William Murchison’s take on President George W. Bush (Cultural Revolutions, February) reminded me of a cartoon called “Jim’s journal” that I used to see in one of the student newspapers at the University of Wisconsin. This simplistic drawing, complete with stick-figure characters, centered around Jim and his daily life. For every event, whether mundane or extraordinary, he would reply with the word “okay.” “I went to the store today and it was okay,” or “I went on a walk and it was okay,” or “I spent five-and-a-half years in college and it was okay.” That was the gag.
Thus, Mr. Murchison’s Bush, as governor of Texas, was “okay.” As president, he’ll be “okay,” too, and when his four or eight years are all over and done with, America will be “okay.” Not being a Texan, nor having lived in Texas when Bush was governor or knowing him either informally or personally as Mr. Murchison does, I will respectfully defer judgment on these points. And Mr. Murchison is right when he says that we will not see a Lani Guinier enforcing civil-rights laws, a Lawrence Tribe on the Supreme Court, or a veto of a partial-birth abortion ban in a Bush administration. But we could have gotten this from a Pat Buchanan, Howie Phillips, or Harry Browne administration as well, or the administration of most of the other Republicans who were running for president last year. That Bush is the one in the White House and not one of these others says a lot about the current state of the Republican Party.
Besides those things Mr. Murchison mentioned in his piece, there are many other initiatives we won’t see in a Bush administration. We won’t see a reduction in government agencies or a rolling back of regulations, a repeal of NAFTA or GATT, any limitations on immigration, or the return of our troops from the far-flung posts of the empire.
In fact, in just the first couple of weeks of the new government, we saw appointed as labor secretary a person who knowingly broke the law by harboring illegal aliens and then lied to the FBI about it; watched the current expansion of government into education continue unabated with the administration’s education proposals; and witnessed the creation of a brand-new government bureaucracy, run by Democrats, to dispense taxpayer funds to religious charities and organizations. You don’t have to be an atheist or a member of the ACLU to see the inherent danger of extending the tentacles of government into the private and spiritual realm. In fact, the next time you receive the collection plate at church, the money you give may very well go to pay the high-priced lobbyist that the church has sent to Washington to get more funding from the federal government for its soup kitchen, provided it meets OSHA and EPA standards after a thorough inspection. (Gee, weren’t both of tho.se agencies bequeathed to us by Richard Nixon?)
All of this signals the return of the GOP to a Western European/Canadian Tory conservatism, commonplace in the administrations of Eisenhower/Nixon/ Bush père. Republican officeholders don’t talk about this change because they’re too busy taxing, spending, and distributing enough boodle to stay in power. But the political record shows that such Toryism caused the destruction of the Progressive Conservatives in Canada, the wreckage of the Conservatives in Britain, the defeat of conservative opposition parties in Europe, and the near-collapse of the GOP after Watergate. Whether that will happen to the current GOP is unclear. But the track record is not promising.
Perhaps in mv sixth decade, I will agree that getting the best you can is “okay.” But at a youthful 28, I would like to believe that there is something better out there for myself, my future family, and my homeland than just “okay.”
East Ellsworth, WI