Skip to comments.Bush is jettisoning his principles for what?
Posted on 06/15/2002 4:12:45 PM PDT by Tom D.
People keep sending me e-mails hailing John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia, as the new pin-up of the world's conservatives. So far, admittedly, 97.634% of these e-mailers are Australian, but their subtext is a universal one -- that George W. Bush, at least in non-warmongering mode, is losing friends all around the globe, particularly since he launched his Shameless Protectionism Of The Month series. Canada's mad about softwood lumber, the Aussies and the EU about steel, and even Britain's doughtiest Tories are agog at the $248.6-billion farm bill Bush signed the other day.
This shameless pork (and wheat, and cotton) spending prompted paroxysms of rage from The Daily Telegraph's Boris Johnson, who declared that the President "has taken the engorged hosepipe of federal spending, and squirted it at any state that may return a Republican in this autumn's mid-term elections." If it's any consolation to him, as far as I can tell no actual farmers -- that's to say, gnarled guys in overalls, plaid shirts and John Deere caps with straws in their teeth -- will benefit from the so-called farm bill. Almost three-quarters of the subsidies will go to 20,000 multi-millionaire play-farmers and blue-chip corporations with some canny land investments. Among the lucky "farmers" piling up the dollar bills under the mattress are CNN founder Ted Turner, ABC News bloviator Sam Donaldson, the oil company Chevron, and dirtpoor hardscrabble sharecropper David Rockefeller of Chase Manhattan Bank. Federal subsidies are aimed at the largest, most profitable farming operations, so, if you've got a small dairy operation in Vermont or New Hampshire, you'll be getting precisely nothing. But Ted and Sam and the Rockefellers will all be putting in new barns and buying new combines and remodeling the en suite bathrooms in the milking parlour. How ya gonna keep 'em down in Paree after they've seen the farm?
The legislation, as Johnson notes, is designed to help Republican fortunes in the "farm belt." Judging from this bill, the farm belt runs from Park Avenue, down Wall Street, out to the Hamptons and then by yacht to Martha's Vineyard -- or, as I like to think of it, Martha's Barnyard. These precincts will all be voting Democratic this November, as per usual: An extra three hundred grand here and there doesn't make any difference to these boys. But the political calculation is that out in the real farm belt the straw-suckers will watch Sam Donaldson discussing the new farm bill on ABC and draw the reasonable conclusion that Bush is "helping" farmers. Perception is everything: Just as Federal education bills do nothing for education, so it is not necessary for Federal farm bills to do anything for farms, just so long as they give the impression they do. By shoveling U.S. Department of Agriculture dollars at Ted Turner and David Rockefeller, President Bush hopes that enough folks in, say, rural South Dakota will be sufficiently grateful to vote against Democratic incumbent Tim Johnson on election day and return the Senate to Republican hands.
Mr. Bush is supposed to be a master of priority-setting, and, politically speaking, he's got just the one this November -- to take back the Senate Judiciary Chairmanship. Ever since Jim Jeffords, Vermont's dairy queen, flounced out of the Republican Party and turned the Senate over to the Democrats, this key committee has been controlled by Patrick Leahy, a master of naked political obstruction. A year ago, Bush sent him the names of his first 11 judicial nominees for the U.S. circuit courts of appeal. In the course of 12 months, Leahy's committee has managed to confirm just three, two of them Clinton Democrats Bush left on the list as a bipartisan gesture. In other words, Senator Leahy has taken a year to confirm one out of nine Republican nominees. The other eight aren't even scheduled for a hearing.
Judicial nominees are important to conservatives. These days, the left advances its causes more effectively through the courts than elections, for the fairly obvious reason that very few people are dumb enough to vote for this stuff. So, if a conservative President can't get conservative judges on to the bench, his long-term influence is greatly diminished. Bush knows this. Hence, the farm bill. Hence, his interest in that South Dakota Senate seat. Hence, his cunning plan to take back the Judiciary Committee by throwing money at David Rockefeller.
But isn't this kind of a roundabout way of doing things? Why didn't he jump on Leahy last fall when, post-9/11, he had 90% approval ratings? Why didn't he do to Leahy what Clinton would have done to Gingrich? Bush could have said, look, there's a war on and we need my good friend Pat to concentrate all his formidable skills on his critical role, all the more important in wartime, of Congressional oversight of the Justice Department, blah blah blah, so he needs to stop playing politics and confirm these nominees. Back then, even Leahy's hometown paper, Vermont's Burlington Free Press, no friend of Republicans, was critical of his unyielding obstructionism. But Bush sits on his political capital like a squirrel facing an eight-month winter. And so, at a time when he had the highest approval ratings of any President ever, he allowed himself to get kicked around by an obnoxious bruiser from a politically irrelevant state.
So here he is six months later jettisoning principles all over the swing states. I object to the farm bill, and the steel tariffs, and the softwood lumber duties, all of which impose costs on American consumers. And the more Republican sophists explain the logic behind them, the less sense they make. The steel tariffs, a wily GOP insider told me, aren't just about boosting Bush's chances in Pennsylvania and the like, but rather about getting union support for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Er, OK, if you say so. But why complicate matters? Instead of abandoning core principles, wouldn't it be easier to, say, give some speeches? If you can't sell the country on the need for additional domestic oil resources when you're at war with a bunch of Islamofascists from the Middle East, when can you? Wouldn't it be more efficient to fly to Alaska and do a walkabout with all the locals who are itching for the drilling to start? And, while you're at it, give a speech out on the ugly barren wasteland the eco-loonies have declared inviolable while getting pecked to pieces by the world's biggest mosquito herd, whose needs apparently outrank those of the American people.
Ever since September 11th, Bush defenders have said he feels that, with the country at war, he needs to take the high road. But sticking it to your opponents once in a while is the high road compared to selling out every basic conservative principle for the tenuous possibility of some barely related political advantage. John Howard, a man who publicly told Rupert Murdoch to "F--- off," might like to remind Bush of that.
It escapes me why so many Republicans do not want to be hard to get along with when dealing with opponents who are trying to cut their throats. These folks are trying to kill Bush politically and are willing to kill the country to do it. Why do folks in the Bush Administration refuse to understand that you cannot deal gently with people like this? Obviously Mr. Bush got elected president and neither Mr. Steyn nor I did, but I sincerely believe that Mr. Bush needs to have John Howard over for a chat.
Bushphiles keep telling me it's all the doing of Karl Rove ... and it's merely a short-term strategy to widen the base.
Well, in the first place, Bush has to going along with the strategy, so blame cannot be placed squarely on Rove. Bush is as much responsible for the pinhead idea of abandoing principles for votes.
Secondly, does anyone really believe it's a short-term strategy? Why not just become Democrats and promise everything to everyone ... and then you'll get lots more votes.
Most aren't aware of it ... but it's happening right in front of them. The Republican Party is going through a paradigm shift ... a long struggle between conservatives and moderates (neo-cons). The irony of it is that conservatives will have ended up voting the neo-con in office that will complete the paradigm shift.
I would not use the term 'warmongering' but, except for 9/11 and related matters, Bush has been a rather mediocre president. Without 9/11, I think his popularity would also be mediocre.
What he's doing is a big gamble. It takes a confident guy to even try it.
The war on terrorism has changed the political landscape dramatically and the Bush administration is faced with serious problems no President and no other American generation, has ever come up against before.
Bushes record hasn't been perfect in the last year. He's made some wrongheaded moves involving a few key pieces of legislation, but were its been possible, the President has moved his agenda along. Working to take back the Senate should be the priority for every conservative Republican. Having a Democrat controlled Congress, will only exascerbate the political gridlock that exists in WashDC today.
If Bush jumped on Leahy, Leahy would tell Bush to go to hell. Leahy is from one of the most liberal states in the Union. What are you going to threaten him with? You can't defeat him. And he doesn't give a rat's a$$ about public opinion outside his own state. And if he gets into a hand to hand fight with Bush , his state will build Leahy a monument. Leahy is not screwing his secretary and cheating on his wife. Gingrich was. There is nothing to blackmail Leahy about.
This is garbage. There is only one way to get things done and that is to gain control of the senate.
In the USA about 1/3 of the voters are on the right and a 1/3 on the left. That leaves a third in the middle. If arguments that appeal to the left appealed to the center the the center would be leftist. If arguments that appeal to the right appealed to the center the the center would be conservative. The center reacts to different issues than the left or right. They (GASP) react to centerist issues.
When the left captures over half the center, they take control and move the nation to the left. When on rare occasions the right has found issues that appeal to the center the right has prevailed and moved the nation to the right. It ain't rocket science but it escapes many freepers.
To move the nation to the right, the center must be attracted to vote for the right. It should not take an overly large brain to figure out that the center does not react positively to the agenda of the right. So the right to be successful has to try to move the left to the left. That costs the left teh center. And the right must do things that make the center vote for the candiates of the right.
The left from FDR to Bill Clinton understood that you have to appeal to the center to win. Can you say "New Democrat"? I didn't think so. Can't you just hear the right wing idiots? "Just becuase it always works is no reason to do it." "We on the right should be about making everone like us." If that could be done... Everyone would be like us. Everone is not. In fact 2/3 are not like us. Never have been. Never will be. Get a Clue.
Bush is doing his best to make Daschle and company look like "OLD DEMOCRATS' and Bush and his gang look like NEW REPUBLICANS.
If we can only have one chamber, I'd almost trade the House for the Senate. With the power divided, we still get bigger government. With the Senate in republican hands, Bush can at least affect the composition of the judiciary (which in any case has become a "secondary legislature").
If Clinton had acted the way he campaigned, we would have lost seats in the House and Senate. But Clinton allowed the leftists in Congress and his wife drive him from the center to the left. (Gays in the military, Hillary care, tax increase, etc.). Thus, the center, confronted with the far left, swung to the right.
I'd refine that and say, 1/3 of the voters are on the right and know it, 1/3 are on the left and know it, and 1/3 are rather lefty and don't know it.
When leftists appeal to the center and win they move the country sharply left (eg FDR). When the right appeals to the center and wins, the country moves slightly left. One could point to certain exceptions such as welfare reform, but to me this is just taking a loony left policy and making it somewhat more reasonable, i.e. less loony. The welfare and tax regimes we live under are essentially leftist.
The only way for republicans to force change is to occupy all 3 elective bodies and stack the judiciary with their people. Even so, I doubt that government will shrink. It's growth might slow perceptably, but that's about all we can hope for. The tendency to drift leftward won't be stopped until the electorate is re-educated--probably a multi-generational project.
It seems that the normal Republican response to a bad program proposed by the left is a to offer a 'lite' version of the same thing. Not only does this mean the leftists still get their way, albeit piecemeal, but it doesn't really do ANYTHING good for the Republicans, even short term.
If the Democrats propose spending $10,000,000 on some projects and the Republicans know the proposal will provide far less benefit at far greater cost than claimed, countering with a proposal to spend $5,000,000 is just plain stupid. It makes it nearly impossible to argue that the program is a bad idea and should be cut (since the Republicans, by their counter proposal, agree that the notion of such a program is a good thing), it lets the Democrats paint the Republicans as being 'obstructionists' who are 'beholden to special interests' (if the program is such a good thing--as the Republicans already concede it to be--it's hard to justify less than whole-hearted support), and it puts any blame for the program's failures squarely on the Republicans (overruns and service shortfalls are a consequence of the Republicans' refusal to budget enough money). What would be far better would be for the Republicans to make clear their intention to block the program and reasons for doing so. If they succeed, great; if not--if the Democrats push the program through over the Republicans' objections--any blame for the program's shortcomings will least squarely on the shoulders of the Democrats.
I don't know about that, Miss M. The 'contract with America' had some rather rightist stuff as I recall...eliminate Dept of Ed comes to mind.
How come when conservative ideas win elections we rationalize the power of those ideas away? The last big win for conservatives was Reagan, but I guess the reason for that would be rationalized that Carter was soooo poor.
Meanwhile, when the conservative ideas get covered over what seems to happen?.....Bush 41, Bob Dole come to mind immediately, and Gerry Ford soon after....at least post '64.
Power. Jobs for your friends. The game.
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