Mr. Barone’s advice was no criticism, since he fairly gushed with toasty sounds about the similarities between Wilson’s beliefs and Mr. Bush’s “vision of an America spreading freedom and democracy to new corners of the world.”
And in fact Mr. Barone was correct. Wilson is exactly who Mr. Bush sounded like in his speech yesterday.
Woodrow Wilson of course was the president who not only launched America into World War I to “make the world safe for democracy”but also helped forge the disastrous Treaty of Versailles, which helped spawn the chaos that led to Nazism in Germany and World War II.
Among Wilson’s other dubious accomplishments were the creation of the Federal Reserve System, a massive expansion of federal regulations, the federal income tax and the rise of what he called “presidential government” to “get around” the “obstructions” of “congressional government.” Why anyone purporting to represent conservatism of any kind would invoke Wilson as a positive icon is beyond comprehension.
Wilson also resembles Mr. Bush in that he campaigned in the 1916 election on the slogan, “He kept us out of war.” Then, a few months later, he helped bring us into war. Like Wilson, Mr. Bush is rapidly acquiring a reputation for violating the commitments of his last presidential campaign. That, perhaps, is his most notable contribution to American political history so far.
While not exactly a violation of a campaign promise, Mr. Bush’s renewed enthusiasm for amnesty for illegal aliens can fairly count as a betrayal. Though he proposed the amnesty early last year, before the campaign really started, he dropped it after a less than rousing response from Congress. He may have mentioned it once or twice during the campaign, but he has never described it as the amnesty it actually is.
Only after the election did Secretary of State Colin Powell, while on a visit to Mexico, say the plan would be revived .
“In light of the campaign and other things that were going on, we weren’t able to engage the Congress on it,” Mr. Powell said . “But now that the election is behind us and the president is looking to his second term, the president intends to engage Congress on it.”
In other words, we couldn’t tell voters what we were going to do because we would have lost. Now that we don’t have to pay attention to them any more, we can speak plainly. Ever since the election Mr. Bush has repeatedly promised to push his plan through Congress.
Plain Speaking Event Number Two is the proposed constitutional amendment banning homosexual marriage. Personally, I am not in favor of it and have written against it in the past, but many conservatives, especially those who supported the president, are, and one major reason they did support him is because he said he was in favor of it too. Now he’s not.
Interviewed in the Washington Post last week, Mr. Bush said he is advised by Republican senators that the amendment can’t possibly pass. Actually, it didn’t pass last year when it came up in Congress, but the religious right and its allies want to push it again.
As the Washington Post noted this week, social conservatives are already grousing about the president’s apparent lack of interest in pushing it . “Clearly there is concern,” said a spokesman for the Family Research Council.
Add to concern about the amendment the president’s appointment of an “abortion rights supporter,” Kenneth Mehlman, as head of the Republican National Committee, and Mr. Bush may start having problems with a large part of his political base. [Bush Upsets Some Supporters, By Jim VandeHei and Michael A. Fletcher, January 19, 2005]
Plain Speaking Event Number Three, assuming we don’t count the appointment of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general and his positions on abortion and immigration, is Mr. Gonzales’ most recent statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he “he will support reinstating the federal ban on assault weapons, which Congress allowed to expire in September.”
Since voting blocs like gun owners were at least as vital to Mr. Bush’s re-election as the religious right and since the expiration occurred because the president didn’t oppose it, this too can fairly be counted as a betrayal of the president’s conservative base.
Is it surprising that Mr. Bush, even before he was inaugurated for a second term, started betraying the conservative positions he took during the campaign and the conservative image he and his handlers so carefully cultivated? No, it’s not. Some of us knew, even before he became president at all, that he is a phony-con.
Those who elected and re-elected him have yet to learn that, but in the next few years, they will—again—have ample opportunity to do so.