Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Thursday, June 7, 2007

K-Lo asks the $64,000 question

National Review has a number of intelligent conservative pundits. Among the best is Kathryn Jean Lopez and her piece in today's NRO asks a simple question with regard to Pres. Bush and the conservative base.

Can this marriage be saved?

Is the White House just not paying attention?

I know someone in the White House has Internet access — because Nicholas Thompson and Kerrie Rushton from the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives have been e-mailing back and forth in response to Corner posts about the Bush-Kennedy immigration deal for weeks now. Do they not talk to Tony Snow? Does no one talk to the president? Does the president just not care what his conservative allies on so many issues think?

I know I’m not the only one who sometimes suspects the latter.

On May 28, the president said: “If you want to kill the bill, if you don’t want to do what's right for America, you can pick one little aspect out of it, you can use it to frighten people. Or you can show leadership and solve this problem once and for all.”

The next morning, on her radio show, Laura Ingraham said that the president had “taken his gloves off to punch us.” Her statement came as part of a monologue in which she chronicled everything she had hated about the Bush administration — Dubai ports, failed Social Security reform. She had taken these “body blows” and continued to stand up for President Bush. We believed in him. There were bigger things at stake than one battle. There’s a war on. But he sure has a weird was of showing his love to his political allies. As she played “thank you for being a friend” from the theme song of The Golden Girls, Laura dubbed the moment: “Conservatives left behind.”

Recalling a bike ride with the president in her recent past, Laura said, after listening to a clip of the president insisting critics of the bill must not have read the bill: “President Bush may be able to beat me at mountain biking but he’s not going to beat me on the reading of this bill.”

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Thursday that the president was “surprised” conservatives opposed to the immigration bill didn’t take his comments well. Not surprising; as Michelle Malkin put it Wednesday night, “The White House thinks we are all idiots.”

For many conservatives, this immigration business over the last week has felt a lot like the last stages of Bush Estrangement Syndrome. Even though the bill went down in the end, it leaves deep wounds — far from the first. As Ingraham made clear, many conservatives never really bought into “compassionate conservatism” — conservatism didn’t exactly need George W. Bush to become compassionate. Ending the Cold War had an element of compassion in it, after all. Speaking of wars — God bless him for being a leader, but he’s never quite consistently made the case for the current war as well as others outside the administration have. (And he invited to the White House, for state dinners, editors of papers that leak national-security information.)

Then there was the Bush-Kennedy No Child Left Behind bill. We sucked up the big-government approach, and Ted Kennedy photo ops, “for the children.” But the real breakdown moment between the Right and the president who — we thought — had some respect for us even though he isn’t really one of us came when he nominated Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court. His patronizing pitch — she is a good lawyer, for a woman! — followed by insulting name calling (you’re elitists and don’t want her because she didn’t go to Harvard; you’re sexist and don’t want another woman on the Court) was a low point for this administration. You’d think after conservatives forgave and forgot and fought hard for Samuel Alito the White House would consider thinking twice before kicking its friends again. Instead, you’re reminded that — back when the president was governor of Texas — he always prided himself on working with Democrats rather than with his natural allies.

Just as he lost Harriet Miers for the Court, the president lost his comprehensive immigration deal. Where does that leave the Right? Frustrated and vigilant, bent on taking Ronald Reagan’s wise advice when it comes to 2008: Trust but verify. Conservatives aren’t going to be easily talked into a guy who reads a few of the right books, and brings a few of the right people over by his campaign headquarters at the perfect time. If you’re not with us, you’re against us, may be the post-Bush mood of conservatives.

Pre-January 2009, can this marriage be saved? You know, as his luck would have it, staying together is worth it for the kids. And every once in a while — say, if there’s a Supreme Court opening this summer, as has been rumored, and he nominates a judge like Alito or Roberts – President George W. Bush may just remind us why we fell for him in the first place. It might not be the best marriage, but we share a love — a love of country, a love of democracy, a love of the Constitution. Yeah, he created a dubious Cabinet department. But we also haven’t been attacked for six years under his presidency. He’s not perfect, and he may not always know how to express himself, and he may not always know how to appreciate his friends, but he’s our guy, with enough of the right instincts to make us never truly regret the choice. And history may rightly gloss over the mistakes his frustrated friends saved him from — in the end, there’s some leadership there. And that makes all the difference.

K-Lo seems to think that the marriage between the party and the president can be saved. I offer an alternative to that, and I'll use the analogy of a amicable divorce for it. There comes a time where the adults have to do what is right for the kids, even if divorced or separated. It still doesn't change the fact that the adults aren't too fond of one another, or they're simply sick of being pushed around or neglected. Are we pretty ticked at the president? You bet we are. Do we have a right to feel that way? Absolutely.

K-Lo, and a number of other pundits across the 'Sphere (ourselves included) have noted that we've gone to the wall for the president on a number of issues. We've also locked horns with him on a number of issues, and K-Lo points out the more "memorable" ones. (For the record, we opposed Harriet Miers based on her qualifications; a nominee should not be taking a "two week crash course" on Constitutional jurisprudence.)

But can we be there if he needs us again? surely we will be. While he may not be the best president w've had, he still has his plusses. The war is one issue that sits in the "pro" column. Yes, we've had setbacks, and yes we've made mistakes. But this nation hasn't been attacked in six years, and we've toppled two pro-terrorist regimes int he Middle East, freeing over fifty million people from cruel, tyrannical leaders. So when it comes to the war, his base will be there.

The other issue is on judicial nominees. It's been reported that the president is in the process of getting together another short list of judicial nominees in case the Supreme Court sees another vacancy before his term is over in January of 2009. While it's prudent to have the list handy, there has been no word from any current sitting justices that they have plans to retire. Will we be there if this happens? We have to be. The nominees on the current list include two very conservative originalist judges: Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown. If he picks either one of them, it'll be left up to us to cut the Democrats off from making something out of their careers to warrant their disqualification.

Those are just two examples of how we could come together and still help out the president. But I think that the divorce papers are being drawn up by many a conservative that have washed their hands of this man, and his continuing inability to listen to the people who have supported him for so long. It would almost be as if (but not plausibly so) Reagan had turned his back on his party in the last years of his second term. And while many will point out that he did pass an amnesty in 1986 that angered conservatives, it was, in effect, the only serious blemish on his record as president. (No, we don't look at O'Connor on the high court as a blemish because it wasn't until after he left office that she started her swing to a moderate and sometimes activist jurist.)

Can it be saved? No. But nothing says that we can't work amicably together when the issue matters most. And, as an aside, he can bring the party back if he just starts listening to us rather than the Ted Kennedy/John McCain alliance in the Senate. These guys are no-nothing, go-nowhere nutters that don't care about the nation or the people of this nation. They're looking for media outlets lauding them, and printing fawning praises over work that always ends up being more of a bureaucratic nightmare than it is a real and serious solution to a national problem.

Publius II


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