I am borrowing the title of this essay from one written by David Brooks of The Weekly Standard in August 2001, wherein he chides the Bush administration for being too defensive in policy initiatives and “strategically crippled” in pursuit of the centerpiece of the Bush Presidency, compassionate conservatism. Of course, this was pre 9-11 and a different Presidency. It would be difficult to characterize Bush’s leadership in the war on terrorism as anything but masterful, at least until his April 4 message on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, about which more below.
Having said this, there have been serious mistakes lately. Last month, I mentioned the steel import tariffs and the farm bill. These were damaging enough, but now we have a whopper—the campaign finance reform bill. If there will ever be a case made for a veto, this was it, not only on constitutional grounds, which are obvious, but because the legislation is contrary to the principles on which the President campaigned and won, against the primary supporter of the legislation!
In September 2000 I wrote briefly of the “end of democracy” debate, which is primarily about the undermining of the integrity of our republican system by an over-active judiciary. Unfortunately, the new campaign finance law does further damage, not only by deferring to the judiciary on a clear constitutional issue, but by its terms constricting issue advocacy and thereby adding a measure of incumbency protection.
It has been suggested rather harshly that the approach of the Bush administration to domestic policy legislation is, in many respects, “intellectually dishonest”. That may be a strong indictment, but it seems to me that the approach does ask that we believe that people cannot be expected to understand the logic and merit of conservative public policy in the light of Democratic/liberal/media driven efforts to demagogue and discredit it. It further assumes that this liberal cabal has won in the market for ideas and that the electorate cannot be expected to cut through the demagoguery to know what is the public interest and who represents it. I strongly disagree and, even if I’m wrong, the fight and the argument are worthy of the risk.