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Bush:  Attila the Humble

More on America's Exceptional Values. From the LA Times, 5/25/01:

A Deficit in Humility


"A Return to Modesty," rejoiced the National Review in its April 2 edition. Inside the magazine, a happy contrast was drawn between George W. Bush's "modesty" and "humility" and Bill Clinton's legacy of "arrogance."

Gone are the days of intellectual superiority and top-down righteousness in the White House, the conservative magazine concluded with a sigh of relief.

Sometimes, I guess, you hope for the best in your friends.

Today, less than two months later, the headline would have to be revised to read, "A Return to Arrogance." Not to mention a return of top-down righteousness and feelings of intellectual superiority.

Can anyone disagree?

On environmental matters, the Bush administration developed—entirely in secret, from the top down—its divisive plan to redirect the nation's energy future. The views of Democrats and environmentalists were barely solicited, and then roundly ignored.

You may agree or disagree with the intended policy. But the politics mocked the consensus governance that Bush had promised—that was, in fact, the central message of his campaign.

"We are changing the tone in the nation's capital," Bush reiterated after he took office. "And this spirit of respect and cooperation is vital .... Let us agree to bridge old divides."

He knows what Americans want and he can put it to words. Why isn't he listening to himself?

Is there any answer other than cockiness?

On military matters, Pentagon officers and members of Congress who have devoted their careers to our national security have been similarly excluded from the administration's ongoing study of how to revamp the armed forces. The Los Angeles Times reported that the U.S. Army's ranking general has been unable to get an appointment to talk about the subject with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Again, this is not a question—at least not yet—of policy, but of politics and faith in consensus.

Among President Bush's top priorities, only on education has he so far shown the grace to accept conflicting views and invite compromise—an issue that now stands out as an anomaly in his administration.

I am not nit-picking or taking a politician's remarks out of context here. Remember, reasonableness was the essence of Bush's pledge to Americans. I don't aim to be partisan about matters, either, because Bush's allies have more reason than his foes right now for remorse. The president's petty, winner-take-all approach to tax cuts has now cost Republicans control of the Senate.

Instead of embracing compromise, Bush and his vice president made the exact mistake that polarized the country under Clinton: that "we" and "them" does not add up to "us."

The only difference is that Clinton waited until the midterm elections to pay the price for his arrogance.

Bush not only wanted taxes his way, he believed in the ideological superiority of his plan and, yes, in his "mandate" to dictate terms. When he didn't get all he wanted, he snubbed and went after a senator who took him too literally on the subject of compromise. And this from a man who began his presidency by asking Congress "to join me in setting a tone of civility and respect in Washington."

I don't know how the Jeffords affair looks close-up in the capital. I don't intend to find out, either. These are good days to be elsewhere. But from a vantage afar, I find it odd that, given the circumstances of his victory, Bush's ringing, big-tent campaign rhetoric so easily knots itself into a snare everywhere he steps.

Who can blame Vermont Sen. James Jeffords for bolting the GOP? Old-fashioned moderates have been losing respect in the Republican Party for years. With Bush in command, they rate none at all.

Among many conservatives I know, the harshest thing you can do is compare Bush with Clinton. But, today, how can you not? Just as happened with his predecessor, Bush's first accomplishment in Washington has been to secure a reputation as a man whose esteem for himself is too high and regard for others too low.

There's an important difference, though. Clinton was perpetually seeking to expand the reach of his party. Bush seems curiously determined to shrink his.

Copyright © 2001 Los Angeles Times

Comment: Clinton may have lied about individual matters, but he kept his promise to be a New Democrat and find a "third way." Bush's* entire campaign, his raison d'etre, is based on a lie. If Clinton lied every time he spoke while in office—which he didn't do—he wouldn't be as bad as Bush*, who lied egregiously to get into office and is living a lie every day he's in office.

The only way Bush* will stop lying is when the Democrat-controlled Senate gives him no choice. I.e., when it forces him to be the compassionate unifier he blatantly lied about being. Let's make it so.


* Not the elected president.

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