grass-roots conservatives do
|by Richard Falknor|
|From slowing voluntary
smallpox vaccinations to the massive Federalizing of education, from the
campaign finance act's gross infringements on traditional liberties to
the airline-security debacle, activists I talk to see the Bush
Administration becoming a mindless engine of 'governmentalism'. Steel
tariffs, substantial farm subsidies, and the failure to veto exuberant
pork simply compound the offense.
Many grass-roots conservatives writhe as the Administration walks away from some good beginnings in free markets and consumer choice, right-sizing government, economic growth, and accountability in the intelligence community.
These activists and some heroic allies from the Clinton stonewalling wonder at the hostility to open government, and the failure to mute holdover or "career" voices opposed to stated Presidential policies.
Most immediately, they ask when the president plans to use the "bully pulpit" effectively to reassure the new "investor class." Today that group constitutes a substantial number of those who vote.
On the other hand, against all hope and too many in the Administration, the Defense Department has persevered in doing the right thing much of the time. The Rumsfeld team has set in motion a coherent military alliance against the Islamists. They are making missile defense a reality. They are telling the truth openly about the China danger.
No other likely president of either party would give the Rumsfeld team the scope it has, and the consequent protection to the American people.
Yet in the halls of the Bush Administration, conservatives may offer advice on domestic policy; they may even have formal audiences, but they fear they are not heeded.
Many center-to-right activists speculate on why "governmentalism" has so beguiled the administration. They ask - - -
Are those who share the approach of the President's father really running the show at home because of the war? Have the President's political advisers concluded that rubber-stamping big-government legislation is the key to preserving the President's approval ratings - - - and the devil take the House leadership? Do these aides argue that there exists a large active voting "center" eager to support the President if he just doesn't "bicker" with the left in the Senate and elsewhere? Most troubling, what if these questionable White House decisions come from President Bush himself?
We don't know, and there may only be an evolving pattern of presidential decision-making. Good historians understand that truth is often the enemy of logic, that the implausible, not the "likely" is frequently what men and women actually do in time and space.
What we do know is that this administration also evinces a fear of open government. This will probably hurt its natural allies more than confound its enemies. (Older heads point out that this fear together with the Bush administration's predilection for statism were characteristic of the Nixon era. While nominally Republican, that administration was hardly conservative.)
Apart from the "what are you hiding"
liabilities of a closed-government posture, the national defense
downside could be enormous. (Obviously, we are not talking about
operational timetables, targets, or objectives.)
|There is a wealth of
strategic and military detail now available from internet news
originating in allied or friendly countries although inexplicably
ignored by mainstream media. But the country needs plain, periodic talk
from the President about the extent of the threat, our response, the
likely costs, and our long-term goals.
During some dicey moments in the Cold War, one
U. S. Senator (and a former national chairman of his party) twice stood
out publicly against reigning orthodoxies in his own party's White
House. Washington State Democratic Senator Henry Jackson criticized both
our credulous United Nations policy in 1962 and weak spots in President
Kennedy's Limited Test Ban Treaty in 1963. One authority quotes Howard
Baker on "Scoop" Jackson's work in government: "Jackson
made sure we did not lose the Cold War in 1970s so that Ronald Reagan
could win it in the 1980s."
Richard Falknor is an officer of the Maryland Taxpayers Association http://www.mdtaxes.org, but the views he expresses are solely his own. Falknor was a long-time managing editor of a national weekly health-business newsletter. Previously, he had been on the professional staff of both houses of the Congress, and an appointee in the Department of Transportation.