Thursday, November 11, 2004

That radical Bush

I keep hearing about how Bush is so radical, so conservative, and so aggressive in tearing down the wall between church and state.

Maybe I'm slow -- that' s always a possibility, considering I'm from one of the "dumb states" -- but how does one look at the totality of Bush's policies in his first term and find "radical conservatism" or "aggressive Christianity"?

Tax cuts for everybody -- tax cuts are associated with conservatives, to be sure, but Bush's tax cuts were intended a) to benefit everybody, which they did, and b) to return the tax rate to pre-Clinton levels. I suppose one can shoehorn this into the conservative column, but radical? Let's move on.

Prescription drug benefit for Medicare -- absolutely nothing conservative about that. Check out the reaction to this move by the folks at NRO, the Weekly Standard, etc. They were livid.

No Child Left Behind -- the accountability part: conservative, I suppose, though requiring our public schools to meet certain growth goals shouldn't be "conservative" or "liberal." But NCLB also has the effect of giving less control to states and localities in the education realm, and this is certainly not a conservative policy. Reagan wanted to abolish the Department of Education altogether, if you'll remember. NCLB can't go in the conservative column, either, even though it infuriates the NEA.

Partial-birth abortion ban -- this is about as mainstream a position as one can take, as the vast majority of Americans oppose the gruesome procedure. Only those politicians who are balls-deep in with NARAL could vote against the ban. "Health" of the mother was nothing but a red herring, or more like a loophole, designed to allow the procedure to continue. Bush and others knew better. Sure, this is consistent with conservatism, but it surely can't be considered radical.

Immigration policy -- are you kidding? Conservatives were furious over this one.

Tepid support for FMA -- this one is conservative. Bush supported the FMA out of political/electoral concerns, and did so in name only. He did nothing to urge its enactment, but simply wanted to be on record as having supported it. But conservative, to be sure. Fair enough, but then you've got to accept....

Tepid support for renewing Assault Weapons Ban -- Bush supported extending the AWB, although he did not exactly use the bully pulpit to urge its renewal. But we went on record as supporting the ban, certainly not the conservative position.

Increased funding for NEA -- what could be less conservative? Again, conservatives want the National Endowment for the Arts (or was it Humanities? Can't remember) abolished. At the same time, I understand the mission of the NEA/H has changed, so instead of subsidizing perverse/"cutting-edge" art, the endowment encourages more community access to classic theatre, etc. Verdict: not conservative.

Aid to fight AIDS in Africa -- simply put, not conservative.

Faith-based initiative -- first of all, didn't get out of the gate. Second, this is NOT the establishment of religion in any way -- it simply allows religion-affiliated charities to compete for federal funds to do what they do best: serve others. No religion or denomination is to be preferred. One could argue that this is a socially liberal policy, an attempt to make government welfare programs more effective through outsourcing to groups who specialize in helping people. Again, it never passed, but I'm not sure this one qualifies as somehow radically conservative. Whatever.

Stem cell research -- although you'd never know it from the mainstream media, Bush has actually taken the moderate position on the issue, allowing research on existing adult stem cells to go forward -- even funding it -- but halting embryonic stem cell research. Most people have no idea that there is any difference, which is reflected in the opinion polls on the issue. Still, this isn't a radical position, especially considering that adult stem cell research shows so much more promise than embryonic stem cell research.

The Patriot Act -- I suppose this is the one that really gets under the liberals' skin. Two questions, though: 1) this doesn't have anything to do with "aggressive Christianity," does it? and 2) name one violation of your civil liberties that has taken place since the PA's enactment? Ah, I see: "no" and "none." The Patriot Act was, in my opinion, entirely necessary in the wake of 9-11, when we were still so disoriented that we couldn't see our enemies. Less of a response would have been irresponsible. And as long as the War on Terror continues, the PA seems justified, especially since I've yet to see a shred of evidence of real civil liberties violations. Call it conservative if you want, but then be glad a conservative was in office on 9-11.

Afghanistan war -- would have been undertaken by any president, liberal or conservative, I hope.

Iraq -- some may be thinking of Iraq when they call the president radical. However, it's not altogether clear to me that the decision to go to war in Iraq is to the right on the political spectrum of traditional, or paleo-, conservatism. It was a neoconservative decision, but does neoconservatism necessarily fall to the right of Pat Buchanan? It involves nation-building, the commitment of US forces to humanitarian missions, etc. -- the kind of foreign policy many paleoconservatives criticized Clinton for running. At the same time, I can understand how some consider the Iraq decision to be on the far right, as it seemed to stretch the "just war theory" about as far as it could stretch.

Spending bills -- basically, Bush has not vetoed a single spending bill since he's been in office. This has angered many, many conservatives, and many of them don't consider the President a conservative because of his unwillingness to hold the line on spending. The federal government, regrettably, has grown on Bush's watch -- certainly not a trait of a conservative.

Bottom line: looking above, I see some admittedly conservative positions mixed with more moderate, and dare I say, liberal positions on other issues. Perhaps I missed the executive order that President Bush must have signed, forcing American schoolchildren to memorize a Bible verse every morning.

So what it is it, exactly, that drives these folks up the wall about the president? I think it has a lot more to do with style than substance. What do I know, though? I'm just a dumb red-stater.


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