Friday, October 08, 2004

Bush's (Lack Of) Support

On November 2nd, who wins this election is going to come down to who wants it more. And given this post from right-wing Redstate "supporting" President Bush, it would seem that any fire they have burning for their candidate has gone out.

"There is no question that President Bush has disappointed conservatives on numerous occasions. After seeing the ramifications for his father in 1992 in the wake of perhaps the biggest broken promise in modern Presidential history, Bush the younger came to Washington determined to avoid that mistake. Those who have worked in the Bush Administration know the priority that this White House puts on keeping campaign promises – it is detailed and focused, to the point of an obsession.

In some ways, this quality is an admirable one – the President evidently takes great pride in being a straight-talker, whose word is his bond.

Yet as a practical matter, this quality for promise-keeping has also served to hurt the conservative cause more than any other facet of this Presidency. It became clear that there was no promised bill so awful that the President would not sign it – the Veto pen was lost beneath a stack of entitlements. If a campaign promise has a priority above all else, it must be kept – no matter the cost.

And what costs they are: The President promised pro-market Medicare reform and a Prescription Drug Benefit - The cost? The passage of the largest and costliest entitlement in American history. The President promised to reform our education system - The cost? A vast spending program in the No Child Left Behind act that conceded the ideological turf while ignoring the need for school choice. The President promised campaign finance reform - The cost? He signed the foolhardy and anti-freedom McCain-Feingold legislation, a policy that even he admitted to be unconstitutional on its very face.

The price for the Bush presidency has been steep. While reasonable conservatives can differ when it comes to the President’s National Security policies – the wisdom of a Department of Homeland Security, border policies, and intelligence reforms – the fact is that the principles of individual freedom, small government, and the inherent value of human life are foundational components of the conservative philosophy – and all have fallen along the wayside in large and small degrees during the Bush Presidency.

In a cover story for National Review during the GOP Convention, the always erudite Ramesh Ponnuru argued that the Bush Administration was actually embracing a bedrock conservative value of personal responsibility as represented through their plans for a broad campaign of privatization in the second term – including the areas of personal retirement accounts, education reform, Health Savings Accounts and the prevention message. Ponnuru made the case that taken together, these plans amount to a boldly conservative domestic agenda.

It is hard to imagine such an agenda taking hold, however, when we have a President who is unwilling to even repeat the conservative language he used during his campaign four years ago. Where Gov. Bush promised that he would “reduce” the size of government, President Bush now will say only that he will “restrain” its growth. Where Gov. Bush promised to make public schools accountable to do their job, President Bush now promises more funding for notoriously unsuccessful job training and community college programs – high school for those with lousy high schools. Where Gov. Bush promised to dedicate himself to “leading our nation toward a culture that values each and every human life,” President Bush now speaks in throwaway lines of “making a place for the unborn child in society,” and acknowledges that he believes pursuing a ban on abortion is a bad idea.

So how is it that we have reached this point, where a President who clearly does not represent the basic values of conservatism still deserves the support and the votes of the conservative movement?

His answer is basically, Bush understands the war, we gotta stack the Supreme Court, and Bush is a man of faith. But it is his final comment before endorsing Bush which proves most damning.
"In terms of a historical ranking, President Bush can never hope to be one of the most conservative Presidents in our history. I am a realist - I have no doubt his second term will contain as many disappointments as the first, if not more."
Maybe, just maybe, conservatives might stay home on election day rather than go out of their way to vote for a man who is so clearly not their guy.

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