The beginning of my own sense of separation from the Bush administration came in January 2005, when the president declared that it is now the policy of the United States to eradicate tyranny in the world, and that the survival of American liberty is dependent on the liberty of every other nation. This was at once so utopian and so aggressive that it shocked me. For others the beginning of distance might have been Katrina and the incompetence it
revealed, or the depth of the mishandling and misjudgments of Iraq.
The world is getting smaller, but it is not yet so tiny that national autonomy must be sacrificed on the altar of No Nation Left Behind. Tyranny is bad, but the alternative is worse: better for governments to oppress than for all nations to be oppressed into non-oppression. I could allow him his belief that tyranny abroad is our concern, because that's the kind of call he should be allowed to make. But a series of bad choices have caused me to reconsider my support for Mr. Bush, even as our troops are in the field:
I never faulted the President for Katrina. I think it was primarily a local problem, and I deplore the gotcha game rooted in the vain expectation that the Federal government would make the problem go away. It is symptomatic of creeping liberalism, a belief that government, especially of the Federal kind, can and should be involved in every problem, and held accountable for the vagaries of life.
I became very cool in my support for the President when he undertook the massive No Child Left Behind boondoggle, forcing a Federal stamp of approval on local education. The prescription drug giveaway made me cringe, knowing what a huge drain it would be on the Treasury, and that in perpetuity. Rather than trying to get rid of the Department of Education and to get the Federal government out of the insurance business, this President has expanded both.
Nor do I believe that war can ever be fought perfectly. While every death is regrettable and a cause of grief for those left behind, the fundamental mistake in Iraq was fighting not to lose, to keep the body count low. Especially once Saddam Hussein (remember him?) was defeated and humiliated, we fought the insurgents and terrorists with kid gloves, not wanting to offend. In our noble attempt to preserve civilian lives, the weakness we displayed gave courage to the opposition. We should have been ruthless: shoot from a mosque, lose the mosque. Run into a building, be buried in rubble.
The shameful firing of Don Rumsfeld should have been enough for me to bolt from Bush. I was still stinging from the loss of Congress for the Republicans, not so much because I liked the Republicans, but because of the spectre of the gang of Pelosi, Murtha, Durbin, and Reid running Congress. To have expressed such loyalty for Rumsfeld on Friday and fire him on Wednesday solely on the basis of an election loss was inexplicable. Either his work at Defense was good or not; to use an election as the measure of his effectiveness shreds any claim to be acting on principle.
The President and his allies are using charges of bigotry and racism against those who want a reasonable, logical plan for our national security. We don't care what color skin the immigrants have. We don't want lawbreakers to succeed, because we know it will encourage others to break the law. We want our borders secured, so that we know who comes in. The actual level of immigration that we currently have may very well be optimal. But it makes no sense to institute programs for guest workers or to force people to wait many years to legally migrate to the US when millions are allowed to bypass the system, without even so much as being asked about which fruits and vegetables they're importing.
Now the President is pushing Al Gore's global warming agenda. The fool. In search of short-term approval on an issue he could ignore, he gives the liberals a gift.
Maybe Mr. Bush is actually involved in a selfless act of altruism, giving the Republican candidates a chance to distance themselves from him. But it looks more and more like his rudder doesn't go all the way to the water. He is not governing by principle, save the principle of getting good press.
None of these issues by themselves would have been enough to make me sour on a sitting President. But all of them together have made it plain that I can no longer support Mr. Bush.
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