Saturday, September 23, 2006

Master of caving

I know that most people will think that I am a knee-jerk supporter of George Bush. That's not really the case. I am really becoming more and more disappointed with him. In fact, I am coming to realize that Bush's two terms will come to resemble Bill Clinton's in the sense that both of their administrations will come to be characterized as "What Might Have Been" presidencies.

First, let me address the elephant in the room. I support the war in Iraq. I don't think America should ever apologize for ousting a murderous dictator. Kim Jong-Il, Bashar al-Assad, and Mahmoud Ahmedinejad should all be on the list. North Korea is an affront to civilization. Have there been mistakes in Iraq? Absolutely. But, say what you will, we are trying to give the Iraqis a chance to have a better future. Are murderous Islamist douchebags trying to block that path? Yes. They are. But at least Iraqis will have a chance which is more than can be said for the people of Syria or Iran or Saudi Arabia or numerous other Muslim-majority countries.

My problem with Bush is that he seems obsessed with winning over unwinnable critics of his policies. Many of the people on the opposite side of the aisle will never give him credit for anything. Let's look at a few examples, and look at how Bush was cowed into giving up many of the key reforms he was looking for while getting nothing in the way of concessions.

Take the No Child Left Behind Act. This was legislation that Democrites had been clamoring for for years. Federal control of education is something that Democrites have wanted for a long time. What Bush wanted in return was some sort of school choice program (i.e. vouchers) so that parents whose children were trapped in failing school districts could opt out. But, Teddy Kennedy and the Democrites wouldn't hear of it. So, instead we got an extra layer of bureaucracy in a cabinet department whose very existence used to be questioned by Republicans. Remember when some Republican figures used to talk of eliminating the Department of Education? When was the last time you heard anyone mention that?

How about the Medicare Prescription Drug benefit? This piece of legislation is the largest entitlement program enacted since the creation of Medicare, during a time when we can least afford it. What Bush wanted was some form of means-testing. What he got was scathing criticism about how the Republicans were a bunch of meanies who wanted to make seniors choose between eating and their medicine. So, means testing went out the window.

Social Security reform was an issue that seemed to be gathering steam. Bush wanted to enact some measure of privatization. He seemed open to other compromises so at to not disadvantage those already in the system. And none of the proposed privatization schemes would have forced anyone to participate. All he wanted was to lessen the burden of an unsustainable government entitlement program and allow younger workers to take advantage of the market system. Instead he got shouted down by the Democrites and the likes of Paul Krugman. When was the last time you heard anyone talk about Social Security reform? Meanwhile, the federal goverment keeps bleeding my paycheck to support this pyramid scheme.

What about the treatment of illegal combatants? I don't think anyone can really argue that terrorists are entitled to Geneva Conventions protections. You can argue that morality or pragmatism dictates that we should grant them those protections, but it is very clear that these prisoners are not entitled to them.

The Bush administration enunciated this for a time. But as has so often been the case, eventually Bush caved and decided that it would grant terrorist scumbags that kill women and children the same protections as soldiers.

This is most infuriating on so many levels. I, for one, believe that the civilized societies of this world need to send a message that some behaviors - targeting civilians, torturing and beheading uniformed combatants among them - are beyond the pale. We need to send the message that by engaging in those behaviors, you forfeit the right to any and all protections. Does there need to be a mechanism whereby we can determine that individuals have engaged in these behaviors? Absolutely. And there is. The Bush administration has set up tribunals that review the status of detainees and determines whether or not they should continue to be detained or be released. These tribunals offer some - but not all - of the due process protections that a soldier or a citizen accused of a crime would be entitled to, and I'm fine with that. The idea that we should extend the same protections as our citizens and soldiers are entitled to is ludicrous. It's also insulting to our men and women in uniform.

Colin Powell argued that the measure was necessary because without it our soldiers' lives would be endangered. Powell's heritage is Jamaican which makes me wonder if he's been smoking ganja. Does he think that our soldiers' lives aren't in danger now? Does he think that Pvts. Menchaca and Tucker wouldn't have been tortured and gruesomely killed if we had only just granted these terrorist thugs at Guantanamo Geneva Convention protections?

I became a conservative because I studied the Soviet Union in college. I quickly decided that the Democrites approach to Cold War relations was deeply flawed. The Lefties seemed to want to conduct relations with the Soviet Union as if it were a state that could be trusted to abide by its agreements. To my 19 year-old eyes, this was suicidally naive. I agreed with President Reagan's assessment: namely that the Soviet Union was an Evil Empire.

I see a lot of similarities between the Democrites approach to the War on Terror and their approach to the Cold War. The difference? Ronald Reagan had the courage to stand up for his convictions. We were God blessed to have him. We could use someone cut from the same cloth now.

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