The Angry Left

I caught a bit of the Republican Convention last evening, including the Ronald Reagan tribute and as much of the Fred Thompson speech as I could take before shutting it off. I TiVo’d Joe Lieberman but it’s iffy as to whether I’ll get to it.

Matt Yglesias points to a sound byte that I first heard on NPR this morning: President Bush’s line from his video address from the White House: “If the Hanoi Hilton could not break John McCain’s resolve to do what is best for his country, you can be sure the angry Left never will.”

Says Matt,

The analogy between American liberals and Vietnamese Communists is extremely offensive. As is the analogy between criticizing McCain’s policy ideas and subjecting him to physical torture and imprisonment.

I’m presuming Matt’s outrage here is faux, given that this is rather standard convention red meat.  Bush is saying nothing more offensive than “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

It is, however, a rather odd line.  Aside from reminding Americans — in case they’d somehow forgotten — that McCain had been tortured as a prisoner of war, I’m not sure what it’s supposed to accomplish. 

Is the base supposed to be fired up because people on the other side are 1) angry and 2) saying unkind things about McCain?  

Are undecided moderates supposed to say to themselves, “You know, he’s right: Those lefties sure seem to be angry all the time.  I’m going to vote for McCain!  At least he’s always got a smile on his face!  Oh, wait….”

Most of the time, it seems like speeches at party conventions are aimed only at people in the room.

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Triumph says:

    Bush is spot on–the leftist Democrat party is nothing more than a front for the Viet Kong.

  2. McCain was a POW? How come no one ever mentions that?

  3. Bithead says:

    Oh, come on. Does anyone seriously consider Bush was equating the two? Clearly, the statement considers the ‘angry ;eft’ to be far less less of a threat…

  4. Michael says:

    Via Wikipedia:

    In August 1968, a program of severe torture began on McCain.[42] He was subjected to rope bindings and repeated beatings every two hours, at the same time as he was suffering from dysentery.[31][42] Further injuries led to the beginning of a suicide attempt, which was stopped by guards.[31] After four days, McCain made an anti-American propaganda “confession”.[31] He has always felt that his statement was dishonorable, but as he would later write, “I had learned what we all learned over there: Every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine.“[43][44]

    Not that I’m accusing McCain of not being a patriot, or not being “tough”, just that McCain admits that they broke him, so the President’s statement isn’t even factually correct there.

  5. I’m curious about what it might be in young Mr. Yglesias’ oeuvre would lead you to believe this is faux outrage?

    I don’t see President Bush drawing an analogy between American liberals and Vietnamese Communists, only noting that John McCain is made of some pretty stern stuff. Funny how young Mr. Yglesias is the only person equating American liberals with the angry Left, but hey, if the shoe fits… If anything, President Bush is merely noting that the angry Left can’t hold a candle to the Vietnamese Communists when it comes to breaking a man like John McCain.

    Methinks young Mr. Yglesias doth protest too much.

  6. Fence says:

    “Angry left” would have been a tasteless disparagement 10 years ago, but heck, right now I think the left might be more embarrassed if it wasn’t angry about the worst presidency in modern times. At least that’s my view from the angry center-right.

  7. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    And then there is the interpretation of the comment where Bush is reminding everyone of just how stubborn McCain tends to be all the time.

  8. Ugh says:

    “If the Hanoi Hilton could not break John McCain’s resolve to do what is best for his country, you can be sure the angry Left never will.”

    But Larry King? Runaway! Runaway! Runaway! Runaway!

  9. Dave Schuler says:

    I doubt that it’s any more faux than his other outrage. Any old port in a storm, you know.

  10. anjin-san says:

    Well, where Bush is concerned, it’s the angry left v. the stupid right…

  11. Thank you anjin-san for giving me a reason to bypass everything you say as well. Frees up more time to do useful work.

  12. SDM says:

    Funny how young Mr. Yglesias is the only person equating American liberals with the angry Left

    This raises the question of what Bush means by “the angry left.” If he means Noam Chomsky and three UC-Santa Cruz kids who threw a rock through a Starbucks window, then it’s a non sequitur, as these people have no relevance in the political process and no impact on John McCain’s life or his run for the presidency. one wonders why he’d bring it up at all.

    If he means “people who are arguing against McCain’s election as president,” which is a more appropriate topic of conversation at a political convention, then yes, it is offensive, because what he’s doing is equating the motives of McCain’s political opponents with the motives of his torturers, that is to say, hoping to break McCain’s resolve because they hope to undermine America.

    That’s why he uses phrases like “the angry left” – so that anyone who hears it can apply their own meaning. Much of his audience will intepret it as the latter – i.e., to say that Obama supporters are the equivalent of torturers, hoping to keep McCain from doing right for his country. If that interpretation is challenged, just jump to the former – “oh no! i’m just talking about one particular former assistant professor of sociology. why are you so quick to say that YOU’RE the angry left?”

    clever trick, really.

  13. anjin-san says:

    Frees up more time to do useful work.

    Well, by all means get to it. I am sure there are a lot of folks backing up at the drive thru window.

  14. DMan says:

    To be honest, I don’t really interpret Bush’s comments to suggest that those in the “angry Left” are equivalent to McCain’s torturers. Though I do see in his comments something that has been typical of him for the entirety of his Administration and is something the country is sick and tired of. By referring to those who disagree with him as the “angry Left”, he is attempting to disparage anyone who opposes his world view as angry partisans. According to Bush’s world view of course those on the “angry Left” don’t want whats best for the country, only John McCain does. I think the country is sick and tired of this shit from Bush’s GOP.

  15. RW Rogers says:

    I didn’t intepret it that way, but I can understand how Matthew could. Matthew seems to be perpetually angry about something, real or imagined.

  16. Brian says:

    Is nobody else as excited as me that our president delivered a clever, coherent sentence?! Anybody? Screw the content, it sounded good at least.

  17. T. Neil says:

    Considering the assaults and attempted violence we have been seeing by these terrorists outside the convention this week, I think Bush’s comments were quite appropriate. Some of these lefties are nuts. I don’t see Mr. Bush comparing the them to the viet cong, but I am glad some Republicans are having the gumption to talk about the hate and vitriol coming from the left. Time for Obama and Biden to condemn it.

  18. anjin-san says:

    hate and vitriol coming from the left.

    I saw a woman who looked to be about 65 years old & 95 pounds being manhandled by 6 cops. Is she one of the “terrorists” you are referring to?

    When it comes to hate and vitriol, it sounds like you are projecting.

    But then I can understand why the GOP is desperate to talk about anything, and I mean anything, except the economy.

  19. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Anjin, this is way off topic. I just wondered if you noticed any difference between the reaction to Hurricane Gustav and Hurricane Katerina? Did you watch the Governor of the State of Louisiana appear of TV? That was something the democratic governor did not do for Katerina. I’ll make it simple for you. Democrat leadership equals a disaster. Republican leadership equals a smooth evacuation. You can lie about facts but you cannot lie about outcome. Bon Chance.

  20. anjin-san says:


    Not taking anything away from Jindal, who seems like a bright guy to me, but comparing Katrina, one of the worst hurricanes on record to Gustav, which was rather quickly downgraded to a tropical storm is just the kind of stupidity we have come to expect from you. Trying to exploit hurricane victims for political purposes is pretty sad too.

    Really dude, try not to speak…

  21. anjin-san says:


    Thank you for proving my point about the GOP being desperate to talk about anything but the economy.

    Bon Nuit!

  22. G.A.Phillips says:

    Is nobody else as excited as me that our president delivered a clever, coherent sentence?! Anybody? Screw the content, it sounded good at least.

    ya it was nice but he should have used “punk ass” instead of “angry” and maybe there would not be all this confusion about his intent.

  23. lunacy says:

    “Comparing Katrina, one of the worst hurricanes on record to Gusta…”

    All the more reason Blanco and Nagin should tried to pull off a smooth evacuation.

  24. anjin-san says:

    lunacy, Look, we know you don’t want to talk about the economy. We know you don’t want to talk about the Palin fiasco.

    But please, let’s get into the year 2008. And if you want to talk about F___ups related to Katrina, let us remember what John McCain was doing as Katrina tore into New Orleans (partying with Bush) and how long it took Bush to come out of his stupor as Americans were dying on the streets of NO…

  25. Beldar says:

    Matt Yglesias may be too young to remember, or not well-educated enough to know, that the Angry Left — specifically and prominently including John F. Kerry, still an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve at the time — were actively meeting with the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese in Paris while John McCain was still in a prison cell. Back home, they were arguing for an unconditional American pull-out — exactly the result being called for by the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese.

    And the Angry Left has still not repudiated its members who did that. Jane Fonda eventually apologized. John Kerry never did.

  26. anjin-san says:

    John McCain was still in a prison cell.

    McCain was a POW? Really? Damm. You guys need to start talking about this. Really. Get the word out. Maybe you can even have a song about it…