Friday, October 14, 2005



FORK IN THE ROAD FOR PRESIDENT BUSH: Instead of big government "compassionate conservatism", President Bush must remind us that it's the other way around - conservatism is compassionate because it doesn't believe in big government

George W. Bush's presidency has been a consequential one. As opposed to the reactionary and care-taker presidencies of his predecessors, his father and Bill Clinton respectively, this Bush administration has been bold and forward thinking in its ideas and implementation of policies. However, as President Bush is dealing with a public that has grown bored and impatient with him he is facing a choice in how to lead this country in the next 3 years. In order to avoid becoming hated or worse, irrelevant, President Bush must remember what governing philosophy carried him to the White House - conservatism. Instead of big government "compassionate conservatism," President Bush must remind us that it's the other way around - conservatism is compassionate because it doesn't believe in big government.

President Bush, to the dismay of rank and file Republicans, has silently stood by while Congress has been profligate in its spending. We did not elect a Republican majority to control Capitol Hill in order to show Democrats how to really waste tax dollars. We did not elect a president to run the White House by continuing to throw good money after bad through various big spending programs. Instead, Republicans want a sane government that keeps tax rates low and corrals the impetus to spend in order for working Americans to keep driving the engine of our amazing economy.

No Republican president will win converts among the liberal Beltway media and New York's chattering classes by outspending the previous Democratic president. Remember Richard Nixon. He served at a time when liberal politics and wasteful spending was in its ascendancy. He didn't win any kudos from a "conglomerate of hate" that was hell bent on destroying him. No one in the Washington Post was yelling "hoorah" for Nixon as he signed one big bill after another. At least President Bush has the hindsight of what a leviathan federal government is capable of and has the luxury of a Republican Congress that should be amenable to implementing conservative ideas when it comes to legislative governing.

Bush and Nixon share another parallel. The parallel is how a war to protect America's interests and save millions of lives from abject horror and tyranny is twisted, into nothing but a cavalcade of bloody shirts, by a media all too willing to tell Americans that we are incapable of fighting the tough fight for the right reasons.

The Iraq war crushed the Bush presidency this year. The spate of insurgent attacks right after his 2nd inauguration cast a pall over whatever agenda he had. Americans have had imprinted in their minds that the war is a colossal failure. But, good things are happening. Attention grabbing beheadings have subsided, hostages have been freed and the unleashing of that natural desire for self-government on the part of Iraqis is moving the country inexorably forward. Despite the positive steps, the White House let the impressionable stench of "defeat" linger far too long until it was too late to get rid of the odor. The Bush administration may have won Iraq but lost Americans when it comes to the merits and reasons for the ouster of Saddam Hussein, his brutal regime and the corrupt Baathist-European connection.

The Bush presidency is at a low ebb, what to do? As Pope John Paul II said, "Do not be afraid!" Fight back! Grab the keys and drive the car in a different direction, in the right direction - in a rightward direction. President Bush must no longer govern in a way that reflects his fears. He must no longer govern in a way that disappoints his base. He must no longer govern in a way that sells America short.

The momentum, right now, is with the media, not even with the Democrats. The media is doing the heavy lifting on behalf of Howard Dean & Co. because the Democratic party is bereft of ideas and the ideas it does have are beholden to special interests. But the media is not totally at fault for Bush's failures to connect with normal Americans. For instance, President Bush and his staff are at fault for failing on Social Security reform because the administration did not properly convey what this country is facing in terms of the looming solvency issues.

President Bush has flirted with big government programs and has been timid lately such as when it comes to revealing what exactly is his vision for the future of the Supreme Court. Americans need to hear his vision for the country too and it needs to be a conservative one. No more Mr. Nice Guy, President Bush has to confront his critics head-on and rediscover that the conservative philosophy of Ronald Reagan should once again be his model.

How does President Bush fight back? He does so by taking the initiative. The president should hold more frequent prime time press conferences. Actually, he does better than most people think and his poll numbers go up after those confrontations with a hostile media. Press conferences will make him sharpen his ideas. He will be able to speak to the American people directly instead of having his day time speeches being given short shrift or completely ignored. He is not the best extemporaneous speaker and does not have the gift of gab like a lawyer but Americans have trusted him because he has been perceived to believe in what he says.

He should address the country from the Oval Office and lay out a bold, unapologetic conservative plan. What does he say to us from behind his desk? His Oval Office address demands that Congress tighten its belt or he will veto bills until he gets a spending bill that wouldn't make a fatted pig blush. He tells the country that there is a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to Iraq and that the country should be proud of the job our soldiers have done. He reminds us that Afghanistan is a success story in the making when just four years ago it was the loneliest place on earth. He reminds us that the economy has been doing fantastic considering all that we have been up against since 9/11. He agrees with us that while America always welcomes new residents with open arms, immigration laws must be enforced. He assures us that a family is the most valuable of institutions and he knows how parents worry over and have ambitious dreams for their children. And in a charming way that reminds us of the sunny disposition of Ronald Reagan, President Bush tells us there are many reasons to believe we are headed in the right track and that our best days are ahead of us.

Nov 10 Update: Prof. Bainbridge on the "Bush League Party",


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