13 Oct 2005 A President Named Bush
There is a story I could tell, of a President named Bush, who was perceived by the conservative base to be one of them. He had come to conservatism rather late in life, and hadn’t always pleased the faithful. But all in all, he was good far more than he was bad, and tried to do his best. He was a likable guy besides, the kind you could see coming over to your house for barbecue, except that he was President, and would never come, but for all that, in your mind’s eye you could see him on your lawn, telling the kind of stories that are maybe a little old but not too old to be good, and you liked him, and were pleased to be in his company.
And then came the time that this President, perhaps growing used to being popular, and being surrounded by those who told him he was wise, and maybe getting a little tired of waking every day to a fight, made a decision that he thought would please those who were in the mainstream, without angering his base too much. So he made his decision, and called it good, and rejoiced that those who usually vilified him were silent. But the conservatives were shocked, and many who thought more of him were saddened, and although they loved him, and wished him well, they wondered if he might change his mind, or if the legislature might undo this decision, which they thought he soon might come to regret.
At first these conservatives who dissented were marginalized, and ridiculed, for it was said they had no where else to go, and that they might cost themselves the next election. They had been abandoned not only by their President, but also by their leader on Capitol Hill, and because the opposition was not attacking the President’s decision, the odds of defeating him were steep indeed.
But even as these conservatives were derided for valuing their beliefs more than victory, they reminded themselves that sound doctrine is sound politics; maybe not on day one, but for all the days after. And so, they began to protest, and the radio hosts with their audiences began to chime in, saying we love this President, but this is a wrong thing, and we must undo it, even if it makes the opposition glad.
The White House became incredulous, and complained of feeling betrayed, and dropped hints of retribution. But their anger was to the conservatives like the scent of victory; its perfume began to fill the land.
The President’s allies began to feel desperate, and to cast false accusations, but still the rebels continued, calling the decision “a symptom of a more fundamental opposition to conservative values and beliefs…” (1) The mainstream media was agog, saying “It took only two breathtaking weeks for George Bush to sink into a quagmire of indecision and ineptitude. It could take him the rest of his Presidency to dig out.” (2)
The protests continued, and noting the public sentiment, the expedient Republicans began to speak out, saying maybe the conservatives are right, maybe this is not something we should do. And although the Senate Democratic leader went on television, and expressed support for the President, he could not hold his party together. On the day the vote was held, it came to pass that the Republicans defected, with 60 percent of them voting against the President’s wish, while 58 percent of the Democrats joined them in the rebellion.
And a major news magazine would later report, when it all was done, that thanks to “an angry coalition of right-wing Republicans… the fiasco was the worst setback of his presidency… a politician’s worst nightmare… Despite the arm-twisting, the defections mounted. In fact, they were fueled to some degree by resentment of [White House] tactics, which some Republicans derided…”
“A stunned White House tried to pick up the pieces,” the magazine continued, but “the Republican rebels seemed intractable.” (3)
A top presidential advisor, surveying the damage after the defeat, called the conservatives “stupid,” but soon faded into obscurity. The conservatives had tasted victory. Years of triumphs had begun.
As a bonus, here’s a picture of one of the conservative protests described in this true story.