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Why I defend President Bush when I'm abroad

I'm no fan, but it's my patriotic duty. At home, let's lift debate via comity.

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Americans abroad can thank George W. Bush for sharpening our survival skills. We have weathered a sea of anti-Iraq war protests and had the intelligence of our president and those who voted for him questioned more times than we care to remember.

In my hometown of San Francisco, Bush supporters are called all sorts of names, and I rarely bother with defending them. When abroad, however, I feel a patriotic duty to try to explain the political views of those with whom I adamantly disagree.

Over the years, I've grown skillful at mounting semicoherent explanations of support for the invasion of Iraq, though I do a less stellar job when it comes to explaining his opposition to abortion rights and gay marriage.

Living in San Francisco has ill-prepared me for playing devil's advocate. It is not just because the city is overwhelmingly Democratic. The real problem is that the Democrats here are often closed to having a constructive debate.

Opponents of affirmative action are dismissed as "racist," and the Iraq war is immediately labeled "criminal." This neither helps Democrats understand the views of Republicans, nor change them. More often than not, the conversation either abruptly ends or escalates into a meaningless shouting match.

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