Bush is an outstanding example of a candidate whose centrist direction (at least in 2000; I think Bowers is right about 2004) had no noticeable impact on governing strategy.Centrist direction?
Contrary to popular opinion, George Bush never ran as a moderate and anybody who bothered to listen to the man during the 2000 election knew that he wasn't a centrist. He was running as a compassionate conservative and if the term "compassionate" confused you, well he told you exactly what he meant by that, too. Here's how Myron Magnet explained it in the WSJ in 1999:
The poor need the larger society's moral support; they need to hear the message of personal responsibility and self-reliance, the optimistic assurance that if they try – as they must – they will make it. They need to know, too, that they can't blame "the system" for their own wrongdoing.In short, poor people need a pep squad, not a handout. Quit complaining about racism or children being born into poverty. Re-stigmatize illegitimacy, shame unwed mothers, get tough on public school teachers and show the poor how irresponsible they're being by not getting off their lazy asses.
This definition of compassionate conservatism wasn't kept secret. It was repeated again and again during the run-up to the election. Where the government was going to be involved was in "faith based" initiatives - tearing down the wall between church and state.
And if that involved tearing up anti-discrimination laws? Well whatever works:
Some religious groups do, however, follow exclusionary policies, and these point up the inherent -- and constitutional -- difficulties of church-state partnerships. A week ago Friday, Governor Bush toured the Haven of Rest Ministries, a homeless shelter in Akron, Ohio. Two years ago, ministry officials told a Jewish businessman that he couldn't join the board, citing their rule of employing only born-again Christians.The only reason this seemed "centrist" was because the Democrats felt the need to jump on the faith-based bandwagon themselves.
During his visit, Mr. Bush maintained that under his plan Haven of Rest's programs would be eligible for Government funds -- even though groups that accept Federal money must comply with anti-discrimination laws.
Bush and Gore have enthusiastically endorsed a provision of the 1996 welfare-reform bill called charitable choice, which allows faith-based organizations to administer welfare programs with public funds, as long as there are secular alternatives. And then there is the explosive issue of publicly financed vouchers for parochial and secular private schools, which all of the Republican candidates have embraced. Although Gore opposes vouchers, his Democratic opponent, Bill Bradley, provisionally supports them.No, George Bush was all about "tax cuts so help me God!", eliminating the right of consumers to sue corporations, and deregulation of industry (back when Enron's Ken Lay was considered the smartest kid on the block).
His solution to environmental problems? Self-policing:
Although state regulators had been considering mandatory restrictions on polluters, state documents indicate that Mr. Bush thought the approach should be voluntary and essentially asked industry leaders to draft such a proposal, which they did in private meetings with state officials two years ago. No environmental groups or other public interest groups were invited, and they only learned about the meetings early this year.His plan to get health care to the uninsured? Tax credits.
Under the plan he introduced here, Americans who have no health care coverage and are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid could receive a tax credit of up to $1,000 an individual or $2,000 a family to cover 90 percent of the cost of insurance.Good luck paying for insurance with that. Especially if you're one of those lazy welfare queens.
As for his views on civil liberties, "there ought to be limits to freedom" was provoked by a web site making fun of his campaign. Bush's campaign threatened legal action.
And if we hadn't been so busy chuckling that Bush failed a reporter's pop quiz, we might have worried that the one person he did recognize had just overthrown a democratically elected Prime Minister - and George Bush approved wholeheartedly.
Mr. Bush also offered an assessment of the situation in Pakistan, where Gen. Pervez Musharraf seized power in a coup d'etat last month.So you can fault George Bush for a lot of things, but lying about his goals as president isn't one of them. He told us of his plans to privatize Social Security, to nominate Scalia type justices, to gut social services, to increase military spending and tear up pesky treaties. He was running on unity, not compromise. He intended to get Democrats to agree to his plans, not to find common ground. (And he has been quite successful getting them to sign on to every harebrained idea he had).
Mr. Bush, failing to name the general, said, "It appears this guy is going to bring stability to the country, and I think that's good news for the subcontinent."
Hell, if you believed what the man was telling you at the time, you'd have gotten a pretty good preview of the next 8 years. He even dropped hints about the second Gulf war.
At the Republican debate here on Thursday and at a news conference in nearby Bedford this morning, George W. Bush said that if he was commander in chief, any discovery that Iraq's president, Saddam Hussein, was building weapons of mass destruction would touch off a swift and punishing response.As for his idea of bipartisanship, his most famous quote:
Mr. Bush seemed to say he would "take him out," indicating that he would forcibly remove Mr. Hussein from power or worse. But Mr. Bush said in a telephone interview this afternoon that the phrase, easily misinterpreted because of his Texas drawl, was "take 'em out," meaning the weapons.