portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reposts united states

government | political theory

Doonesbury and George Will

Today's Doonesbury points to a commentary last year by George Will on the questionable conservatism of the Bush administration.
A Questionable Kind Of Conservatism

By George F. Will
Thursday, July 24, 2003; Page A21

This is the summer of conservatives' discontent. Conservatism has been disoriented by events in the past several weeks. Cumulatively, foreign and domestic developments constitute an identity crisis of conservatism, which is being recast -- and perhaps rendered incoherent.

George W. Bush may be the most conservative person to serve as president since Calvin Coolidge. Yet his presidency is coinciding with, and is in some instances initiating or ratifying, developments disconcerting to four factions within conservatism.

The faction that focuses on foreign policy has four core principles: Preserve U.S. sovereignty and freedom of action by marginalizing the United Nations. Reserve military interventions for reasons of U.S. national security, not altruism. Avoid peacekeeping operations that compromise the military's war-fighting proficiencies. Beware of the political hubris inherent in the intensely unconservative project of "nation-building."

Today a conservative administration is close to asserting that whatever the facts turn out to be regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the enforcement of U.N. resolutions was a sufficient reason for war. If so, war was waged to strengthen the United Nations as author and enforcer of international norms of behavior. The administration also intimates that ending a tyranny was a sufficient justification for war. Foreign policy conservatism has become colored by triumphalism and crusading zeal. That may be one reason why consideration is being given to a quite optional intervention -- regime change, actually -- in Liberia.

The conservative faction that focuses on low taxes as the key to economic dynamism and individual opportunity has had two good years. But this faction must be unsettled by signs that the president's refusal to veto last year's abominable farm bill (in fact, he has vetoed nothing) was not an aberration. The tax cutting seems unrelated to any thoughtful notion of what the government should and should not do.

Howard Dean, who will say anything while pandering to his party's activists, says the Bush administration aims to "dismantle" Medicare. Actually, the administration is eager to approve the largest expansion of the welfare state since the Great Society 40 years ago.

A prescription drug entitlement is not inherently unconservative, unless the welfare state itself is -- and it isn't. If the pharmacological revolution that has occurred since Medicare was enacted in 1965 had occurred by then, some such entitlement would have been included. But the administration probably will approve an entitlement of unknowable cost ($400 billion over 10 years is today's guess, which is probably low), without reform of Medicare.

The conservative faction that focuses on constitutionalism and democratic due process winced when the president seemed to approve of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's opinion affirming the constitutionality of racial preferences for diversity in higher education -- and perhaps in many other spheres of life. The concept of group rights -- of government complicity in allocating wealth and opportunity on the basis of skin pigmentation -- now has a conservative president's imprimatur.

Finally, this summer the faction called "social conservatives" has been essentially read out of America's political conversation. Their agenda has been stigmatized as morally wrong and constitutionally dubious by the Supreme Court, seven of whose nine members are Republican appointees. Justice Anthony Kennedy -- like O'Connor a Reagan appointee -- wrote the opinion striking down a Texas law criminalizing consensual adult homosexual acts. Kennedy asserted, in effect, that laws intended to strengthen a majority's moral principles -- laws of a sort America has never been without -- are constitutionally suspect.

The president is rightly reluctant to endorse a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a heterosexual institution: Constitutionalizing social policy is generally unwise. But the administration's principal objective may be to avoid fights about cultural questions. Two weeks ago the administration reaffirmed the irrational and unfair implementation standards of the Title IX ban on sex discrimination in college athletics. Those standards are now immortal, having received a conservative administration's approval.

What blow will befall conservatives next? Watch the Supreme Court, the composition of which matters more than does the composition of Congress.

Justice David Souter, nominated by the first President Bush, quickly became a reliable member of the Supreme Court's liberal bloc. Alberto Gonzales, the White House counsel who came with this President Bush from Texas, may be chosen to fill the next court vacancy. The likelihood of a vacancy during this presidency has given rise to a grim joke among conservatives:

How do you say "Souter" in Spanish? "Gonzales."

homepage: homepage: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A38030-2003Jul23¬Found=true

Letís see 16.Oct.2004 20:23

Red neck

A liberal cartoonist trying to convince conservatives to vote for a Reagan Democrat advertising articles by far right George Fuckyou. Will. Claming that Dubya is selling out core conservative values, betraying social conservatism being posted on a radical web site trying to convince progressives to vote for worse than Clinton -incredible! This is the biggest push to the right I've ever seen this makes the 'Reagan revolution' look like nothing and progressives are like a deer caught in headlights waiting to get hit.

the biggest push to the right I've ever seen ? 17.Oct.2004 02:19

honey

I think you should get your eyes checked.


I'm not real sure what the rest of your comment means, or whether it means anything.

Probably, you don't like Doonesbury. Also, maybe, you would rather blow Clinton than admit Trudeau is right. Is that not what you mean?

You could say those things in half a dozen or ten words. You could give a clear argument in twenty-five or less. And you would not be so vulnerable to ridicule.

Although totally correct on your terms, Trudeau is in fact wrong. Not merely in believing Americans might understand his point.

"right-wing" and "conservative" do have meanings, different meanings. Furthermore "conservative" has a different meaning when Bush is talking to bankers than when he is talking to share-croppers. Bankers are aware of this. The share-croppers and you are not.


Trudeau is also wrong in imagining that Will is defending conservativism or attacking Bush. Nobody cares whether it is Bush or Kerry who signs the owners' directives. (Well, ok, Bush probably has some half-terrified fantasy of showing up his daddy by not being kicked out of office.)

Will's job is to re-inforce the fiction that conservatives as imagined by share-croppers actually exist, that they are different from liberals, and that the triumphs which he attributes to Bush are due to some kind of baleful liberal influence.

Honey, don't 17.Oct.2004 16:27

jlii

Red neck -
A person that is sun blocked challanged mocking a liberal cartoonist trying to convince conservatives to vote for a Reagan Democrat advertising articles by far right George Fuckyou. Will. Claming that Dubya is selling out core conservative values, betraying social conservatism being posted on a radical web site trying to convince progressives to vote for worse than Clinton -incredible! This is the biggest push to the right I've ever seen this makes the 'Reagan revolution' look like nothing and progressives are like a deer caught in headlights waiting to get hit.

Just another troll, but this gut is funny, Red Neck always entertains especially when he does his serious side. It is not important to follow him, he is like a flower just let him bloom.

Iíll talk slower. 17.Oct.2004 20:10

Red neck

I don't mind ridicule but I can't tell if you are an argument or just a tactic. I hate wasting time on people being facetious
It would seem like we agree "Will's job is to re-inforce the fiction that conservatives as imagined by share-croppers actually exist, that they are different from liberals, and that the triumphs which he attributes to Bush are due to some kind of baleful liberal influence" So what are we arguing over? Do you think I believe conservatives are conservative? What are they conserving in a system as radical as this. Are we talking terminology? These are the terms used in mainstream political discourse, I think you understand them? Just my humble attempt at lampooning the Orwellian twist of this campaign?
Then it must be about Trudeau. I used to be a huge Doonesbury fan when I was about 15yrs old. I think I had all the collections from the 70's when he actually had something to say. In the 80's he gave all his characters haircuts and turned them into yuppies and pretended like he opposed Reagan. That's pretty much were it has stuck. About as interesting and entertaining as Funky Winkerbean. What part of "This is the biggest push to the right I've ever seen" do you not understand? Reagan just like Thatcher was seen as radical at first and had some serious ideological and policy opposition. Even Bush the First called is economic plan 'voodoo economics'. But there is no real opposition now, just Nader. Everyone else has pretty much folded and we are left with only a choice between two ideological heirs of Reagan. There is no questioning of the underlining policies. This is almost complete acquiescence.
I hope the sharecropper comment wasn't a not so veiled reference to me. The vast majority of sharecroppers (were) black, substitute slavery. Today we use disposable 'third world' labor, much cheaper. Your bigotry shines through...

Can you read this?
Can you read this? John Kerry 1971 John Kerry 2004
Can you read this? John Kerry 1971 John Kerry 2004

Do you know what "facetious" means? 17.Oct.2004 23:20

honey

What part of "This is the biggest push..." do you think my ridicule shows I misunderstand? Especially since you say we agree; and I now agree we agree, in part.

I never heard before anyone that claim Reagan or Thatcher were radical. I heard one called a simple fool and the other a vicious fool. Even the corporate media simply repeated their scripted speeches as if they meant something. I don't think anybody laboured under the illusion that either understood the longer words, particularly in the case of Reagan. There were a lot of phony 'think-tanks', quoted approvingly by false-journalists, claiming that robber-baronry was a radical innovation. However, I think most people got carried away by the clever slanders and guilt-associations.

In most parts of the country, share-croppers were whites. Okies were in my mind when I wrote that. I haven't looked at any real statistics, but I think that even in the 'Old South' most share-croppers were whites, although proportionately more blacks might have been share-croppers. My impression is that blacks were the labour-pool of last resort. Maybe I'm wrong. However, the banks have always been remarkably non-discriminatory : they don't care what colour you are, if you have a dollar, they'll use any means legal or not to take it.

In any case, there is nothing in my comment to suggest racism. It is kind of scummy of you to suggest it. I would prefer that you simply drop it.


But first, notice how far you had to stretch the words to suggest it. Second, notice that you did stretch them.

I don't think you are a troll, in the vituperative sense. I think "red neck" is an accurate self-description.

You mostly argue the way you have been taught. I see your posts flipping internally from one worldview, possibly rural conservative, to another, perhaps aspiring to be urban perhaps not liberal. Flipping also from conditioned-reflex, "common sense", responses to something more aware. Without examining your two comments closely, you have used "conservative" to mean at least three different things -- you seem to be aware and you seem to be not aware -- possibly you are thinking about your words and you are writing thoughtlessly, automatically. I think also there are ideas and perceptions, which a lot of people here take for granted, that you just know are wrong.

I guess that you are, or would like to be, a true old-fashioned conservative. Everything you have been taught by your community and your culture prevents you. However, you did notice the falseness in Will's article.

We could use a few honest conservatives here.

If that is what you are, why don't you learn to argue with logic, with accurate facts, with skill, with measure and integrity. Where conclusions flow from facts, not where facts are selected to support hoped-for conclusions. Where arguments are valid arguments, not random denunciations.

The bosses have always been remarkably non-discriminatory : they don't care whether you are liberal or conservative, if you are honest, they'll use any means legal or not to stop you.

Sometimes, if you are lucky or luckless, the masses will respect you, too.

But I must, Jlii 18.Oct.2004 00:17

honey

Just as it is often difficult, and never truly necessary, to distinguish the authoritarian left from the authoritarian right, it is also often difficult and rarely necessary to distinguish honest liberal from honest conservative -- depending very much on how you define those words, of course.

The best evidence for that is how hysterically hyperactive some authoritarian folks are to erase the meanings and at the same time to burn the heretics.


If Red is a traditional conservative, I think it is important that he come out of his closet without that silly troll-suit.