Skip to comments.Andrew Sullivan: Kerry: the right choice for conservatives (VOMIT TILL YOU DIE ALERT)
Posted on 07/24/2004 4:32:41 PM PDT by MadIvan
If you are a conservative, whom should you be rooting for in the American elections? I am not being entirely facetious here. The conservative movement in the United States is still firmly behind the re- election of President George W Bush. He uses conservative rhetoric taking the war to the enemy, upholding conservative social values, respecting religious faith, protecting the family and so on.
He is widely regarded as one of the most conservative presidents in recent history rivalling Reagan, eclipsing his own father in right-wing bona fides. And yet if you decouple the notion of being a conservative from being a Republican, nobody can doubt that the Bush administration has been pursuing some highly unconservative policies.
Start with the war. Almost overnight after 9/11 Bush junked decades of American policy in the Middle East, abandoning attempts to manage Arab autocracies for the sake of the oil supply and instead forging a policy of radical democratisation. He invaded two countries and is trying to convert them to modern democracies.
Nothing so liberal has been attempted in a long time. In the 2000 campaign, Bush mocked the idea of nation building as liberal claptrap. Now its the centrepiece of his administration. The fact that anti-American lefties despise the attempt to democratise foreign countries should not disguise the fact that Bush is, in this respect, indisputably a foreign policy liberal. He has shown none of his fathers caution, no interest in old-style realpolitik.
At home Bush has been just as radical. He has junked decades of conservative attempts to restrain government and pushed federal spending to record levels, dismissing the idea that this will have damaging consequences. He has poured money into agricultural subsidies, he famously put tariffs on foreign steel, he has expanded the healthcare programme and increased the role of central government in education.
He has little or no concern for the separation of church and state, funnelling public money to religious charities, and he has appointed some of the most radical jurists to the federal bench. Just try finding a coherent theme in Bush Republicanism. It is in fact one of the most ramshackle distillations of political expediency ever tarted up as an ism.
There has also been, its safe to say, a remarkable recklessness in Bushs approach. Was it really necessary to insist that the Geneva conventions do not apply to detainees in the war on terror?
When so many people warned that the hardest task in Iraq would be what happened after the fall of Baghdad, was it sensible to junk all the carefully written government reports for reconstruction and wing it? Was it wise to brag in the days after the first military victory in Iraq that it was mission accomplished? When the insurgency was growing, was it sensible to apply the methods of Guantanamo Bay to the hundreds of petty criminals and innocents hauled into Abu Ghraib?
At almost every juncture where prudence might have been called for, Bush opted for winging it. This approach can scarcely be called conservative.
So where is conservatism to be found? Maybe you should cast a glance at Boston, where this week the Democratic convention will anoint one John Forbes Kerry, a northeastern patrician who is fast becoming the eastern establishments favourite son.
Yes, Kerrys record on spending, defence and social policy has been liberal. But that is not the theme of his campaign. Kerry says he is as dedicated to seeing through nation building in Iraq and Afghanistan as Bush. But where Bush has scrapped Americas long-standing military doctrine of attacking only when attacked, Kerry prefers the old, strictly defensive doctrine.
Where Bush has clearly placed American national interest above international concerns, Kerry demands that the old alliances even with old Europe need to be strengthened. Kerry insists that he is a fiscal conservative, aiming to reduce the deficit by tax increases. He has argued that stability in some parts of the world should take precedence over democracy or human rights.
He opposes amending the constitution and supports legal abortion, the status quo that Bush wants to reverse. He has spent decades in the Senate building an undistinguished but nuanced record. He is a war veteran who plays up his record of public service. Hes a church-going Catholic who finds discussion of religious faith unseemly in public. In the primaries he was the safe establishment bore compared with radicals such as Howard Dean and the populist charmer John Edwards.
His basic message: lets return to normalcy. The radicalism of the past four years needs tempering. We need to consolidate nation building in Iraq and Afghanistan before any new adventures in, say, Iran. We need to return to the diplomatic obeisance to the United Nations. We should stop referring to a war on terror and return to pre-9/11 notions of terrorism, best dealt with by police work in co-ordination with our democratic allies.
At home we need to restrain the unruly religious right. We must balance the budget again. We need to redress some of the social and economic inequality that has so intensified during these past few years. Kerrys biggest proposal one sure to be modified by Congress is a large increase in the number of people with health insurance. Its far more modest than that proposed by Bill and Hillary Clinton a decade ago.
Does that make Kerry right and Bush wrong? On the most fundamental matter, ie the war, I think Bush has been basically right: right to see the danger posed by Saddam Hussein and the nexus of weapons of mass destruction and Islamist terror; right to realise that the French would never have acquiesced to ridding the world of Saddam; right to endorse the notion of pre-emption in a world of new and grave dangers.
Much of the hard work has now been done. Nobody seriously believes that Bush will start another war. And in some ways Kerry may be better suited to the difficult task of nation building than Bush.
At home Bush has done much to destroy the coherence of a conservative philosophy of American government and he has been almost criminally reckless in his conduct of the war. He and America will never live down the intelligence debacle of the missing WMDs. He and America will be hard put to regain the moral high ground after Abu Ghraib.
The argument that Kerry must make is that he can continue the war but without Bushs polarising recklessness. And at home he must reassure Americans that he is the centrist candidate, controlled neither by the foaming Michael Moore left nor by the vitriolic religious right.
Put all that together and I may not find myself the only conservative moving slowly and reluctantly towards the notion that Kerry may be the right man and the conservative choice for a difficult and perilous time.
Yes, Andrew has truly gone over to the dark side.
Come on, Andy. Give your readers at least a little credit. They didn't all have their brains violently sucked out moments before birth. Maybe some of them, but not all.
The spending side is, I believe, a wraparound attempt to put emphasis on a private solution with government aid.
A second GWB term will likely focus on more privatization--welfare programs, social security, et al. Hopefully, an emphasis on fixing the "reform" McLame & Co. foisted upon America, too.
Bush hasn't done everything the way I thought he should, but he is definitely getting my vote. Kerry is not a conservative. No way, no how.
How can liberals say they are concerned about federal spending - with a straight face?
He has become a liar. He has been slowly pushing in this direction for months and months now. He has already said in an Advocate interview that there is no way he can support Bush, yet in no-Gay publications, he pretends as though he is slowly arriving at some decision to support Kerry.
He is certainly entitled to his opinion, but stop the deceptive games.
I think we can do without some of the other comments I am reading here, don't you?
Kerry is the most leftwing candidate to ever win a major party nomination in the United States. He has admitted to committing war crimes. He actively seeks to return the nation to Clinton's failed security polices which led directly to 9/11. He wants to raise taxes. He has promised to increase spending significantly.
Bush has governed as a center-right president. Not as conservative as any of us hoped, but at least as conservative as we expected. He has pulled off two major successes in the war on terror - and so far has prevented any more major attacks against the domestic US. He has cut taxes. He has not cut spending and he has folded on a number of issues to the Left.
Any conservative looking at the two has no real decision to make. Bush is their man. Is he perfect? No. But frankly even beyond the certain damage Kerry would do to the US economy and our precious freedom and soverignty, electing Kerry is the only thing we could do right now to lose the war on terror. A vote for Kerry is a vote to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
I am a foe of special interest voting, whether it be immigration, abortion, or, in this case, homosexual rights.
It is my belief that one should vote based on the best interest of the nation. Sullivan shows us that he cares not about national security, nor the economy. He only cares about his personal life.
I am disappointed in him and am sorry to see that I was terribly wrong about his character.
Of course. But many lower middle class males simply have a thing about male homosexuals. They can't help their visceral reaction, and just emote. Sorry to be so blunt, but I call them as I see them.
I, too, feel he is being dishonest. He should start out his article saying he could never vote for Bush because of the marriage amendment. What he does here is exactly what he chides other journalists for doing-being biased about something and not revealing that bias upfront.
I have lost a lot of respect for him. While I have found him thoughful, he became opposed to Bush about marriage and since then has let that color his writings.
He "goes up" the darkside and that's all homos care about...doin' the bone dance with mr. sphincter...all else is nothing to them.
Please, don't cause us to have any mental pictures of this particular fellow's tongue or his cheeks. Yuck.
The queer agenda trumps all else.
I think Andrew is being completely disingenuous. He was way out front, with Chris Hitchens I might add, in his support for the Iraqi war.
God, it's so maddening. We have the attention span of gnats in this world today. It's not been wrapped up neatly in 1 whole YEAR, so throw Bush over, and bring in Kerry, who will promptly turn it over to the vaunted UN. That's rich.
Shame on you Andrew. Do what you want with your personal life, but our whole civilization is at stake here. There are bigger worries in this world than whether gay "marriage" or gay "unions" is the law of the land.
Probably in his lifestyle, it is all about games, not sincerety.
Sullivan and the two Johns are made for each other.
Like Howard Stern, Sullivan is the quintessential non-election year conservative. If people are worried about Sullivan's wobbliness, don't worry, he'll be conservative again Nov. 3rd.
What is interesting is this attacks Bush's foreign policy, something which Sullivan cheered on until only recently.
Agreed! I stopped visiting & removed the bookmark earlier this year. Yeah, he was pretty articulate in defending the war against Iraq last year. But this gay marriage thing has obsessively possessed him. Hes seem to become another nut case for Kerry.
Regarding his being gay, frankly I couldnt care less. Unfortunately, for those people, their condition is an obsession. Obviously, a symptom of their mental illness.
Our former enemies certainly could help Kerry prove his worth in this regard. He certainly helped to overcome an eariler president's "polarising recklessness" and helped the enemy win. He still has a position of honor in our former enemy's society.
Never trust those that like fudgecicles. They are not well in the head.
Cut him a bit of slack. Realize he lives in a gay world full of gay friends who have been harping on him as a conservative. Now Bush comes out against something he and his friends really want: societal acknowledgement that their activities and desires are OK. They see gay marriage as a hurtle to cross to achieve that much desired goal. That a homosexual/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered/transvestite family is just as normal as a heterosexual family. That kids raised in such an enviornment is just as normal as in a heterosexual environment. Another hurtle is all churhes, social institutions (like Scouting) and public institutions recognition that homosexual behavior is a reasonable alternative to homosexual/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered/transvestite behavior.
He has made this an identity issue.