The Reactionary Utopian
                     October 11, 2005

by Joe Sobran

     A year ago, John Kerry caused conservatives to rally 
behind President Bush; even I, no fan of the president, 
softened on him, given the alternative, when the 2004 
election seemed likely to be almost as close as the one 
in 2000. I was relieved to the point of elation when Bush 
won a clear victory.

     Today things are very different. Bush is on the 
verge of losing his conservative base. His nomination of 
Harriet Miers to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S. 
Supreme Court has enraged those who feel, with good 
reason, that recent Republican presidents have betrayed 
their trust with lousy judicial appointments: chiefly 
O'Connor herself, Anthony Kennedy, and David Souter, all 
of whom have upheld the Court's worst ruling ever, Roe v. 
Wade. We have only Bush's word that Miers would be a 
reliable defender of the Constitution.

     And why should anyone trust his judgment about that? 
The same conservatives are beginning to notice, 
belatedly, that Bush himself shows no great awareness of, 
or respect for, constitutional principle. He has yet to 
veto an act of Congress, has violently expanded Federal 
power, and takes a Buzz Lightyear approach to government 
spending: "To infinity and beyond!" The list could easily 
be lengthened, and it makes a grim joke of Bush's claim 
to be a "strict constructionist."

     Until lately, Bush could count on conservative 
support for his Iraq war, which he sold as vital to his 
larger "war on terror." This too was constitutionally 
questionable, but war is the one huge Federal spending 
program conservatives usually believe in. As long as Bush 
could plausibly claim the war was succeeding, they were 
willing to overlook most of his sins and ignore the 
qualms of the stern conservatives who were shouted down 
and slandered by the warlike neoconservatives egging him 

     Now, however, the war has failed. Bush still clings 
to his absurd optimism about democratizing the Middle 
East, but the American public no longer believes him and 
wants to bring the troops home pronto. Even the neocons 
who urged him to wage "World War IV" are slinking away, 
leaving him to fend for himself.

     The unexpected disaster of Hurricane Katrina has 
further damaged Bush's popularity. Trying to respond to 
popular demand, he has promised virtually limitless new 
spending to rebuild New Orleans.

     Compounding his woes is the aura of corruption that 
now surrounds the Republican Party, with the arrogant 
House majority leader, Tom DeLay, under indictment and 
Bush's indispensable advisor, Karl Rove, also facing 
grave legal and ethical questions. Other Republicans are 
understandably trying to distance themselves from their 
party's leader, who has abruptly become a liability to 
his loyalists.

     No president since Richard Nixon has faced such a 
welter of problems, and even Nixon, until his final days 
in office, never faced such rapidly dissolving support. 
No single "smoking gun" like the Watergate tapes is 
likely to finish Bush off, but he looks unexpectedly 
desperate, confused, ineffectual.

     What does he stand for? Only one thing: the failed 
war he has already staked his reputation on. He has 
subordinated everything to that, and in its absence it 
would be impossible to name any philosophy, conservative 
or otherwise, he could be identified with.

     So conservatives are now afraid that when the dust 
has settled, their philosophy will be identified with 
Bush's failure. That would be unjust to their philosophy, 
but they've asked for it. It's too late for them to 
repudiate him now. He hasn't betrayed them as badly as 
they've betrayed their philosophy by supporting him all 
these years.

     The president Bush most resembles is not Nixon, but 
Lyndon Johnson, who also tried to expand the Federal 
Government in every direction and fatally split his base. 
Democrats paid a heavy price for supporting his war in 
Vietnam along with his multifarious social programs. They 
tried to recoup by pretending he hadn't happened and 
moving leftward, but liberalism got a bad name and by 
1994 they'd lost the electoral majority they'd taken for 
granted since the New Deal.

     Now Bush has given conservatism a bad name -- with a 
lot of help from conservatives who should have known 
better. Was keeping John Kerry out of the White House 
worth the price of backing Bush's war?


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