Scarcely a day goes by that a Republican doesnt bleat in my ear that he is disappointed with George W. Bush. Usually I have nothing to say because at my age and blood-pressure level, one should think twice before he blows a gasket. The good thing is that few conservatives are actually unpatriotic, as I believe old friend Pat Buchanan has become: sour, jaundiced, not just reactionary but near anarchic, interested in rubbing old scabs rawHitler didnt ever mean to go to war with us; FDR maneuvered us into war at Pearl Harbor; we ought to pull up the drawbridge against the world; illegal immigrants are blocking legals access to treatment in hospital Emergency Rooms; NAFTA has ruined our manufacturing although we dont realize it. No, the general run of conservatives who are displeased are not like Pat who hated internationalism since he imbibed his reactionary fathers views at the breakfast table. I did the same but I got over it. They never have because theyre children. Absolute dilettante children.
They went along with Bush for the rideand when the ride turned bumpy, they started to complain. Its good to be 77 going on 78 because you can find repetitive strains in the political history youve lived. After Ronald Reagan won in 1980, a certain strain of conservatives (one to which I belong, the pro-life strain) expected that a Republican president would (a) instantly change the Supreme Court; (b) and with a snap of his fingers overrule Roe v. Wade. Then there was a great brouhaha about the best way to get it done, not taking into account the political realities: the fact that the Congress was only faintly Republican, that a good number of Republicans were not pro-life, that a vacancy had to open up on the high court for it to be filled.
Impatient because there was no instant vacancy after Reagan took the oath, like angry little boys and girls, the social conservatives began to argue among themselves about the nature of the constitutional amendment they wanted to outlaw abortion. Nellie Gray wanted a what she called a paramount amendment. Jesse Helms, normally a realist, supported a variant of this. Orrin Hatch wanted an amendment that would put the question up to the states, allowing them to decide (which the states were doing before Roe). There were many disputes over the kind of amendment to be passed by two-thirds of the Congress and ratified by three-fourths of the states. It was a glorious ideological blood bath.
But it was conducted by conservatives who were engaged in blinding themselves to reality: they didnt have the votes to pass any amendment through the Congress nor the votes to carry the requisite number of states. Then they woke up from this revelry and hunkered down for the long fight. Today the idea of a constitutional amendment has been discarded in favor of the Court negating Roe. But if the opportunity wasnt at hand for another Court appointment, all of usand I mean all of us pro-lifers, Nellie Gray includedwould gladly buy the challenge the Hatch amendment affords, which is the same opportunity we will have when the Court overthrows Roe. We see the prospect of the Court turning the issue back to the states. Not a single soul among us would engage in the fantasy of a constitutional amendment, because we know through hard experience how tough it is to abolish abortion. Today pro-life organizations across the country are girding themselves for what they hope will be the fight in the states. How different, how beautifully realistic we are, compared to those hallucinogenic days after Reagan got in when we imagined we could win this battle overnight.
There was disillusionment with Reagan and the Republicans in Congress at the time, vows of punishment, retaliationuntil conservatives wised up and grew up. The same foolishness is now being waged over President Bush. Like spoiled children, we vow we will stay home on election day, we call him a great disappointment, we will hold our breath until we turn blue: and cause red states to literally turn blue.
Barry Goldwater, facing the 1960 convention that nominated Richard Nixon with whom many on the right were disenchanted, said it well: Grow up conservatives! They did. The road to conservatism was long and hard: through the Goldwater campaign which, though a failure, recruited tens of thousands of recruits including Ronald Reagan
through the election of Richard Nixon in 1968
through the disenchantment with Nixon to Ford to the Reagan primary challenge of Ford
through Carter and finally Reagan. Thence through the wilderness with Clinton to Bush.
When Bush won in 2000, we were so hungry we thrilled to the prospect of someone appointing conservatives to the Court. Well, we are two-thirds of the way to conservatizing the Supreme Court, arent we? We wanted a strong presidency to push our country from the weaknesses of the post-Vietnam syndrome to a leadership position in the world (never mind whether or not foreign nations loved us or not). At 9/11 we wanted someone to move ahead, not get bogged down in arcane negotiations with the UNsomeone who would return us to a dominant position, which, many of us felt, just might obviate another attack on our shores. We wanted a secretary of state who was firm, not a wishy-washy Madeleine Albright. We wanted a secretary of defense who would take risks with his popularity to see us through crises, not an abstract theorist like Les Aspin or a part-time novelist and poet like William Cohen. We wanted all this and an economy that would be booming, not a stagflation economy under Jimmy Carter; we even hoped to have economic growth and employment top the figures under Bill Clinton.
We wanted to have a vice president of the United States who was a human being, not a squirrelly eco-nut whose staff would advise him to wear earth tones to attract male voters, one who would spend his waking hours trying to reinvent himself. We wanted to have our party recognized as receptive to equal opportunity, not as a pander bear for minorities. We wanted an administration that would signal a break from the old conservative milieuan administration with what we call heart. Well, what have we got?
We have a president who is the most decisive chief executive since Franklin Roosevelt, and even more important, determined to do what he thinks is right no matter how his popularity suffers. A president who has faced graver threats to our homeland security than any other president since James Madison (on whose watch the White House and Capitol were burned). A president who has kept his pledge to conservatize the Court, who has named two outstanding conservative jurists and is poised to name a third and possibly the decisive vote to turn this country and its foul counter-culture around. A president who by his actions in Iraq, it can be reasonably argued, has prevented attacks on us on these shores. A president who has fought for tax cuts that spurred the economy and helped improve our lives. A president who understands that business regulation should be fair, that of a referee on the playing field, not a referee who plays with the opposition.
We have a vice president who has peerless experience: as secretary of defense, Congressman, chief of staff to a president, who when he speaks brings to bear preponderant intellectual strength from that almost matchless experience. What other vice president in the history of this country has had this experience? Think! Ill tell you: no one. John Adams had legislative experience, no executive; Jefferson had legislative and the governorship of Virginia (from which he fled as fast as his horse could carry him when the British approached).
We have a secretary of state who is one of the most effective managers of statecraft since Foster Dulles teamed with Eisenhower to begin to roll back the challenge of communism. And quite incidentally, a secretary who happens to be one of the brightest, most accomplished, black women in the worldno token, no affirmative action appointment she. We have a secretary of defense who at an advanced age is jeopardizing his health and is fighting against demands for his scalpnot just from partisan Democrats (one would expect that), but from Billy Kristol, no less: one who has not gone to war but who from his ivory tower at his magazine holds aloft a wooden sword and commands we go to war with Iran and kick China in the gonads.
(Yeah, hes our guy, this Kristol and I happen to agree with him a lot on foreign-defense policies but not when he savages his own: with a purring voice sounding like something from the Harvard faculty lounge, a talking head on Fox whose top job was assistant to Dan Quayle). We have a secretary of defense who has to defend himself from our own side, with Kristol and others calling for his firing. And this in the middle of a war.
Many of you dont remember World War II except from the old news-reels. When it ended, in 1945, I was within one year of being drafted. I remember those years very well. We were in a war: a different kind from this but we are in a war now which is much tougher to fight since there is no country but a twisted, perverted movement called Islamic fascism. I do not remember Franklin Roosevelts party stabbing him mid-way in that war as repeatedly as much of the Republican party is doing to Bush. The Democrats were loyal to Roosevelt, even as they knew he was sacrificing his very life for this nation: that he was ill, probably too ill to serve. They had respect and fought for him like tigers. I know: I was there.
So what do we hear from conservatives? Yowling about Bushs failure to veto a single bill. Listen, I agree with you on the spending. But dont you have the common decency to rally behind this man while a war is on? Yowling about a too-compassionate view on immigration. Listen, I tend to be more with him than you, but dont you have the commonest loyalty to stand with the man you elected and reelected in the midst of war?
Gertrude Stein said of the nihilistic, spoiled literary people who had fled the U.S. for Paris post-World War I: You are all a lost generation. By which she meant there was no maturity, just whining and drinking and womanizing in Paris while the U. S. was picking itself up following that war, building industries, raising families, inventing new machines. She was right.
Now I tell you conservatives who bitch and moan over Bush (oh he spends too much
hes not articulate
he hasnt vetoed anything
he spends too much) to grow up and stop being spoiled, pampered children. Do more than get a life: decide to fight for this life and be soldiers, loyal, to the one who leads us in a war.
Frankly, conservatives: You dont deserve what you have. The only trouble is that by whining and moaning, you show the weaknesses that have been laid to the doorstep of our generation: an America without much will. How can conservatives galvanize an America for will if they cant galvanize themselves to be loyal to the man they elected?
In essence, you make me sick.