October 26, 2005
Bush Has Been a Moderate All Along
-- Now that the neocons seem to be growing disenchanted with President
Bush for not being conservative enough to suit them, I can't help
but be amused.
I like about Bush -- the fact that he doesn't fit neatly into
an ideological box.
I also can't
help but think of the story of the woman who complains that her
husband won't change -- won't take out the trash, do the dishes,
or stop watching football on Sunday afternoons. The husband doesn't
understand why his wife is upset. After all, he has always been
this way. He was this way when she met him, and she married him
anyway. So why is she angry now?
same thing here. I wonder why so many hard-right conservatives
are suddenly furious at Bush when they supported him in two presidential
elections. Some point to the nomination of Harriet Miers to the
Supreme Court as evidence that the president takes lightly the
need to have on the court an ideological warrior. Others go further
and suggest the president is straying from conservative principles.
Yet this assumes that Bush ever adhered to those principles to
begin with. And that's not so.
year ago, I wrote a column in which I described Bush as a moderate,
and a lot of Democrats wrote back and suggested it was a joke.
Now there aren't many Republicans who are laughing.
the same person he has been since he ran for Texas governor in
1994. What you see is what you get. He doesn't spend a lot of
time reinventing or repackaging himself. In fact, he prides himself
on not changing his ways. What was it that he promised Republican
senators about Miers? That she won't change. You see, for Bush,
that's high praise.
of Miers, her nomination is the big reason that Bush is taking
fire from the right. But it isn't the only reason. Many hard-line
conservatives have never felt confident that Bush was one of them.
Because of his positions on a host of issues -- from increasing
government spending to making diversity a priority in Cabinet
appointments to promising amnesty to illegal immigrants to increasing
funding for public housing to urging that the Supreme Court preserve
the ability of the University of Michigan to take the race of
applicants into account even while opposing quotas and outright
racial preferences -- many Republicans have long been suspicious
of the man they have chosen to lead them.
Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork writes in an op-ed
article in The Wall Street Journal that ``this George
Bush, like his father, is showing himself to be indifferent, if
not actively hostile, to conservative values.''
is that a surprise to Bork? Over all these years, where Bush stood
wasn't exactly a secret. He was in the middle of the road.
of Texas, he shooed away folks who were proposing a ballot initiative
-- modeled after California's Proposition 187 -- that would have
denied benefits to illegal immigrants. He displayed a detectable
lack of enthusiasm for school vouchers. He avoided making an issue
out of abortion. And he declared that bilingual education programs
that worked were worth keeping. He also partnered with Democrats
in the Texas Legislature, and shared credit for legislative victories
with members of the opposing party.
worry that Bush isn't a real conservative, or at least someone
who is driven by conservative principles.
real story. Despite his record in Texas and the record he later
accumulated during the first term as president, Republicans kept
Bush as the leader of their party.
so for the same reason that former California Assembly Speaker
Willie Brown supported a Democratic governor from Arkansas in
1992, despite concerns that the candidate was too conservative.
For Brown, it was all about being practical. ``I'm tired of losing,''
he said at the time. ``I just want to win.'' Bill Clinton was
seen as a winner, and so Brown backed him.
the seeds of their discontent were planted in the Republican primaries
of the 2000 election. Back then, with much of the GOP establishment
lined up behind him, Bush looked like a winner. And so many Republicans
threw their support to him. Whether or not he was conservative
enough didn't seem to matter at the time, nor did it matter in
2004 when he ran for re-election. All that mattered was that he
might not like where they've arrived, but they should at least
accept the fact that getting here was no accident.
2005, The San Diego Union-Tribune