I had set all of this aside as one of those mysteries of the conservative mind that I would never grasp. I mean, plainly the idea that I or anyone else would hope for death and dismemberment of anyone in order to spite George Bush is outlandish, but they regard it as typical liberal degeneracy. However, my recent prowling of conservative blogs raised this matter again to the point that I'm starting to understand where they are coming from (a scary prospect, I admit).
The ironic or hypocritical or just plain odd aspect of all this is that the right does have what many of us perceive as an irrational hatred of Bill Clinton. So why should they get their drawers in a knot if we detest George Bush? Sauce for the goose, correct? But the labyrinthine ways of the conservative mentality doesn't see it that way. And there is a certain weird logic to their thinking as I've come to understand it.
The right saw Bill Clinton as a lying, draft-dodging, adulterous Democrat who usurped the throne of Ronald Reagan and commenced the dismantling of the shining city on the hill. They found him morally unworthy to be president, particularly commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Clinton was so unworthy that no tactic with the goal of bringing him down was off limits. In fact, not only was no tactic unjustified, the threat to the country and the military was so acute as to demand extreme rhetoric and action. Their frustration and hatred grew with Clinton's popularity; it culminated when they could not convince the rest of the country that impeachment and removal from office was a necessary and justifiable consequence of his personal shortcomings.
Since their hatred of Clinton was personal, they assume that liberals (a) must hate George Bush and (b) that it must be personal. As they did not with Bill Clinton, conservatives perceive George Bush as a good and decent man who wants to do the right thing. (I can quarrel with that, but the point is their perception, not mine.) Ergo liberal hatred of Bush is not only personal and extreme, it is -- unlike their hatred of Clinton -- irrational. That I don't care what George Bush does when the lights are low never figures into the calculus.
There was a time when I could say that while I had no personal feelings toward George Bush one way or another, I did hate what he was doing to the country. I drew a disctinction between despising Bush personally and despising his policies. However, Bush and the right's own actions have created a climate of personal animosity between Americans based largely on their perception of him. It was George Bush, after all, who made support of his Iraq policy synonymous with "supporting the troops": If you didn't support the war, you didn't support the troops, and what kind of person did that make you? It was conservatives who equated opposition to the war with cut-and-run cravenness, thus accusing millions of Americans of moral cowardice. Who wouldn't take that personally and resent it?
So, yes, I admit it: I have come to detest George Bush personally. He used 9/11 as a means to consolidate and exercise power and to impugn the patriotism of millions of Americans. He identified our country and therefore me as an American with words like "torture" and "rendition." His performance in the wake of Hurricane Katrina amounts to dereliction of duty. His contempt for public opinion, which he masks by claiming to do what he thinks -- what he knows -- is right for America, provokes public contempt for him. As for rooting for Bush to fail, well, he's done that on his own without any help from me.