President Bush passes himself off as a conservative
Republican and a born-again Christian. These are disguises behind which Bush
hides. Would a Christian invade another country on false pretenses, kill tens
of thousands of innocent civilians, and show no remorse or inclination to cease
Longtime Republican policy wonk Bruce Bartlett recently published a book, Impostor,
in which he proves that President Bush is no economic conservative, having broken
all records in spending taxpayers' money and running up public debt.
Were Bush merely another big spender, his presidency wouldn't differ from other
pork-barrel administrations, but Bush's radicalism goes far beyond spending.
Bush has taken an irreverent approach to the U.S. Constitution.
Bush bears no resemblance to a political conservative. A political conservative
does not confuse government with country. Patriotism means loyalty to country.
Bush, however, demands allegiance to his government: "You are with us or
against us!" Critics of the Bush administration are branded "unpatriotic"
and even "treasonous."
Loyalty to country means allegiance to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights,
and the separation of powers. It does not mean blind support for a president,
an administration, or a political party.
The separation of powers and civil liberties that were bequeathed to us by
the Founding Fathers are the protectors of our liberty. Bush, who swore on the
Bible that he would defend and uphold the Constitution, has made it clear that
he will not let the Constitution get in the way of expanding the powers of his
Bush has overridden a number of protections in the Bill of Rights. The right
to assemble and to demonstrate has been infringed. The Secret Service now routinely
removes protesters from the scene of Bush political events. Many unthinking
Americans go along with this authoritarianism because they don't agree with
the protesters, but once the right is lost, everyone loses it.
Bush has ignored habeas corpus, and he claims the unconstitutional power to
arrest and detain people indefinitely without a warrant and without presenting
charges to a judge. This is the most dangerous abuse of all, because whoever
is in office can use this power against political opponents. Many unthinking
Americans are not concerned, because they think this power will be used only
against terrorists. However, as the Bush administration has admitted, many of
its detainees are not terrorists. Most are innocent people kidnapped by tribal
leaders and sold to the U.S. for the bounties paid for "terrorists."
Bush has refused to obey statutory law, specifically the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act (FISA). Bush claims that as commander in chief he has the right
to ignore the law and to spy on Americans without a warrant. Many unthinking
Americans are unconcerned, saying that as they are doing nothing wrong they
have nothing to fear. This attitude misses the point in a large way. If a president
can establish himself above one law, he can establish himself above all laws.
There is no line drawn through the law that divides the laws between the ones
the president must obey and the ones he need not obey.
FISA does not interfere with government spying for national security purposes.
Secrecy is protected, because the court of federal judges that issues the warrants
is secret. Moreover, the law allows the government to spy first and then come
to the court for a warrant. The purpose of the warrant is to be sure that the
government is spying for legitimate purposes and not abusing the power to spy
on political opponents for nefarious purposes.
When presidents sign a bill passed by Congress that they think might be interpreted
in ways that could impinge on the powers of their office, they add a "signing
statement" to protect traditional presidential powers. Under Bush, this
practice has exploded. Bush has used signing statements considerably in excess
of all previous presidents combined. Moreover, Bush uses the statements not
to protect presidential powers, but to nullify acts of Congress, such as Republican
Sen. John McCain's law against torture. Bush is using signing statements to
turn the presidency into a dictatorship in which the executive is not accountable
to laws passed by Congress. The next step is simply to announce that the executive
is not accountable to elections either.
Bush's government is the first in our history in which there are no dissenting
voices and no debate. Uniformity of opinion is more characteristic of a dictatorial
government than a conservative one. Bush's government is all of one mind, because
all important positions are held by neoconservatives.
Neoconservative is a deceptive term. It means "new conservatives,"
but there is nothing conservative about neocons. Neoconservatives believe in
imposing their agenda on other countries – the antithesis of American conservatism.
In short, real conservatives believe in conserving the Constitution, government
accountability, and civil liberties, and avoiding foreign entanglements. Judging
by its behavior and its statements, the Bush administration stands completely
outside the conservative tradition.