Skip to comments.Why Bush is America's natural leader, stupid
Posted on 09/03/2004 4:38:30 PM PDT by Pokey78
What single fact tells you more about George W Bush and American politics than any other? That he converted from his family's Anglicanism and became a Methodist.
It is inconceivable that such a thing would happen in Britain. In the first place, Methodism has almost collapsed in this country. There are hardly any Methodists left here, let alone converts.
More to the point, the habit in Britain is the other way round. If you start life as a Methodist and then rise in the world socially, you tend to graduate ("convert" is much too strenuous a word) to Anglicanism. And even if, like Mr Bush, you wanted to distance yourself from your privileged upbringing, it would not occur to you to do so by becoming a Methodist. Buddhist, Ba'hai, Muslim even, but not a Methodist.
You could scarcely be more New England Anglican (or, as they call it, Episcopalian) posh than the Bush family. The reason the President is called George is that one of his great-grandfathers, George Herbert Walker, was named after George Herbert, perhaps the greatest poetic voice of Anglicanism ("Teach me, my God and King " etc).
Those three names were duly given to the future George Bush senior at his baptism, and he passed the George and the Walker on to his son. The Bushes are Yale and Andover and Wall Street and all that: George W is the 13th cousin once removed of the Queen. Religion in those parts may be serious, but it is not worn on the sleeve.
Methodism was a purifying movement within Anglicanism. Eventually, it broke with its mother Church and claimed an independent existence as a cleaner, simpler, more personal faith, one that rejected worldly status. Bush junior's conversion follows that path - a turning away from personal failure (in his case drinking and getting nowhere) through a direct experience of God, a journey away from social grandeur to something that seemed more rugged, a journey from Connecticut to Texas.
No doubt this journey was and remains profound and sincere, but it was also brilliant politics. Mr Bush has the good fortune to be considered stupid by his opponents, so they don't study him properly. What he has done is not stupid at all: he has found a way of embodying and uniting the different strands of conservatism in America.
In a lucid and objective new book called The Right Nation (Allen Lane, £14.99), two English authors, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, set out how conservatism has gradually undermined the claim of American liberals, established by Roosevelt's New Deal, to be able to solve the nation's problems.
Emphasising values more than class, it has taken ideas seriously, and also the organisation required to promote those ideas. It is made up of potentially opposed groups - the extremes varying from strict Puritans who believe that the divine "Rapture" is about to bring the world to an end to libertarians who want no government at all.
But it can bring together many, even most, Americans round what the authors call "four of the most basic American passions - for business, property, choice and, most especially, national security". Ronald Reagan forged this unity in the Cold War. Now George W Bush has done it in the war against terrorism.
Geography, biography and theology have all combined in Mr Bush's favour. If he hadn't put down roots in somewhere like Texas (silly phrase, sorry: there's nowhere like Texas), he would for ever have been vulnerable to the jibes about being an effete East Coaster. Now he can make a good joke about his "swagger" being what, in Texas, they call "walking".
If he hadn't made a bit of a mess of the first 40 years of his life, he would not have been able to appeal to the American love of a story of sin, struggle and redemption. If he hadn't experienced this story as one of divine love, he would not have been able to speak the language that touches the hearts of a people 40 per cent of whom go to church "at least once a week".
If, on the other hand, Mr Bush had never been near Harvard Business School and Yale and if his father had not been so powerful and so rich, he would have been poorly placed to reach the other important conservative constituencies - big business, dealmakers, networkers, problem solvers, soldiers. In other words, he genuinely combines fervent personal faith, a popular touch, superb connections and a huge pile of loot. Such a combination shouldn't surprise us - we had it here in the 19th century with Gladstone. It is formidable.
Once one understands how this works, the suggestion that Mr Bush is stupid looks, well, stupid. Intelligence in politics doesn't mean deep reading or having original ideas: you can be a very clever fool. It means knowing how to do what you want and believe with the constantly varying weapons at your disposal. It means being in tune with the culture. This week in New York, Mr Bush and his party look as if they possess that sort of intelligence.
This is not necessarily the same as saying that they are right. It could yet turn out that the difficulty of settling Iraq will prove insurmountable. But what is clear is that he sets the agenda and the Democrats try to hurry along behind. John Kerry feels the need to say that he has "conservative values", which allowed George W Bush his best bits of raillery in the speech yesterday. All this astonishing dispute about what Mr Kerry did or did not do in the Vietnam war is the result of the fact he fears he may be thought unpatriotic. The Democrat candidate has to prove something to conservative America, whereas the Republican has to prove nothing to the liberals.
Looked at in this way, I find the Bush story reassuring. It shows that Mr Bush is not the half-witted fanatic of the BBC's imagination. He is an absolutely mainstream figure in a country that has always gone very big on God and Mammon and does its best to see if the two can't achieve peaceful coexistence. It is a country that believes very deeply in freedom, but its idea of freedom is so strongly related to its sense of itself that, when it feels external threat, it reacts with unified fury.
Mr Bush has that uniquely American gift for reinventing yourself with perfect sincerity, whereas Mr Kerry's self-reinvention looks insincere. Since three years ago next Saturday, George W Bush has looked the natural leader of America. He still does
Ironically, one of the only Democrats who "get" this and George W. himself is Bill Clinton. He knows...and I bet when he was alone he said "That was one heck of a speech".
This is a very different way of looking at our election. It's very good. Think about it. I will later...
Another big Al Queda attack before the U.S. election would result in their (Al Queda's) own worst nightmare.
Since three years ago next Saturday -- 911 04 will be on a Saturday when family and friends sit around and talk. Add two more points to the Bush side of the voting. If there are no changes in the world a 10 to 13 point lead six weeks before the election looks good.
To separate an American from Freedom is to cut off their ability to breathe. It cannot be done. It can be stifled for awhile but eventually we get tired of existing on one lung and shove back hard.
God Bless our President.
Sorry, Soul Seeker. I meant to refer to your post.
The author seems to be implying that W converted in part for political reasons. Nothing could be further from the truth. He converted for 2 reasons: personal belief, and so he and Laura could attend the same services.
What a great "in-the-real-tradition-of-'The-Tele'" piece.
And except for a glaring mis-statement of libertarianism's ambitions -- for Strong and Limited [Constitutional!] Government -- very hard to fault.
Way to go Charlie Moore!
And, oh -- had not once-great-Britain's once-great inhabitants degenerated along with the those of the rest of Europe's Neo-Soviet into such a squalidly-sorry and systemically-enslaved, parasitically-socialistic state -- for a 'New Commonwealth of the English-Speaking Peolpes.'
May God continue to bless our President.
May God continue to bless US, in our President.
And may God continue to bless our beloved FRaternal Republic and our erstwhile enemies never forget that our "dea of freedom is so strongly related to its sense of [Ourselves] that, when [We] feel external threat, [We will ever] react with unified fury!"
Blessings -- Brian
Great find [-- and #31] Pokey-Piece ping.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.