April 24, 2002
In addition to your Jewish World Review article of 24 April, “The good news about conservatives versus Bush,” I’ve read a few op-eds regarding conservative dissatisfaction with the Bush Presidency, specific decisions, or where policy appears headed. There are reports of White House “spokespersons” making assertions minimizing the degree of dissent within conservative ranks. I assert they’d be better off keeping their ears more open to the murmur before the chorus grows much louder.
I, for one, am quite disappointed with much of President Bush’s performance to date. I wholeheartedly support the war on terrorism and the “Bush Doctrine” regarding same. However, there is a litany of decisions and statements lacking that kind of principled clarity.
I’ve had my doubts and misgivings regarding the bases of policy decisions ever since President Bush backed down on the arsenic in drinking water issue. This was done strictly for political gain without there being compelling scientific or medical reasons for the reduction in the mandated maximum levels. Most people didn’t seem to realize that the issue concerned ground and not the surface water from whence comes most of the country’s potable H2O. Not much was said about the EPA’s basis for recommending lower arsenic levels being an extrapolation of studies from areas outside the U.S. Also, the EPA presented no data confirming or even indicating health problems in domestic locales with levels higher than the then current limit of 50 ppb.
Rather than take the time and make the effort to educate the public, it’s easier to throw the political dog a bone. This caliber of decision making will not gain votes for Bush, but will weaken his support among people who want issues decided on the basis of merit rather than political expediency.
Additionally, while under the influence of political advisor Karl Rove, the President scheduled the closing of the Vieques naval gunnery range over the objections of the military and many in Congress. Bush also signed the campaign finance reform bill that he had promised not to sign while he was campaigning; imposed higher tariffs on foreign steel; waffles in his support of Israel; calls the Saudis “friends” when they are the originators and supporters of the radical Wahhabi flavor of Islam and refuse to cooperate with airline passenger identification procedures – not to mention the large proportion of Saudi citizens among the suicide squads of 9/11; suggested an “amnesty” for illegal aliens currently in the U.S.; failed to vigorously campaign for the confirmation of Charles Pickering to a place on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals; and on and on and on. This isn’t what I’d call courageous leadership and I strongly suspect the Democrats’ recalcitrance stems from Bush’s failure to play hardball on such issues.
I’m afraid Mr. President has lost his compass just as several major conservative pundits suggest. He is not operating in the tradition of Ronald Reagan. Reagan was the “great communicator” and, right or wrong, could at least point to decisions based on principle. Dubya is not even turning out to be the “great reconciliator” as he seems to lay claim to. He’s just plain screwing up.
The more the President tries to please everyone the less he’s going to please anyone. Support remains high because of 9/11. However, if Bush continues to whittle away at his conservative support by making more politically rather than philosophically motivated decisions, he will, in the long run, do neither himself nor the Republican Party much good. A large contingent of the American public is totally fed up with “spin”, “continuous campaigning”, and all the rest of the political skulduggery. It’s coming out of their ears! Do what’s right because it’s right. Not because you’re buying votes.
That’s what we have the Democrats for.