’s becoming increasingly clear that John McCain is going to have to cope with something I call PT-BDS — or Post Traumatic Bush Derangement Syndrome. Let me explain and, as is so often the case with my explanations, let me start with a personal anecdote.

I’m visiting with the in-laws right now (hence the sporadic blogging). It’s quite a nice visit. We’re in a lovely American city, the children had a rapturous reunion with their cousins, and I’ve had a stimulating time with my in-laws, all of whom have moved right, just as I have. Indeed, poor Mr. Bookworm is the only hold-out. He feels that the family is betraying decades of committed liberalism (not the mention the New York Times), and is putting up a heavy rearguard action to defend his belief that “Bush is the worst president ever” (or, BITWPE).

Things got difficult for him though when talk rolled around to the upcoming elections. He conceded that he thought Obama would be a disaster and that he couldn’t vote for him. He also admitted that he hated Hillary and wouldn’t vote for her. But, he said, he couldn’t vote Republican. Why not, we all asked? Because, he said, “Bush is the worst president ever.” Had you been in the kitchen at that moment, you would have heard nine adults say in perfect harmony and synchronization: “But Bush isn’t running for President.”

Mr. Bookworm acknowledged this fact, just as he acknowledged that McCain is an entirely different personality from Mr. Bush.  In my conversations with him, Mr. Bookworm has also admitted that McCain is not a Bush crony, and that he agrees with a lot of McCain’s politics. Still, Mr. Bookworm just can’t get passed the “BITWPE” problem.

It would be easy enough to say that Mr. Bookworm is just stubborn, which he is, if it weren’t for the fact that my mother is exactly the same. She agrees that there is a war of civilizations going on, and that the Democrats are ignoring it. She agrees that Obama is scary and Hillary awful. She agrees that illegal immigration is a problem. She recognizes that identity politics and political correctness are divisive and are weakening America. But she can’t vote Republican. Why not? She can’t stand Bush’s smirk. Point out to her that Bush and Cheney are not running for office, and she tells you she doesn’t care. She just can’t vote for Bush.

PTBDS has potentially far-reaching effects, effects that go beyond my neurotic, retro-Progressive family members.  In writing about the “country in the wrong direction” poll that just came out with a devastating 81% unhappiness rate (although Democrats were overpolled and Republicans unpolled), Rick Moran pointed out the problem this poll poses for McCain and the Republicans:

This is not good news for John McCain and the GOP. People who think the country is headed in the wrong direction rarely vote for the incumbent party. However, in this case, the Democrats may have something to worry about as well. Approval ratings for Congress are worse than they are for the incumbent Republican president. But people tend to punish the party of the president during general elections than they do the party in control of Congress which is more common in off year contests.

McCain’s challenge is to distance himself just enough from Bush that he stands on his own two feet while not alienating Mr. Bush’s core 30% support among Republicans. It is a balancing act that many in the past have failed to do (see Al Gore) but will be necessary if McCain wishes to avl\d a backlash against the party of Bush among the general public.

In a normal world, one could deal with the revulsion felt towards the incumbent administration during an economic downturn simply by pointing out the obvious,which is that no one from the Bush administration is running for President.  However, in this election, conservative Democrats — who ought to be a swing vote — dislike the man with such fervor, they can’t be reasoned with.  For them, Bush and the Republican party have become fused into a single entity, making it impossible for them to view any Republican candidate objectively.  They’ve been so deeply traumatized by the Bush presidency that even the letter “R” after someone’s name causes frightening flashbacks, with avoidance the only option.

I just hope that all of these PTBDS sufferers are able to overcome their phobias and realize that, if as I believe is the case, Obama becomes the Democratic candidate, their Post-Traumatic Obama suffering will dwarf anything George Bush sent their way.

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  • Al

    I have to feel rather sorry for Mr. Bookworm. An intelligent member of the Democrat Party acknowledges that his two potential presidential candidates are not acceptable. Maybe his dismay with the current flow of his party will cause him to re-evaluate more of his perceptions.
    There is one thing which could save the Democrats from the pending implosion caused by fielding two grossly incompetent presidential candidates. The AT suggested a few days ago that Bush is the only one who could save the Democrats. Repeal the twenty second amendment, and have Bush run for a third term. That might even save the New York Times.
    Or maybe not.

  • Helen Losse

    There are those who are saying, a vote for McCain IS a third term for Bush. I don’t understand Democrats who don’t like Clinton and Obama (although some live with me). I think McCain will keep us in the war and fail to address important economic issues, such a health care and the rising costs of housing and fuel. That’s why I’m against him. You may not agree, but I do have my reasons.

    What is it the conservatives actually think Obama will do (if elected) that will be so bad for America? What can anyone do in four years that will make us stray from being America? Problem for Democrats is, if McCain is elected, it’ll be twelve years.

  • Oldflyer

    Helen, the most obvious answer to your question is that Obama says he would surrender in Iraq. I know you think that would be a good thing; but, I ask you to cite one instance when losing a war had a positive result. (Unless you are fighting the U.S ala “The Mouse Who Roared”.) Now, I don’t know whether he means what he says since he has surrogates whispering to certain audiences that no, he would not actually pull out precipitously. So, the problem with Obama is that he scares those people who believe that he would, in fact, surrender as he says he would. On the other hand maybe, as his surrogate whispers, he would simply anger folks like you by not doing what he says he will do.

    On another level, he could do great harm. The next President may appoint two or three Supreme Court Justices; and innumerable lower-court Federal Judges. Obama paired with a Democratic Senate could do irreparable harm. Our beloved Constitution would become an out-dated relic.

    I shake my head at the Bush deranged folks who scream about the loss of civil liberties, as I constantly watch our liberties being eroded by those Liberal do-gooders, at the local and federal level, who attempt to manage ever greater aspects of our lives–for our own good, of course.

  • jj

    Why is this something with which McCain has to deal? As your own family example establishes, nine of ten (even liberal) adults have figured out that no member of the Bush family is running again. That’s not an issue for McCain – though it may be for the delusional 10% of liberals who don’t seem able to move on with the rest of their lives.

    There are always “those who say,” Helen. There are those who insist the earth is flat, Apollo 11 didn’t go to the moon, and Hillary Clinton’s not a criminal: they’re just wrong. And if they haven’t noticed McCain being nothing but a pain in the ass of George Bush both personally and in a policy sense for the last eight years, well; then they’re kind of dumb, too.

  • Ymarsakar

    There are those who are saying, a vote for McCain IS a third term for Bush.

    Which would make a vote for Hillary Clinton into BIll’s Fourth Term, now wouldn’t it? Two for the price of one as they say, in more than one fashion.

    What is it the conservatives actually think Obama will do (if elected) that will be so bad for America?

    Simply having the Democrat party continue to exist in its present membership would be bad for America. Giving such a party the keys to the house and car is a little bit worse than just “bad for America”. It’s more like a disaster for the rest of the world. If Obama won’t be the first Democrat since Truman to nuke a city, he sure as heck will preside over the destructions of entire nations and human cultures. It’s not like it is going to be his fault. He can’t help what the Democrats will have made him do, you see.

    Problem for Democrats is, if McCain is elected, it’ll be twelve years.

    This coming from a party affiliate whose party had elected FDR for 16 years during a time when Democrats controlled Congress for more than 2 decades, and controlled the south for 5+ decades, is a bit ironic.

    In fact, didn’t Clinton reside over the destruction in Rwanda and Bosnia? Africa’s a fire storm because Africa prefers to do business with China than to listen to the State Department and Democrats of the United States talk about fantasies.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Oldflyer, let’s add to that list economics.

    Both Obama and his wife have amply demonstrated their disdain for the economic sector – i.e. the companies /corporations that provide jobs and goods and services of value. That’s not hard to understand – neither of them has ever held a job in the corporate world. Instead, they have profited handsomely from the wealth created by and taxed from the private sector. So, they profess disdain for us working stiffs that actually create value while explaining why more of that value we create needs to be taxed to benefit the parasitic class they represent.

    As Hoover adn FDR demonstrated, increased taxes, stifling regulations, big government projects and protectionist trade policies are a sure fire way to doom us to a long economic depression. It may benefit the large corporate entities and money men with whom Democrats like to covort, it will kill us small business owners and job creators.

  • Ymarsakar

    But she can’t vote Republican. Why not?

    Cause it ain’t her tribe.

    Why can’t blacks vote Republican? Because the Democrats are the tribe of blacks. The same was why the South stayed Democrat even when racist attitudes changed. Until Reagan made it socially acceptable to vote Republican in the South for many people.

    The mental chains that bind are always stronger than any physical chains, Book. Far stronger in fact.

  • Helen Losse

    I remembered the Supreme Court Justices as soon as I hit post.

    “Obama paired with a Democratic Senate could do irreparable harm. Our beloved Constitution would become an out-dated relic.” Oldflyer, can you give some examples?

  • Allen

    To answer your question Helen let me first ask you another. Do you own me? You say Obama will provide universal health care, affordable housing, and so on. How? By handing me the bills. In other words part of the fruits of my labor belong to you through the power of the state. That’s a form of slavery.

    I believe in taxation to accomplish things for all Americans, and even in a progressive system due to the variability of benefits. I’ll even gladly kick in so that my fellow Americans can get a helping hand when they hit a rough patch. I draw the line at a system that provides benefits to some while handing the bills only to others. It’s the most pernicious form of taxation there is and is anti-liberty.

    Helen, I use the “you” in the general sense not directly, OK?

  • Zhombre

    I do not presume to answer for Oldflyer but allow me to reply to Helen’s query. Obama as President will appoint very liberal judges to the Supreme Court who will not adhere to the strict constructionist theory of Constitutional law but to that theory of the living Constitution. They will act not so much as neutral, judicious and restrained arbiters of the law as written by the legislature but will substitute their own opinions, their own policy recommendations, their own preferences, for the law as written, and will in fact rewrite the law, usurping legislative function. I could cite a recent example of this in my own field, bankruptcy, but frankly it’s technical and bone-dry and would bore as much as illuminate. What people such as Oldflyer and myself are in dread of is this tyranny of the bench — and tyranny of good intentions, as CS Lewis remarked, the most terrible tyranny of all — subverting the balance of powers in the Constitution and, frankly, reversing the American revolution.

  • suek

    When you’re in a war, Helen, you either win or lose. A truce is simply a delay until the next engagement… If we withdraw from Iraq, we lose. It’s that simple. If we continue until Iraq’s army can defend their country, we win. Their newbie government is not succeeding as fast as we’d like, but they’re still moving faster than our own government, at this point.

    Economic issues. Unemployment has been lower for the last 4(?) years than it was in the Clinton years. What is your measure of a “bad” economy?

    Health care. Where in the Constitution is health care covered? Do you _not_ understand that universal health care is a socialist principle? What’s more, it doesn’t work. Check this out:

    Rising cost of housing and fuel: How do you propose the government deal with this? rent controls? limit of cost on selling houses? limit of profit on resale?
    Fuel…maybe lift restrictions on new refineries? Allow drilling for oil where it presently not allowed – like in the Caribbean off the coast of Fla – where China and Mexico are drilling, but US firms are not allowed to for environmental reasons…? Do you think China and Mexico are likely to be more environmentally careful than US companies?

  • suek
  • suek
  • Deana

    Bookworm –

    Your post is timely. I don’t know how true the rumors are but the idea of Dr. Rice being named the VP on the McCain ticket has me concerned. I like her and certainly admire her (although do not always agree with her). But conservatives are not crazy about McCain, McCain is going to have immense trouble getting folks in the middle and on the left to “overlook” his supposed connection to the Bush administration . . . having Dr. Rice on the ticket would seem the perfect way to put a nail in the coffin of his run.


  • rockdalian

    I read somewhere that the Dems will nominate Obama solely on the reason that they cannot alienate, arguably, their largest voting bloc.
    To that end, I have the perfect campaign commercial.
    Imagine, film of McCain, returning to America from Viet Nam, deplaning in country. The image of Wright appears proclaiming G-D D**M America!
    Obama would be toast.

  • suek

    >>I read somewhere that the Dems will nominate Obama solely on the reason that they cannot alienate, arguably, their largest voting bloc.>>