Thursday, October 20

MR. PRESIDENT: "THERE'S A FAMILY IN CRISIS, AND IT'S CONSERVATISM"

That's Peggy Noonan's take in her column this morning in the WSJ's OpinionJournal and although it's over-stated and a touch too melodramatic, she's right to think that many conservatives are increasingly disconcerted over the president's free-spending, big-government solutions, his unconscionable indifference to our nation's porous borders, and his nomination of a personal friend and cipher to the United States Supreme Court who is not, by all measures and even in advance of her appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, a nominee in the Scalia-Thomas mold. And she's damn sure right to describe the president as stubborn to a fault and, by inference, a president who has lost his way, caught up in a kind of self-righteous hubris, and one who has offended the very base that launched him into the White House in 2000 and returned him there in 2004.

Indeed, as WorldNetDaily somberly reports:

For the first time since George W. Bush was elected president, the leading conservative watchdog groups, even many from the religious right, are showing some backbone and are not blindly walking the plank for this man.

And, as this Fortune magazine article makes plain:

The Bush Administration is for the first time facing serious dissent from within the Republican Party.

And that dissension's antecedents and upshot, according to Fortune:

For the moment, the conflict between the White House and social conservatives over the Miers nomination looms large. However, its fallout, either way, will not endure. Bush's vigorous defense of her appointment will either force social conservatives to put aside their doubts, or her nomination will collapse, and a chastened president will be obliged to produce another name more acceptable to his base.

The emerging chasm with fiscal conservatives is far more serious. A long-suppressed disagreement about the basic character of Republican government has opened and will not easily be closed. Fiscal conservatives in Congress will attempt to introduce major spending reductions. The initiative will probably earn the support of the majority of the House caucus but be resisted by a coalition of centrist Republicans, leading committee chairmen and Democrats.

The Administration risks finding itself defending an Iraq policy that is attacked for an overly slow pace of troop withdrawals by Democrats and an overly rapid pullout by the right.

Given that the Administration's current woes are mainly the product of Republican fratricide, there is little incentive for the Democratic Party to inject itself in the debate.
As might be expected, Fortune makes no mention of the thorny illegal aliens' issue and the national security threat (a contradiction in terms with the president's justification for a global war on terror) posed by porous borders. Fact is, they, too, are grinding on the president's credibility with many conservatives and a majority of Americans. Big business and its media apologists just delude themselves in not saying so.

But back to Peggy Noonan -- the Earth Mother incarnate searching for a miracle cure for the president's lost luster with his base. Here's her maternal prescription:

Once again there's a family in crisis, and it's conservatism. He can let it break up, or let it wither under his watch. Or he can change. Just as he learned at 40 that to keep his family he had to become part of something larger than himself, he should realize as he approaches 60 that he has to become part of something larger if he is to save his administration. And that "something larger" is a movement that has been building for half a century, since before Barry Goldwater. The president would be well advised to look at the stakes, see what's in the balance, judge the strengths and weaknesses of his own leadership, and get back to the basics of conservatism. Which again would take humility.


The hanging chad threatening the Bush presidency in its second term is a disgruntled, ready-to-bolt, conservative base, longing for a Reagan, but getting instead a spendthrift; and the grand irony is that the Supreme Court may be his undoing this time around.