Defining Democracy Down

November 21st, 2007at 11:59am Posted by Eli

Talk about the soft bigotry of lowered expectations…

President Bush yesterday offered his strongest support of embattled Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, saying the general “hasn’t crossed the line” and “truly is somebody who believes in democracy.”

Bush spoke nearly three weeks after Musharraf declared emergency rule, sacked members of the Supreme Court and began a roundup of journalists, lawyers and human rights activists. Musharraf’s government yesterday released about 3,000 political prisoners, although 2,000 remain in custody, according to the Interior Ministry.

(…)

“What exactly would it take for the president to conclude Musharraf has crossed the line? Suspend the constitution? Impose emergency law? Beat and jail his political opponents and human rights activists?” asked Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a presidential candidate. “He’s already done all that. If the president sees Musharraf as a democrat, he must be wearing the same glasses he had on when he looked in Vladimir Putin’s soul.”

Bush was asked in the interview if there is any line Musharraf should not cross. “He hasn’t crossed the line. As a matter of fact, I don’t think that he will cross any lines,” Bush replied, according to an ABC transcript. “. . . We didn’t necessarily agree with his decision to impose emergency rule, and . . . hopefully he’ll get . . . rid of the rule. Today, I thought, was a pretty good signal, that he released thousands of people from jail.”

Tom Malinowski, Washington director of Human Rights Watch, said that “it’s hard to imagine how the administration will be able to achieve anything in Pakistan if the president is so disconnected from reality.”

“Almost everyone in Pakistan who believes in George Bush’s vision of democracy is in prison today,” Malinowski said. “Calling the man who put them in prison a great democrat will only discredit America among moderate Pakistanis and give Musharraf confidence that he can continue to defy the United States because Bush will forgive anything he does.”

(…)

In the interview with ABC News, conducted at Camp David, Bush disputed the suggestion that he has put too much faith in Musharraf…

“He’s been a loyal ally in fighting terrorists. He’s also advanced democracy in Pakistan,” Bush said. “He has said he’s going to take off his uniform. He’s said there will be elections. Today he released prisoners, and so far I’ve found him to be a man of his word.”

I think the explanation is pretty clear: Bush simply has a dramatically different definiton of “democracy” from the rest of us. For him, democracy means unchecked executive power, reckless use of military force abroad, and an emphasis on “security” over civil liberties at home.

Once you realize this, the Bush administration’s efforts to promote “democracy,” and all of his warm fuzzy comments about Putin and Musharraf as kindred spirits make perfect sense.

I look forward to the day when we can once again talk about democracy without the quotation marks.

Entry Filed under: Bush,Constitution


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