June 2, 2007, "Too Bad," Wall St. Journal, Peggy Noonan, opinion
"What political conservatives and on-the-ground Republicans must
understand at this point is that they are not breaking with the White
House on immigration. They are not resisting, fighting and thereby
setting down a historical marker -- "At this point the break became
final." That's not what's happening. What conservatives and Republicans
must recognize is that the White House has broken with them. What
President Bush is doing, and has been doing for some time, is sundering a
great political coalition. This is sad, and it holds implications not
only for one political party but for the American future.
White House doesn't need its traditional supporters anymore, because its
problems are way beyond being solved by the base. And the people in the
administration don't even much like the base. Desperate straits have
left them liberated, and they are acting out their disdain. Leading
Democrats often think their base is slightly mad but at least their
heart is in the right place. This White House thinks its base is stupid
and that its heart is in the wrong place.
For almost three years, arguably longer, conservative Bush
supporters have felt like sufferers of battered wife syndrome. You don't
like endless gushing spending, the kind that assumes a high and
unstoppable affluence will always exist, and the tax receipts will
always flow in? Too bad! You don't like expanding governmental authority
and power? Too bad. You think the war was wrong or is wrong? Too bad.
But on immigration it has changed from "Too bad" to "You're bad."
president has taken to suggesting that opponents of his immigration
bill are unpatriotic--they "don't want to do what's right for
America." His ally Sen. Lindsey Graham has said, "We're gonna tell the
bigots to shut up." On Fox last weekend he vowed to "push back."
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff suggested opponents would
prefer illegal immigrants be killed; Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez
said those who oppose the bill want "mass deportation." Former Bush
speechwriter Michael Gerson said those who oppose the bill are
"anti-immigrant" and suggested they suffer from "rage" and "national
Why would they speak so insultingly, with such
hostility, of opponents who are concerned citizens? And often, though
not exclusively, concerned conservatives? It is odd, but it is of a
piece with, or a variation on, the "Too bad" governing style. And it is
one that has, day by day for at least the past three years, been tearing
apart the conservative movement.
I suspect the White House and
its allies have turned to name calling because they're defensive, and
they're defensive because they know they have produced a big and
indecipherable mess of a bill -- one that is literally bigger than the
Bible, though as someone noted last week, at least we actually had a few
years to read the Bible. The White House and its supporters seem to be
marshalling not facts but only sentiments, and self-aggrandizing ones at
They make a call to emotions--this is, always and on every
issue, the administration's default position -- but not, I think, to
seriously influence the debate.
They are trying to lay down
markers for history. Having lost the support of most of the country,
they are looking to another horizon. The story they would like written
in the future is this: Faced with the gathering forces of ethnocentric darkness, a hardy and heroic crew stood firm and held high a candle in the wind. It will make a good chapter. Would that it were true!
they'd really wanted to help, as opposed to braying about their own
wonderfulness, they would have created not one big bill but a series of
smaller bills, each of which would do one big clear thing, the first
being to close the border. Once that was done -- actually and believably
done -- the country could relax in the knowledge that the situation was finally not day by day getting worse. They could feel some confidence.
And in that confidence real progress could begin.
of my own sense of separation from the Bush administration came in
January 2005, when the president declared that it is now the policy of
the United States to eradicate tyranny in the world, and that the
survival of American liberty is dependent on the liberty of every other
nation. This was at once so utopian and so aggressive that it shocked
me. For others the beginning of distance might have been Katrina and the
incompetence it revealed, or the depth of the mishandling and
misjudgments of Iraq....
One of the things I have
come to think the past few years is that the Bushes, father and son,
though different in many ways, are great wasters of political
inheritance. They throw it away as if they'd earned it and could do with
it what they liked. Bush senior inherited a vibrant country and a party
at peace with itself. He won the leadership of a party that had
finally, at great cost, by 1980, fought itself through to unity and come
together on shared principles. Mr. Bush won in 1988 by saying he would
govern as Reagan had. Yet he did not understand he'd been elected to
Reagan's third term. He thought he'd been elected because they liked
him. And so he raised taxes, sundered a hard-won coalition, and found
himself shocked to lose the presidency, and for eight long and
consequential years. He had many virtues, but he wasted his inheritance.
the younger came forward, presented himself as a conservative, garnered
all the frustrated hopes of his party, turned them into victory, and
not nine months later was handed a historical trauma that left his
country rallied around him, lifting him, and his party bonded to him. He
was disciplined and often daring, but in time he sundered the party
that rallied to him, and broke his coalition into pieces. He threw away
his inheritance. I do not understand such squandering.
conservatives and Republicans are going to have to win back their party.
They are going to have to break from those who have already broken from
them. This will require courage, serious thinking and an ability to do
what psychologists used to call letting go. This will be painful, but
it's time. It's more than time."
Comment: Peggy Noonan was a Professional
Establishment Republican in 2007 when she wrote the above article. She
remains a Professional Establishment Republican in 2017.
News that doesn't receive the necessary attention.
Sunday, November 5, 2017
George W. Bush destroyed the conservative coalition. This was sad not only for one political party but for the American future. The Bushes, father and son, threw away a great political inheritance as if they'd earned it and could do with it what they liked-Peggy Noonan, June 2, 2007, Wall St. Journal
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