One of the great differences between liberals and conservatives is how the two camps go about explaining misconduct. Conservatives prefer straightforward, old-fashioned explanations that focus on a flaw in those who commit the misconduct — greed, lust, cruelty, or (in extreme cases) evil itself. For liberals, such explanations are unsatisfyingly superficial. Misconduct must have a root cause, but liberals regard basic human instincts such greed, lust, and cruelty as insufficiently rooted. Thus, an intellectual posse must be recruited to track down the real culprit. And the search always seems to lead to the liberals’ version of the heart of darkness — “Amerika,” in other words the policies adopted by America’s elected leaders. By rejecting the obvious explanation and shifting the blame to American policy, the liberal accompishes that which is most important to him — he proves his intellectual and moral superiority.
Al Gore accomplished this yesterday. A person of ordinary intelligence and moral discernment would only be able to identify two possible explanations for the misconduct at Abu Ghraib — (1) a combination of cruelty and kinkiness and (2) the desire to coerce prisoners into providing information that might save American lives. But Al Gore is not ordinary. Thus, he was able to penetrate the heart of darkness and there locate a deeper explanation — George Bush’s post-9/11 policies. Had Gore not been so modest, he would have reported (instead of merely alluded to) the most deeply-rooted explanation he found on his intellectual voyage– the country’s failure to elect Al Gore.
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