Friday, March 14, 2003
One of the interesting things about living in Washington is watching political outsiders come to town, especially conservative Republicans. We'd watch how long it would take before they would abandon their principles in a (futile) attempt to curry favor with the political (liberal) establishment, in particular the NYT, WaPo, Time and Newsweek editorial boards. Perhaps it was understandable - not many people have the strength to outlast the negative onslaught, to not be bothered by the wave of critical article after critical article. Nonetheless, it was always sad to see this happen. What was worse was that even if this officeholder received occasional praise for a particular position they took that ran counter to the idealogue label (the 'positive' article usually took the form of how they had 'matured while in office'), this positive attention was only fleeting; being conservative Republicans meant that they would never be actually liked, the Washington Post would never, I repeat never, endorse them in the next election.
I looked for Bush to be a President who, to paraphrase the old saying, "would say what what he'll do and he'll do what he says". I always liked knowing that he felt himself an American first, none of that phony 'we are the world'. His reason for being in the Oval Office to defend America interests. Unlike Clinton, Bush wasn't concerned about what the Europeans thought of him - no need to join in with the Kyoto accords or with the ICC. It was nice having a President who was putting our interests first. What a rush it was to hear him say that America didn't need permission to defend America. He focused on the end result, not the process of getting somewhere, not of substituting process for results.
Sad to say, I'm now starting to wonder. 'Days and weeks, not months...' have indeed stretched into months. The guardian of America's interests is now acting in ways that seem to protect the interests of British politicians more than that of American citizens. He's concerned about Blair's political survival. Does Bush think that Blair, as the head of the Labor Party, cares about Bush's political future, that Blair is going to suppport him in 2004? Bush is worried about what the French will do - will they veto, will they merely abstain? For God's sake, who cares, why worry about the French or the Germans? They'll never like him. If all of this over the last few weeks and months is not about seeking permission, then I don't know what seeking permission is. Ari Fleischer says Bush is determined to 'go the last mile in diplomacy' - if this isn't all about process, then I don't know what is.
Many people have written that Bush II is determined not to repeat the sins of Bush I. Conventional wisdom has it that Bush I lost the base when he dropped his opposition to tax hikes. I disagree. I think Bush I lost when the base concluded that Bush I had gone over to the other side, and was acting like one of 'them'. Can Bush II be doing the same thing now?