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"An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last."
Sir Winston Churchill

10.13.2005

What Bush Owes Conservatives, What Conservatives Owe Bush

Fred Barnes:

Let's start with Bush. What's his obligation to his supporters, the majority of them conservatives? I think it's quite simple: on major issues, he must do what he promised to do. He's obligated to cut taxes and not turn around and raise them later. He's required to pursue the war on Islamic jihadism without cease, as he vowed after 9/11. And on the courts, he must appoint judicial conservatives who may not be exact replicas of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas but are at least roughly in their mold. These are core promises.

Should the president renege on them, his faithful followers have every right to protest. In the case of the elder President Bush, they did just that when he abandoned his promise not to raise taxes. The tax pledge had been a core promise. And the senior Bush paid a high political price, losing reelection. But he brought it on himself. His supporters had every right to jump ship.

Many Republicans who support the current President Bush are mad at him for signing a Medicare prescription drug benefit into law. And they're upset that he's expanded the role
of the Education Department. But he'd promised to do both. So he was fulfilling promises, not breaking them. As for signing the campaign finance reform bill, that may have been a mistake, but he hadn't promised to veto it.

The issue now is filling the vacancy on the Supreme Court with someone who would shift the ideological balance to the right. This is a critical concern because a conservative replacement could achieve exactly that. And the president has insisted that in naming Miers, his White House counsel, he's picked a judicial conservative, though one without a track record on constitutional issues.

How should Bush's followers have responded? I don't think they have an obligation to give the president the benefit of the doubt. But, given his impressive record of naming judicial conservatives to the appeals courts and John Roberts to be chief justice of the Supreme Court, they owe Bush and Miers a reasonable chance to make a case for her as a judicial conservative, or a constitutionalist. The opportunity for that will come when she testifies before Senate Judiciary Committee in a few weeks. However, many Bush supporters and allies, particularly a large number of prominent conservatives, have not waited for her testimony.


Barnes mistakes seller and buyer here. It is the President who must "sell" Harriet Miers' nomination; the burden of proof is on his side. "Trust me" isn't going to cut it where "Show us" is warranted.

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