UNHELPFUL CONSERVATIVE BUSH BASHING
By Bill Sizemore
February 11, 2004
Of late, there’s been an awful lot of rhetoric from conservatives on the internet and talk radio, saying things like, “Bush has done nothing for us. He’s not a conservative at all. We might as well have elected a Democrat.” I can’t help but wonder where this leads. I am beginning to think that there are a lot of conservative folks, who are simply out of touch with political reality.
Like most conservatives, I have thrown up my hands in frustration at various policies that have emanated from the Whitehouse, but before we do anything rash, let’s be sure we know what we’re doing.
First, let’s acknowledge there are serious grounds for conservative frustration. The President’s ill-advised immigration proposal is miles out of sync with the views of most conservatives. Also, there’s nothing conservative about the entitlement programs the President has embraced to maintain his “compassionate conservative” image, such as the budget-busting prescription drug benefit or the further expansion of the federal government’s already illegitimate role in public education with his “No Child Left Behind” program.
Sure, it is frustrating that the President signed the McCain/Feingold campaign finance “reform” bill, which was a direct assault on the First Amendment rights of every American, and was designed to benefit and insure the election of incumbent politicians over money-strapped challengers.
However, in spite of all of these and numerous other non-conservative things the President has done these past three years, to say that Bush has done nothing for conservatives is disingenuous. If we look honestly at the entire picture, we can’t help but see that along with his serious shortcomings, President Bush has indeed done a number of good, substantive things for the conservative movement.
Besides, and I know this will anger some because it also frustrates me, but there’s not a lot we can do about the President’s failures. Not really. We can pound our chests and holler louder, and well we should. But this Fall, where else are we going to go?
If a substantial number of conservatives take serious actions in the November election, such as not marking a choice for president at all, or voting for a third party candidate, all they would accomplish would be putting a John Kerry or a Hillary Clinton (or both) in the Whitehouse, which would be the height of foolishness at this critical time in American and world history.
Notwithstanding all his shortcomings, this country is better off with Bush than with those two, or Edwards, Clark, or Dean for that matter. If conservatives take actions that result in the election of a liberal Democrat president in November, we will be cutting off our noses to spite our face.
Bush is clearly better than any liberal Democrat currently running for president. He really is. It’s just that we conservatives are such policy purists, that we want to do something to punish the mixture we see in the President’s policies. We want to force George Bush to govern as if the whole country was as conservative as we are, and we get angry when he doesn’t.
So, what has Mr. Bush done for us that would not have happened, if a liberal Democrat had been elected in 2000?
Let’s see now, we don’t have a Kyoto Treaty tied around our necks like a giant millstone, burying our economy in a flood of insane regulations that would do more economic damage to this nation than any other act of government in our history. That’s no small matter.
If Al Gore was president, he would be zealously fighting to the death against the evil of alleged global warming, even if the entire Atlantic seaboard was blanketed with the worst cold spell in history while he was doing it. In fact, he would be blaming the cold on global warming. We know that for a fact, because that’s what he’s been doing.
What else has George W. Bush done for our side? Well, from the rich to the poor, we have all benefited from Bush’s tax break and economic stimulation package that have turned our struggling economy around and so encouraged investors that the stock market now has rebounded to well over 10,000. Which Democrat challenger do you think would have championed tax cuts and pro-business legislation like Bush has? Have we so focused on the bad that we have forgotten the good things the President has done?
Let’s go on. Bush has appointed some well-qualified conservatives to the federal bench; men and women who would interpret the Constitution for what it says and for what it was meant to say by the Framers, not as some kind of “living document” for activist judges to bend to fit their personal, political preferences. Sure, the President could have fought harder to get some of those appointees confirmed in the Senate, but what kind of judges do you think a Democrat president would have appointed?
Bush’s judicial appointments alone are grounds for keeping him around. If we don’t deal with the epidemic of activist judges in this country, our entire system of government is at serious risk. If the next Supreme Court vacancies are filled by a liberal Democrat, we will have all but lost any hope of turning the courts around or restoring them to their constitutional role in this generation.
Also, news on the federal spending front is no longer so bad. Contrary to the four percent growth in federal spending that President Bush proposed in his State of the Nation speech, his new budget, which was just unveiled, holds the line on spending in a manner much closer to what conservatives have asked for.
There’s little doubt that the President’s advisors are concerned about the restlessness they hear stirring in his conservative base, so our complaining is helpful, but we had better not get too carried away with it.
On an entirely different front, does anyone really think a Democrat president would have used a State of the Nation speech to send a warning to activist judges to back off on the gay marriage issue; even threatening a Constitutional Amendment, if necessary? Not likely. Bush did, and he even called them “activist judges” on national television, which was pretty bold considering that a lot of them were listening, and so were the Democrat senators who have been blocking his judicial appointments.
Furthermore, what Democrat president would have signed the partial birth abortion ban that George Bush recently signed into law? Not one of them. Clinton was considered a moderate Democrat, and even he vetoed similar, congressionally approved legislation twice.
The bill Bush signed may have been only a small step forward for the pro-life movement, but it was nonetheless a step, and history may show that this legislation, though it was more symbolic than substantive, marked a major turning of the tide on the abortion issue; especially in the critical area of public opinion. For the first time since Roe v. Wade, Congress has passed and a president has signed legislation limiting abortion. I doubt that one less baby will be aborted due to the ban, especially since it was halted by a judge as soon as it was signed, but the abortion issue once again will go back to the Supreme Court, which this time should allow the law to stand and open the door to other, more meaningful restrictions.
There are plenty of other areas, less visible areas of the federal government, where Bush has left a clearly conservative stamp. From the Department of the Interior and environmental policy to the National Labor Relations Board, which for decades has been a rubber stamp for big labor, good things have happened under George W. Bush. It is in these less visible area that presidents often leave some of their more lasting marks of passage.
I know that there are conservatives who object to our going to war against Iraq, calling it a pre-emptive strike on a sovereign nation, but that view is not a clear-cut conservative position. A lot of conservatives, including this writer, generally applaud the way the President has handled the war on terrorism. I am glad we are taking the battle to the bad guys, rather than waiting for them to come over here and blow up our women and children.
I suspect that a lot of those objecting to the war in Iraq would feel a lot differently, if Islamic terrorists were setting off bombs in American malls and cafes and on crowded busses, killing and maiming our women and children, as they have been doing all over Israel.
It is no small matter that we have not had a major terrorist attack in this country in the two plus years since September 11th. I believe we have the courage and determination of George W. Bush and his willingness to place our brave fighting men and women in harm’s way to thank for that. Bush has kept the battle on our enemy’s soil, where it belongs.
One thing is for sure, George W. Bush didn’t start a war in Iraq to divert media attention away from some sorted affair he was having in the oval office. George W. Bush and his wife have restored respect to the office that William Jefferson Clinton and his wife disgraced.
Not to belabor a point, but does anyone really believe that Libya, a long-time sponsor of terrorism, would have volunteered to eradicate its weapons of mass destruction under a Democrat president? Do you think other Islamic nations, which have sponsored terrorists, such as Syria and Iran aren’t also re-evaluating their policies, thanks to the healthy dose of fear President Bush has instilled in their hearts?
For decades, a deadly cancer has been growing in the Middle East. Untold thousands of young people have been brainwashed by their religious leaders into fervently believing that all Americans are evil and that there will be a great reward in heaven for any Moslem, who will strap explosives to his or her body and detonate them in places where as many Christians and Jews as possible will be killed and maimed. Right now, as you read this column, that disease is festering and dastardly plots to kill Americans are being hatched.
Is it not reasonable to attack that cancer at its source and attempt to hinder its spread, rather than wait until it again comes to our shores and kills even more of us? A pre-emptive attack on Iraq and legislation such as the Patriot Act indeed may seem foreign to the traditional American way of dealing with our enemies, but I know of no precedent in world history that would have prodded the Founding Fathers to anticipate the kind of problem we face today, let alone provide for dealing with it in the Constitution they framed. We are on new ground here.
Sure, there are indeed plenty of reasons for conservatives to be upset with this president. It was utterly pathetic for the Bush to include a billion dollar remodeling loan for the U.N. in his new budget proposal, especially at a time when we should be evicting the U.N., not helping them renovate. But even then, when push came to shove, the President did not bow at the feet of the one-worlders at the U.N. over the problem with Iraq. He invoked our sovereignty as a nation and told them, more or less, Hey guys, we asked you for a resolution on Iraq to be polite, but whether you like it or not, the U.S. is going into Iraq. We don’t need your approval to defend ourselves.
Bush’s actions over the Iraq issue revealed the U.N. for what it truly is, and in so doing set them back substantially as an institution. Do you think any of Bush’s Democrat challengers would have done that? Hardly. They are still saying that we should not have gone into Iraq without a U.N. resolution. Every Democrat in the race for that party’s nomination would have surrendered our sovereignty to the U.N. over Iraq. Do we really want to make one of them our president?
And while we are on the issue, what about the world court? Bush has staunchly refused to subject our officers and troops to the jurisdiction of such an international tribunal. Mr. Bush has strongly defended our sovereignty in this important area.
When all is said and done, the bottom line appears to be this: The final judgment regarding George W. Bush’s conservatism is clearly a mixed one. He has done well and he has done poorly. We could list a number of other things he has done that were good and other things that he has done that were ill-advised. But for sure, claims that we are no better off under Bush than under a Democrat are unfair and nonsensical. Do you really think the liberals would hate George W. Bush as much as they do and be trying as hard as they are to get rid of him, if his policies were truly like theirs?
Read their newspaper columns and letters to the editor. Listen to them on talk radio. Liberals hate George W. Bush with great passion. That should tell you something.
Should we conservatives continue to express our anger about the growth in spending that has occurred on Bush’s watch and his ill-advised immigration proposal, and the other glaring mistakes he has made? Absolutely!
But should we skip voting for him this November, or maybe vote for a third party candidate to send him a message or maybe make the Republican Congress start acting like Republicans again? Not unless we want to see some liberal Democrat in the Whitehouse and see the U.S. Supreme Court slip deeper into the abyss.
No, I believe we really do have no choice, but to stick with Bush. The President has probably been getting much of his counsel regarding policy from Senior Advisor Karl Rove and others whose primary agenda is not so much moving a conservative agenda as getting Bush elected to a second term. That should change. In a second term, Bush probably will be bolder and more conservative than he has been thus far.
I think that is a reasonable expectation.
Finally, here’s what I think is driving a lot of the Bush bashing I see on the internet and hear on some talk radio shows: None of us wants to feel used or be taken for granted. None of us likes feeling trapped with no options and no place to go. Yet, that’s exactly what has happened to conservatives as “their” president his ignored his base, and reached to the middle to win votes for his reelection.
You see, we conservatives are a proud lot, and our reaction to being trapped or taken for granted is to look for some way to strike back, or to try to force some other option into existence.
Problem is, in the real world, there is no other option. Not now. George W. Bush will be our next president or some tax-and-spend, liberal, socialist, slave to the labor unions, left-wing Democrat will be. It will be either one or the other. There is no third choice.
It is easy for true believer conservatives to forget that swing voters decide national elections, not liberals and not conservatives. The true believers on both sides only provide the base of support. Like it or not, the voters in the middle, the ones a candidate needs to win, are afraid of any candidate they perceive to be too far to the left or the right, and do not tend to vote for any candidate who is overly bold in his or her policies.
This is why in political debates you hear all the really strong ideas and suggestions coming from the minor party candidates or the guys who don’t have a snowball’s chance of winning. The Greenies, the Libertarians and the Constitution Party candidates can say anything they want in speeches and debates. So can the Al Sharptons of the world. They are bold because they have nothing to lose. They are primarily after media exposure and have no expectation of winning.
Major candidates, on the other hand, have to watch everything they say, and constantly reach out to those timid swing voters with policies that are often offensive to their base; a base that in spite of its frustration, really and truly has no place else to go. We may not like it. It may not be right, but that’s the way it is.
If President Bush himself was reading this article, I would end it with a word to him. Here is what I would say:
Mr. President, I applaud some of your policies and stare in stunned disbelief at others. But I plan to vote for you this Fall. However, in your efforts to “moderate” yourself to pull in swing voters and win a second term, please be careful not to alienate those of us who really believe in the principles of limited government. Just because we realistically have no place else to go when we mark our ballots in November doesn’t mean that there will not be a serious price to pay for letting us down. If our hearts are not with you, we won’t be so willing to send you a check, or walk a precinct for you, or talk to our relatives and co-workers about you, or call into talk shows and write letters to the editor and explain why you should be re-elected. We just won’t feel like it.
You may have our votes this November, by default, but you won’t have our hearts and our enthusiasm; and your legacy in history will be that of a president, maybe even a one-term president, who didn’t really know which side he was on.
© 2004 Bill Sizemore - All Rights Reserved
Bill Sizemore is a registered Independent who
works as executive director of the Oregon Taxpayers Union, a statewide
taxpayer organization. Bill was the Republican candidate for governor
in 1998. He and his wife Cindy have four children, ages eight to thirteen,
and live on 36 acres in Beavercreek, just southeast of Oregon City, Oregon.
"Mr. President, I applaud some of your policies and stare in stunned disbelief at others. But I plan to vote for you this Fall. However, in your efforts to “moderate” yourself to pull in swing voters and win a second term, please be careful not to alienate those of us who really believe in the principles of limited government."