The Essential President Bush

A much-esteemed, long-neglected friend sent an email this morning, which was delightful to recieve. At one point he mentioned this post from yesterday and wrote: I think (President Bush) has lost his bearings. but then, so did Moses from time to time, it’s quite understandable.

That made me wonder a little – has President Bush lost his bearings, or have we? Is it President Bush who has broken faith with “his base” or have they?

When I read my friend’s line, I thought of a line from Pride and Prejudice, in which Elizabeth Bennett says in new appreciation of Mr. Darcy, “In essentials, I believe, he is very much what he ever was.”

Perhaps I am a dim bulb, but President Bush has never surprised me, and that is probably why I have never felt let down or “betrayed” by him. He is, in essentials, precisely who he has ever been. He did not surprise me when he managed, in August of 2001, to find a morally workable solution in the matter of Embryonic Stem Cells. He did not surprise me when, a month later, he stood on a pile of rubble and lifted a broken city from its knees. When my FDNY friends told me of the enormous consolation and strength he brought to his meetings with grieving families, I was not surprised. When the World Series opened in New York City and the President was invited to throw the first pitch, there was no surprise in his throwing (while wearing body armor) a perfect strike.

He did not surprise me when he spoke eloquently from the National Cathedral, or again before the Joint Houses of Congress, when he laid out the Bush Doctrine. He did not surprise me when he did it again at West Point, or when he went visionary at Whitehall (Lauri points out the video can be found at this link. It’s worth watching!)

There were no surprises in President Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan to battle AlQaeda. There were no surprises when he went after an Iraq which everyone believed had WMD, an Iraq that had tried to assassinate an American President, an Iraq whose NYC consul did not lower its flag to half-mast after 9/11.

Actually, there was one surprise. He did surprise me by going back to the UN, and back to the UN, in that mythical “rush to war” we heard so much about. But then again, the effort in Iraq was never as “unilateral” as it had been painted.

President Bush did not surprise me when, faced with the scorn of “the world community” and those ever-ready A.N.S.W.E.R. marches which sprang up condemning him and Tony Blair, he stood firm. A lesser man, a mere politician, would have folded under such enormous pressure. I was not surprised when Bush did not. (Aside – it’s funny how they just can’t get a good-sized crowd together for those protests these days, innit? Everything about Iraq was “wrong” and everything about Iraq is “failure and quagmire” and yet, somehow, we all breathe a sigh of relief that the job is done, that Saddam is out of power and that Iraq, save a very small piece of troubled land, is – in remarkably short order (and despite the wild pronouncements of John Murtha) – tasting its first morsels of democracy and liberty, and showing promise.)

It never surprised me that Yassar Arafat, formerly the “most welcomed” foreign “Head of State” in the Clinton White House was not welcomed – ever – to the Bush White House.

I wasn’t surprised by the, not one, but two tax cuts he got passed through congress, or the roaring economy – and jobs – those tax cuts created. I wasn’t surprised when he killed the unending farce that is the Kyoto treaty (remember, the thing Al Gore and the Senate unanimously voted down under Clinton?), or when he killed U.S. involvement in the International Criminal Court, or when he told the UN they risked becoming irrelevent, or when he told the Congress and the world, “America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country.” Not surprising.

I wasn’t surprised at all to watch him – in a foreign and hostile land – go rescue the Secret Service agent who was being detained and kept from protecting him. Or to see him shoot his cuffs, afterwards, and greet his host with a smile.

I was never surprised that he tried to “change the tone” or tried reaching across the aisle to invite onesuch as Ted Kennedy to help draft education reform, something none of his predecessors dared touch. Just as they never dared to try to reform social security or our energy policies. The feckless ones in Congress wouldn’t get the jobs done, unfortunately, but he is a president who at least tried to get something going on those “dangerous” issues. His senior prescription plan was unsurprising and it is helping lots of people.

I was not at all to surprised to see President Bush forego the “trembling lip photo-op” moment in which most world-leaders indulged after the Christmas Tsunami of 2004 in order to get real work done, to bring immediate help to that area by co-ordinating our own military (particularly our Naval support) with Australia and Japan. Stupid, stingy American.

I was surprised, actually, to see him dance with free Georgians. I didn’t think he danced.

Let me tell you what has surprised me about George W. Bush. I have been surprised by his ability to keep from attacking-in-kind the “public servants” in Washington who – for five years – have not been able to speak of the American President with the respect he is due, by virtue of both his office and his humanity, because they are entralled with hate and owned by opportunism. I have been surprised that he has kept his committment to “changing the tone” even when it has long been clear that the only way the tone in Washington will ever change is if everyone named Bush or Clinton or Kennedy is cleared out and “career politicians” are shown the door and – it must be said – every university “School of Journalism” is converted to a daisy garden, maaaan. We are stardust. We are golden.

I wasn’t surprised when President Bush thought that New Orleans had dodged a bullet after Hurricane Katrina, and therefore let down his guard. After all, we all thought NOLA had done so. I wasn’t surprised that he had – similarly to his actions the year before, re Hurricane Charlie – asked the Democrat Governor of Louisiana (and the Mayor) to order evacuations and suggested to her that she put the issue under Fed control to speed up processes (she did not, btw for a long while). But I was surprised that, when the press “picked and choosed” their stories while launching an unprecedented, emotion-charged, often completely inaccurate (10,000 bodies!) attack on the President – the rising waters were all his fault and he was suddenly “the uncaring racist attempting genocide by indifference” – the President did not fight back against the sea of made-up news and boilerplate, fantastic charges against him.

I was surprised, and what surprised me was the sense I had that Bush’s heart was broken. That he had done everything he could to keep faith with the nation, and that he could not believe that in a time of such terrible need, all some people could think of was, “how do we use this politically, how do we break Bush with this?” It can’t have helped that some of the hysteria was coming from the right as well as the left. Things changed after that, didn’t they? The press and the left doubled up their attacks, the far-right went very smug, and President Bush never has seemed to have regrouped his spirit.

A month later, I wasn’t surprised (although some – mostly the hard-right “I’m a Conservative before I’m anything and he’d better serve me” types – clearly were) when he nominated Harriett Miers to the SCOTUS. In fact, I’d predicted it. Up until that moment, every person President Bush had nominated to pretty much any position had won accolades from the beamish far-right, but Miers did not. She wasn’t one of their guys or gals. She wasn’t Luttig, she wasn’t Rogers-Brown. Harriet Miers? Damn that Bush! The denouncements came fast and furious and suddenly “the base” with which George W. Bush had not broken faith…broke faith with him. Suddenly they were as willing to call him a moron and an idiot as any KozKid.

Imagine that. Imagine being the guy who has given his base one splendid nominee after another, in all manner of posts, make a nomination he thinks appropriate only to find that “base” coming out with both guns, defaming his nominee and directing all manner of insult at himself. President Bush is nothing if not loyal; his loyalty is often his downfall. When he asked for a little trust (which he had surely earned) a little loyalty and a little faith, from “the base,” he got kicked in the groin, over and over again, for daring to think differently, for falling out of lockstep with his policy-wonk “betters.”

That had to be bitter, for him. At that point Bush, unchanged in essentials, might have wondered if his conservative “base” had become a bit over-confident and loose-hipped, so cock-sure of their majority (not that congress used it) so certain of their own brilliance that they were beginning to believe they didn’t need him; that he wasn’t conservative enough, after all, and that the next president was going to be the solid, “uncompassionate” conservative they’d really wanted all along.

The president who had delivered one gift after another to his base asked them to trust him, and his base sneered.

Then of course, the DPW debacle was launched and once again the far-right, his “base” went beserk, again, for very dubious reasons. Buster was the one who pointed out to me, then, that in this matter President Bush was being entirely consistent with who he had always been and that his defense of the sale was not unsound, nor unprecedented. The right didn’t care! They stomped their feet and went DU again. Even Rush Limbaugh couldn’t control them. The left, on the other hand, which should have supported the president – they would have had he been anyone else – simply exploited what they could of it.

And now, the Great Big Immigration Imbroglio of ’06 has turned “the base” quite vicious. President Bush is no longer simply a moron or an idiot to his base, he is a bad man. He is a bad American. He is a bad president. Everything he does now, is wrong. As yesterday’s WSJ pointed out, Bush is closer to the deified Ronald Reagan on this issue than anyone on the right wants to admit. And they’d never do to Reagan what they are doing to Bush. Let’s look at a few Reagan quotes on the nature of those “far-right” conservatives, mmkay?

‘When I began entering into the give and take of legislative bargaining in Sacramento, a lot of the most radical conservatives who had supported me during the election didn’t like it.

Compromise was a dirty word to them and they wouldn’t face the fact that we couldn’t get all of what we wanted today. They wanted all or nothing and they wanted it all at once. If you don’t get it all, some said, don’t take anything.

‘I’d learned while negotiating union contracts that you seldom got everything you asked for. And I agreed with FDR, who said in 1933: ‘I have no expectations of making a hit every time I come to bat. What I seek is the highest possible batting average.’

‘If you got seventy-five or eighty percent of what you were asking for, I say, you take it and fight for the rest later, and that’s what I told these radical conservatives who never got used to it.’

Mr. Reagan, I salute you. I did not vote for you. Twice. I came too late to appreciation of you. But sir, some of us have been saying the same thing to “the base” for a few weeks now. They’re still not listening. They won’t, I imagine, until they absolutely must. And perhaps it will take a staggering defeat for that to happen.

President Bush’s immigration policies have not changed materially since he was Governor of Texas. You folks knew that when you elected him, twice. He has not changed, cannot change, because his policies arise not from his poll numbers but from his convictions and his conscience. You used to love that about him. Can everything, everything that needs to be done BE done, and all as you would have it done, in the real world, a world of bitter partisanship and a corrupted press?

Some say that the GOP should consider “losing in ’06 to win in ’08.” Some conservatives say that they’re going to not vote – to sit out an election or vote for a third party candidate to “teach the GOP a lesson.”

The far-right gwwwwarks like a cracker-obsessed parrot: Bush has abandoned the base, he’s abandoned the base, he’s abandoned the base.

Ever stop to think maybe the president feels his base has abandoned him, that uncontent with 75%, they’ve simply moved beyond reason? Ever stop to think that while you’re calling the president every despicable name in the book and demanding his fealty or you’ll “teach him a lesson,” that perhaps there is a lesson you need to learn? That a good man, disinterested in merely laughing or crying for the camera for 8 years and looking to do a difficult job in the face of unprecedented hate, unprecedent speed of communication, unprecedented global instability, unprecedented backstabbing from within his own CIA, deserves some loyalty and the benefit of a doubt as he tries to bring you the 75% you so callously spit back at him as insufficient?

We do not know everything we think we know. Nothing is static; everything is in flux, and it is very likely that more is at work here, on many levels, than any of us can dream. There are things seen and unseen. Think about it.

Here is a question, and I’ll be writing on it some more during the week, but start thinking about it, now: HOW DO YOU RECEIVE A GOOD?

How you receive a good has a lot to do with whether any more “good” comes your way. The Conservatives got a “good” in 2000 and 2004; they’re receiving it very badly, indeed. I think the throwing-under-the-bus-of-George-W-Bush by “the base” is one of the most shameful things I have ever witnessed in all my years of watching politics, from both sides of the political spectrum. How do you receive a good?

President Bush has never surprised me. He is, in essentials, the man he ever was. It does not surprise me that he is a Christian man living a creed before he is a President, that he is a President before he is a Conservative. It seems to me precisely the right order of things.

You don’t have to agree with everything President Bush does; I don’t. But he deserves a lot better than he’s getting from his own side. He deserves, dare I say it, a spirit of compromise and workability, as opposed to the hard-line demand for a “perfect” solution (one which will never pass congress) to a problem no one else in government has even dared to address.

You “base” have received a great good. You’ve forgotten it. Continue to do so at your – at all our – great peril.

Related: Ed Morrissey, commenting on this WaPo piece I hadn’t even seen, echos a similiar thought about the unchanging Bush. Rick Moran is on the same wavelength with a good piece Alexandra has a sound piece up which reminds us of what Natan Sharansky thinks of President Bush. Bruce Kesler still thinks it’s fatigue. Mr. Tapscott remains unconvinced.Called as Seen has a series of related posts looking at what this is doing to the right and he is very rough indeed, on some of us. Much more so than me…I just glitter! :-) The gang at Oh, How I Love Jesus has some more Reagan quotes you’ll want to go look at.

Bernard, unsurprisingly, disagrees with me and finds that this immigration issue trumps all else, but he does it in his characteristically generous and gentlemanly way. Prof. Bainbridge prepares to be blamed for a November disaster. I am inclined to ask, once more time, that my far-right conservative friends pull back from a hoary edge.

Michael Novak calls Bush, The Bravest President. I think that’s about right.

WELCOME: readers! While you’re here, please look around. In the past 24 hours or so we’re discussed Lorie Byrd’s new nest, whether guilt and shame don’t have their place, we’ve continued our tireless admiration for Bryn Terfel’s musical gifts, taken issue with assertions about new media, pondered the most dangerous prayer you can pray and I’ve shared a little of my brother-in-law’s decision to go to hospice. Also, a round-up of blog posts and news storys from today is at the top.

More: Jefferson and Hastert, out NOW.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • March Hare

    Dear Terrye,
    I think you misunderstood what I meant by an “enabler.” In AA, an “enabler” is the one who allows the alcoholic or drug addict to continue his/her destructive behavior, usually by making excuses or covering for them. I believe that President Bush is doing much the same for Presidente Fox.
    If the U.S. seriously enforced its current immigration laws and tightened up border security, the Mexican government would have to deal with their own governmental corruption. As things stand now, the U.S. is kind of like a pressure-release valve. Discontented Mexican citizens, rather than staying home and fighting to improve their lives there, come to the U.S. They send back to Mexico $20 billion dollars each year, making Mexican ex-patriates one of the largest sources of income for the Mexican Government, second only to oil exports.
    Thus, the Mexican Government can ignore the festering problems at home, print graphic novels with instructions about how best to cross illegally into the U.S., threaten to sue the U.S. Gov’t for building a fence on its own soil.
    Nationwide, the problem of illegal immigration might be recent. Here in California, a Governer was recalled because he authorized giving illegals driver’s licenses. Illegal immigration has been a huge problem in Southern California and has seriously impacted public services such as schools, hospitals, police, fire, parks, and public lands.

  • benning

    Okay, sooooo what? You like GW?

    Extremely well written, and thought-out piece, Anchoress. This is ‘a keeper’.

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  • buckey1

    These folks get all “hepped up” and squeal when the bigot/xenophobe/nativist tag gets put on them, but I think its a label that fits them well. If they would read about what nativism looked like in the 19th century they would understand that the resembelance is strikingly similar.

    The blinders are on pretty tight. IMHO

  • MargaretM

    We who disagree heartily with Bush on this issue are once again labeled “racist.” I notice that when Bush loyalists disagree with Bush dissenters, the loyalists quickly resort to name-calling. This happened over Harriet Miers (we were “sexist” then)and over immigration.

    For people who supposedly support reasoned discourse and hearty political debate, the resort to name-calling to put down dissent is unworthy of the name “conservative.”

  • benning

    Uh-huh, buckey1, but that was then. There are huge problems now with unregulated borders. The northern border needs work, yes, but the country up there – Canada – is not the economic/political basketcase that Mexico is.

    All most of us are seeking is the assimilation of these people. I don’t want to hear a load of horse hockey about how they demand to keep their culture alive in the USA. If that culture is so darned positive for them, why is it a failure for the nation of Mexico?

    They ain’t a-crossin’ the borders because the USA is worse, now are they?

    Do I want Commies running things south of the border? ‘Course not! But the Tyrannical Socialist Autocracy that’s posing as a government there now ain’t exactly a real friend, either.

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  • buckey1

    Bennning, I posted my comments to your web page. In short, what was being said about the Irish, Italians and Poles are being said about the Mexicans. These people assimilated and there is no doubt that this will happen with the Hispanics.

  • Sal

    Why we’re not so sanguine about assimilation:
    1) 19th century immigrants crossed an ocean, and once here, returned to the old country rarely, if ever. They were not a bus ride away from their country of origin.
    2)They did not send millions of dollars back to the old country, b/c they had no plans to return there.
    3) They had a powerful incentive to learn English and get with the program. There wasn’t any bi-lingual education nor were there national social services. Today, thanks to Spanish language newspapers, radio and TV, it is possible for an illegal alien to get along perfectly well without being fluent in English, beyond the barest minimum.
    4) our educational system is geared towards PC diversity, rather than turning out American citizens.

    We’re trying to explain why the situations are not the same, but no one seems to be listening.

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  • igout

    Nobody is listening nobody wants to. They got other agendas. Some see millions of new voters to be scooped up. Some see millions of cheap laborers. Some see demographic salvation in these young and fertile newcomers, who will bailout Social Security, Medicare and the other entitlement programs. A deus ex machina for both the democrat and gop con artists down inthe beltway.

    Then you got the leftish idelogues who don’t believe in borders or nations at all,particularly not ours! These people neatly align with globalizing capitalists, who don’t either. The power class in Mexico, I suspect, cares very much about borders however; they see in migration their chance to take back the land lost in the Mexican/American War.

    As I wrote earlier, probably the only person in America who honestly cares about the immigrants themselves is President Bush. Oh yes, and you too, Anchoress.
    Lastly, I don’t really care whether all these poor pawns are coming from Mexico, Finland or the Moon. It doesn’t matter; what matters is that when they get here, they will never be assimilated. They won’t be assimiated because we Americans have lost our national nerve, the kind of nerve it takes to tell each and every newcomer:
    “Whatever you were, wherever you came from, you are now a 100% red blooded American, citizen of the free-est, damndest best country that ever was or ever will be”.
    Bush, GOd bless him, still believes the good old story of America, the other 299,999,999 of us have grown lukewarm. Too busy chasing after the next made-ion-China bargain at WalMart, I guess.
    Hell, we can’t even turn our kids into good Americans, how can we 12..20…60…100 million strangers?

  • March Hare

    More of my take on immigration and GWB is here, which includes a link to and many excerpts from an excellent article in the “San Francisco Chronicle”:
    I ~still~ can’t figure out how to make Trackback work between Blogger and WordPress. I guess they’re not compatible.

  • buckey1

    Sal, you sell this country short in my opinion. I grew up in Cleveland in the Italian and Slovenian neighborhood of Collinwood. I had friends who were second generation Slovenians who spoke Slovenian in the home, they went to the Slovenian home for social and recreation events, they had a Slovenian newspaper in their home, they went to a Slovenian church and their friends were, for the most part, Slovenian. These people assimilated into America in one-two generations. This has happened in America over the last few centuries. Now, you say, we are “weak” and we are not able to melt the new immigrant stock. We need to prserve our “American heritage”. This is the part of what is being said that is nativist/xenophobic/bigotted.

    I find this response a sad portent of our future if it takes hold and is allowed to be acted upon. For many of those who hold this view our best days are behind us.

  • igout

    I think your lightning bolt was meant for me, not Sal. I’m the one who said we’re too pc-whipped to “melt” the new immigrant stock.

    In any event, nativist/xenophobic/bigotted??
    Let’s call a spade a spade. The American Heritage is nativist/xenophopic/bigoted, that’s why it worked.

    You could speak any language you wanted in your kitchen; in public there was only one. Oddly,we all called it the King’s English.

    And you were systematically drilled and taught and indoctrinated, in English, to believe things like the following. That the happiest day in the history of Mankind was July 4th 1776; that the Founding Fathers were the greatest men who ever lived; that George III was the wickedest tyrant who ever lived; that the people of all other countries, not enjoying the glorious Liberty afforded by the US Constitution, live and die in poverty, serfdom and bleakness; that George Washington never told a lie; that Honest Abe walked 10 miles in the dead winter to return a penny he had borrowed; that this American Republic prospers under the especial favor of the Almighty because Americans are frugal, industrious, upstanding and God fearing. And so on, And so on.

    Silly stories, I grant…ignorant and xenophobic stories, but that’s how you extract the unum from all that plubibus arriving from the 4 corners of the world.

    Yeah, our Heritage is to highly intolerantly turn everybody who comes here into an American.

    I in turn find the knee-jerk invocation of words like xenophobic and bigoted and racist against anybody who insists on keeping this heritage a sadder portent of our future.

  • buckey1

    I was speaking to Sal since he addressed me with his post #57. I sent no “lightning bolt” to anyone. Stop projecting.

    I spoke anecdotally of my experience growing up in a Slovenian and Italian enclave in the city Cleveland, Ohio. I saw the families and saw how the “melted” into America There is no reason to believe that the Hispanics will continue the process. It is only fear and pessimism that makes some believe that this process will not continue.

    Please read John Higham’s “Stranger in the Land”.

  • igout

    Actually I think the Hispanics be excellent Americans, if this country has the spine to make them become so. I see no signs of the necessary spine, only the damp and blubbery embrace of greedy and cynical politicians, greedier businesses, exploiting idelogues and assorted well meaning milksops.

    It is this assorted crew who are the true racists by their refusal to compel Hispanics to become one with us in language, duties and loyalties.

    It’s about tough-love, know what I mean?

  • buckey1

    I guess the thing I don’t agree with you on, and I do agree on border control, following the law et al, is that the process of “becoming American” is a process that sometimes takes a generation or two. You don’t “make” someone become American, “they” become American. “They” don’t become American because you criminalize them and make them felons. What a glorious foundation to “make” someone become an American./s/

    What we have here is a process of making a law and a process to bring a number of the Hispanics into American life. Unfortunately, we also have a process inwhich the Rat Party seeks to makes these new Americans into one of their base groups and are pandering shamefully in order to get this done.

  • buckey1

    Dear Anchoress,

    I set up my Amazon account and made a donation. God bless you and thanks for not keeping to your statement that you were swearing off of politics. Keep yourself healthy.


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