A Presidential Report Card

As I write this, George W. Bush prepares to celebrate (if indeed that word can be used in these times) his first anniversary in the Oval Office. It has certainly been a year like no other in recent memory, a year to test the mettle of all Americans, for sure, but especially of the amiable Texan. His presidency began like no other, under such a deep cloud of suspicion that pundits were crowing with certainty that voters would hardly stand for the re-election of this man. He ends that year with record approval ratings, and the ruckus of Florida seems but a distant memory. How then does this President measure up?

Let us begin by saying that President Bush strikes us as an eminently decent man. When he speaks of his faith, we have strong reason to believe him. He is clearly a man of substance, one long underestimated by his political foes. Gone are the suggestions that we are dealing with some kind of lightweight. The silly word gravitas, used by a rash of media-types who had obviously been reading the same playbook (as in “George W. lacks a certain gravitas and thus has added Dick Cheney to the ticket”), has vanished from the vocabularies of all but the most jaded. His manner and demeanor in the wake of the 9/11 tragedies have helped greatly in steeling American resolve to overcome this horrible evil of terrorism.

Just as importantly, it bears being said that it is nice to have a grownup in the White House again. For eight years, we turned the keys to the country over to a self-obsessed teenager and invited he and his playmates to take the nation for a spin. You know, this is as good a place as any to put to rest this silly notion that all of Bill Clinton’s critics were “Clinton-Haters”. While there might have been a few who honestly could be said to have been such, let me set the record straight for what I believe are many Americans. I honestly wish the Clintons well, in that I wish for them health, long life, many grandchildren, and a genuine relationship with the Creator. I just wish they’d go away and enjoy these things as soon as possible. I do not hate the Clintons one bit; I rather have contempt for them, and there is a massive difference. We shall reap the Clintonian whirlwind for decades to come, and I’m not at all confident that we’ll ever get over the lingering consequences of our decision to invite Bill and Hill into the White House.

But I digress; those years are thankfully passed—at least until Madame Hillary runs for the presidency. Our question for the day is what to make of the first year of the Bush II Presidency. And the answer is…well…not quite so clear as we might have wished for it to be. Certainly, by comparison with his predecessor, or with what might have been (doesn’t the thought of “Commander-in-Chief Al Gore” send chills up your spine?), President Bush measures up quite well. And yet, for a man who billed himself as a “compassionate conservative”, we must say that the “compassion” has been much clearer than the “conservative”. President Bush has proven to be a man of character, but he just hasn’t shown himself to be much of a conservative.

The cornerstone of conservative philosophy is the belief in limited government. So, which of the many facets of our Leviathan government has our president proposed slashing? Has he suggested that we get the federal government out of the business of education? No, just the opposite. Has he begun to raise the issue of our horrible tax burden (other than a token tax rebate)? No, apparently no thought has been given to what is absolutely necessary, the posthaste dismantling of the IRS. He recently signed a silly bill federalizing airport security, calling it a “compromise”. Many more compromises like this and there’ll be little left to compromise. The federal government continues to grow under the Bush administration; at the very least, a conservative would be raising the question as to whether government is the answer to our problems, or a large part of our problems. The silence from this administration is deafening.

It has become apparent that, save for some social issues (and I’m increasingly skeptical even on those issues), there isn’t a hill of beans worth of difference between Republicans and Democrats. The Democrats want to drive us toward socialism at 90 MPH; the Republicans want to take a more leisurely pace, apparently, but the end result will be the same. Socialism doesn’t work except in the minds of the liberal elite whose ignorance of history and human nature is appalling. These days, though, both Democrats and Republicans appear to be increasingly convinced that the lessons of history won’t apply in our case. The parties are alike on this point as well, in that they are both dead wrong.

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