August 9, 2010


The GOP's Revolt Against Bush: On issues from immigration to Islam, the 43rd president staked out a view far more progressive than today's conservatives. Peter Beinart on how declining U.S. confidence has changed the right. (Peter Beinart, 8/09/10, Daily Beast)

Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said that the central conservative insight is that culture matters more than politics. But in this regard, George W. Bush was an odd conservative because he didn’t care much about culture; he believed that people everywhere were pretty much the same. In the mid-1990s, when Pete Wilson and Pat Buchanan were demonizing Mexican immigrants, Bush insisted that they were just like everyone else. “Family values don’t stop at the Rio Grande River,” he told a reporter. “And see, what I understand is, is that when you’re a man who got kids to feed, and are you making 50 cents and you can look up north and see the chance to make $50 and your kids are hungry, that you are going to come.”

After September 11, Bush described Muslims in the same universalistic way. A few months after the attacks, he insisted that “Islam is peace,” a view dramatically at odds with the one being propagated by most conservative talking heads. (A 2002 poll of evangelical Protestant leaders found that only 10 percent thought Bush was right.) But Bush’s brand of Christianity was genuinely ecumenical. Although he had transformed his life through Christ, he knew that lots of former addicts had done so through born-again Islam. As president, he sought out people like Iraqi dissident Kanan Makiya who told him that the people of Iraq yearned for democracy, and were capable of building it. And it was this belief that made him receptive to the arguments of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who as ambassador to Indonesia had been emboldened by watching the world’s largest majority-Muslim country move from dictatorship to democracy. Two months before the Iraq War, Bush declared, “The human heart desires the same good things, everywhere on Earth. In our desire to be safe from brutal and bullying oppression, human beings are the same. In our desire to care for our children and give them a better life, we are the same. For these fundamental reasons, freedom and democracy will always and everywhere have greater appeal than the slogans of hatred and the tactics of terror.”

This is emphatically not what today’s Republicans believe. In 2006, Bush’s efforts at immigration reform were destroyed by the rising nativism of the grassroots GOP. And today, prominent Republicans barely ever discuss illegal immigrants in the humanizing terms that Bush did.

Mr. Beinart's assertion that these bigotries on the Right are a function of the recession won't withstand his own discussion of Congressional Republican opposition to immigration--and he doesn't even get to how psychotic the Right got about compassionate conservatism, NCLB, Dubai Ports, Harriet Miers, etc. W cared intensely about the culture--more than any modern president--because it is Christian and is an Evangelist.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted by Orrin Judd at August 9, 2010 5:34 PM
blog comments powered by Disqus