Burning Bush: The Issue

1. “George W. Bush is no conservative, and his unprincipled abandonment of conservatism under the pressure of events is no statesmanship. The Republic would be well served by his defeat this November. . . . The policies of this administration self-labeled 'conservative' have little to do with the essence of tradition. Rather, they tend to centralize power in the hands of the government under the guise of patriotism. . . . For an American conservative, better one lost election than the continued empowerment of cynical men who abuse conservatism through an exercise of power unrestrained by principle through the compromise of conservative beliefs. . . . George W. Bush is no conservative, no friend of limited, constitutional government—and no friend of freedom.”

—William Bryk's “The Conservative Case Against George W. Bush,” an extraordinary front-page essay in the Aug. 4New York Press   2. “The American people are not going to absorb this kind of chaos for several years. I know this country; I know myself. If I'm seeing 10 bodies a weekend over the last weekend in October, that's going to influence my vote.” —Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly, in early April 3. “The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, served notice that a cruel and relentless set of enemies desires to do damage to the United States. It should also be noted that they represented a massive failure by the government agencies sworn to protect us and a defeat (one may hope only temporary) for the free American way of life. Since those attacks, no government agency leader has been fired. Failure was rewarded with larger budgets. And instead of undertaking a pinpoint yet relentless counterattack on those who actually planned the attack, the government has frittered away resources and credibility in a war against a country that was not involved in the attack. That war bids fair to continue for years, diverting precious attention and resources from the stateless terrorists who may well be planning the next attack even now. Those are sobering thoughts, but three years on Americans should be ready—must be ready—for a dose of realism. Realism is essential in the task of remaking intelligence gathering, its leadership and its execution, essential to understanding the uneasy relationship between liberty and security and the public policies that mediate the two. It was not an abstraction called 'terrorism' that attacked America but a specific group of terrorists. Instead of engaging in a vague crusade to reshape the world, why not renew America's resolve to inflict damage on those who inflicted damage on us? From the Sept. 10 lead editorial inThe Orange County Register  4. “I'm dismayed that the campaign turned out, when he was running for president, turned out so different from the policies. And as a politician, your credibility is everything. And to run as a compassionate person—and someone who said in the debate to the question—”How will you conduct your foreign policy?”—and he answered as a candidate, “It's important to be humble, and if we are arrogant, countries will resent us.” And then be the absolute opposite. I don't think anybody would argue that there is an air of arrogance about this, about our foreign policy, it's very deliberate. And so that's my criticism: that if you are going to run, tell the people exactly how you are going to govern and don't do something differently.” —Rhode Island Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee, in an interview in the Oct. 24, 2003,Providence Phoenix. Chafee recently said he probably won't vote for Bush  5. “The philosophical collapse of the GOP came with the 2000 campaign of George W. Bush, who ran without calling for a single spending cut, much less the elimination of programs, agencies, or departments. Worse, neoconservatives moved to fill the philosophical vacuum created by the supply-siders. The neocons openly support big government and consider FDR to have been a great president. They are the intellectuals who came up with the 'faith-based initiative' and like to frame the political debate as one between people who want religion in the political square and the secularists who don't. The neocons are the ones who pushed Bush to call for greater federal government involvement in K-12 education than any president in American history. And now the neocons are calling for American Empire. We have, indeed, come a long way from Reagan and Goldwater.” —From Cato Institute President Edward H. Crane's “The Rise and Fall of the GOP” in the December 2003Cato Policy Report  6. “[A Reagan] family spokeswoman said no one requested permission to use Reagan's image in an ad, nor would permission be granted because it would imply that he endorsed one candidate over another.” —Reported on Salon.com, after the conservative Club for Growth began running TV ads soon after former President Ronald Reagan's death that attempted to turn W into Reagan's 21st-century equivalent 7. “Reagan was a religious man and a social conservative, but he never tried to get the federal government into the business of funding religion, as Bush has done with his steady push for 'faith-based initiatives.' Reagan's opposition to California's anti-gay Briggs Initiative in 1978 stands in stark contrast to the homophobia of the Bush campaign. . . . [Reagan's] eloquence on behalf of limited government and his success in slowing the growth of government are sorely missed today. I met Ronald Reagan. I campaigned for Ronald Reagan. I was inspired by Ronald Reagan. George W. Bush is no Ronald Reagan.” —David Boaz, executive vice-president of the Cato Institute, in “Reagan's Heir,” an editorial in the August 2004 Cato Policy Report 8. “George W. Bush is not only not a good Republican, but he hasn't been a good president. President Ronald Reagan said, “Trust but verify.” President George W. Bush started a war based on, at best, a one-sided reading of badly flawed intelligence. Doesn't the president owe it to the American people to check his facts before starting a war? —From RepublicansforKerry.org 9. “This is the Republican Party that has embraced as its own every liberal initiative, from Lyndon Johnson's Medicare to Jimmy Carter's Department of Education to Bill Clinton's AmeriCorps. This is the Republican Party preparing to enact a Medicare drug benefit that would represent the largest expansion of the welfare state in 40 years. This is the Republican Party that is increasing federal education spending as if doing so had something to do with the quality of local schools. This is the Republican Party that is increasing spending faster than during the Clinton years. . . . [D]espite occasional exceptions, the Bush administration, backed by the Republican-controlled Congress, has been promoting larger government at almost every turn.” Doug Bandow, syndicated columnist and former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, in “The Conservative Case Against George W. Bush” in the Dec. 1, 2003,The American Conservative  10. “The answer, alas, is that this president has decided [same-sex marriages] will help him politically to tear us apart. His base is restless over spending and Iraq, and this is a means to placate and energize them. If that means turning a tiny minority into a lethal threat to civilization, so be it. If that minority's sole crime is to seek to live up to the same responsibilities as everyone else, to uphold the family, to support responsibility, then that also is beside the point. In this battle, the president has shown his true colors. He is a divider, not a uniter.” — Andrew Sullivan, in a July 20 essay for the right-wing British newspaperSunday Times  11. “When the president endorsed this constitutional amendment against gay marriage, conservatives should have asked, 'What's conservative about it?' He jealously guarded state prerogatives as governor but now wants to nationalize marriage and family law to create a 'no-homo-need-apply' exception to the Constitution. What happened to the president's reverence for 50 individual state laboratories? When the president chastises so-called 'activist judges' in Massachusetts and California, someone should remind him that activist judges put him in the White House. —Brian O'Leary Bennett, Republican Congressman Robert K. Dornan's chief of staff from 1977 to 1989, in a March 14 op-ed forThe Orange County Register  12. “Then the president uses the phrase 'if Congress is wise with the people's money.' But the point is that, in the past three years, the Congress has, by any measure, been grotesquely unwise with the people's money. And the president vetoed not a single spending measure. In fact, his own budgets exploded spending on both war and homeland security and every other government department, from Labor to Agriculture, before the pork-sniffers in Congress even got started.” —Conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan, in the Feb. 9New Republic  13. “Instead of using the accepted start date of March 2001, the CEA announced that the recession really started in the fourth quarter of 2000—a shift that would make it much more credible for the Bush administration to term it the 'Clinton Recession.' . . . [Not only is this ploy dishonest, it] masks an attack on one of the few remaining bastions of economic neutrality. For almost 75 years, the start and end dates of recessions have been set by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a private nonpartisan research group based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.” —Michael J. Mandel in the Feb. 23'edition of the Wall Street apologistBusinessWeek, criticizing the Bush administration's Council of Economic Advisers changing the start date of the last recession to benefit Bush's re-election bid  14. “This regime—and I will now call it a regime—has gotten absolutely bizarre. Between Ashcroft and Cheney . . . and their puppet Bush and Powell and his son [FCC chairman Michael Powell] . . . I mean, this has gone berserk. I mean, I'll be off the air, and I won't be able to talk to you about it anymore, but, listen, it's bad. This is the most unbelievable thing, what's going on, where people are being thrown off the air without a trial. . . . These fascist, right-wing a-holes are getting so much freaking power, you gotta take back the country. [Those are] my last words to you. I don't know how many more days I have [left] on the air.” —Radio personality Howard Stern, a former Bush backer, on his Feb. 26 show after radio conglomerate Clear Channel caved in to pressure from so-called moralists and removed Stern from several stations across the country 15. “It's possible that the vice president has spent so little time studying the terrorist phenomenon that he doesn't know about the successes in the 1990s. There were many. The Clinton administration stopped Iraqi terrorism against the United States through military intervention. It stopped Iranian terrorism against the United States through covert action. It stopped the al-Qaeda attempt to have a dominant influence in Bosnia. It stopped the terrorist attacks at the millennium. It stopped many other terrorist attacks, including on the U.S. embassy in Albania. And it began a lethal covert-action program against al-Qaeda; it also launched military strikes against al-Qaeda. Maybe the vice president was so busy running Halliburton at the time that he didn't notice.” —Richard A. Clark, former head of counterterrorism for the National Security Council under George W. Bush, responding to a question by Salon.com's Joe Conason regarding Vice President Dick Cheney's assertion that no U.S. administration had ever responded to the terrorist threat 16. “[I] left the Republican Party because I feared the Bush administration and the GOP-controlled Congress were moving too far to the right and not listening to moderate Republicans such as myself. Much of what we have seen since then has only confirmed those fears. We are in a war that we shouldn't be in; the wealthy get tax cuts while our schools get shortchanged; the deficit grows by the day while millions of jobs are lost here at home. Meanwhile, the White House tries to placate the far right by supporting a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, diverting the nation's attention from where it should be focused. We are headed on the wrong course, and it troubles me deeply.” —Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords, now an independent, speaking to Salon.com 17. “I'd like to know more about exactly what has been happening. Was this an isolated incident. Was it a pattern of misconduct? Who was involved? Was it military, CIA, reservists, people on contract with the government? We don't know the answers to all that yet. But, frankly, Joe, that's one of the problems. Apparently, this investigation and a report have been in the process for weeks. Nobody in Congress seems to have been notified that this was going on. The conduct was totally ridiculous, intolerable.” —Very Republican Mississippi Senator Trent Lott to host Joe Scarborough, on the May 4 broadcast of MSNBC'sScarborough Country regarding the Administration's withholding information on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal  18. “Since the conclusion of the war, the Bush administration has shown a dismaying capacity to believe its own public relations. . . . Ultimately, even if our choices now can help or hurt, it is Iraqis who have to save Iraq. It is their country, not ours. In coming weeks and months, we will have to defer to the authorities we hope will eventually take control, in the process endorsing compromises that we will consider less than ideal. But it is time for reality to drive our Iraq policy, unhindered by illusions or wishful thinking.” —”An End to Illusion,” an editorial in the May 3National Review 19. “During George W. Bush's keynote address to the 40th anniversary black-tie banquet of the American Conservative Union last week, diners rose repeatedly to applaud the president's remarks. But one man kept his seat through the 40-minute oration. It was no liberal interloper, but conservative stalwart Donald Devine. As ACU vice chairman, Devine was privileged to be part of a pre-dinner head-table reception with President Bush. However, Devine chose not to shake hands with the president. . . . What most bothers Devine and other conservatives is steady growth of government under this Republican president. If Devine's purpose in devoting his life to politics was to limit government's reach, he feels betrayed that Bush has outstripped his liberal predecessors in domestic spending.” —Conservative columnist Robert Novak, in his May 20 column 20. “I would not have voted for [President Bush's] tax cut based on what I know. . . . There is no doubt that the people at the top who need a tax break the least will get the most benefit. . . . Too often, presidents do things that don't end up helping the people they should be helping, and their staffs won't tell them their actions stink on ice.” —Former Republican North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, in an interview with a North Carolina business magazine via Salon.com's “War Room '04” feature 21. “In the lead-up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw, at a minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility; at worst, lying, incompetence and corruption. False rationales presented as a justification; a flawed strategy; lack of planning; the unnecessary alienation of our allies; the underestimation of the task; the unnecessary distraction from real threats; and the unbearable strain dumped on our overstretched military.” —Retired General Anthony Zinni, former commander-in-chief of U.S. Central Command, in his bookBattle Ready  22. “For all their brilliance, [Bush-Cheney campaign manager Ken] Mehlman and Karl Rove (who no doubt vetted this lineup) have made a very serious mistake with this convention's lineup. It is one that the rank and file should not tolerate. If the president is embarrassed to be seen with conservatives at the convention, maybe conservatives will be embarrassed to be seen with the president on Election Day.” —Paul M. Weyrich, in a July 12 article for newsmax.com, criticizing the Bush administration's decision to bar true conservatives from addressing the Republican National Convention in favor of free-spending RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rudy Giuliani and George Pataki23. “We are fighting undeclared wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and an open-ended war against terrorism worldwide. If the president claims extraordinary wartime powers, and we fight undeclared wars with no beginning and no end, when if ever will those extraordinary powers lapse? Since terrorism will never be eliminated completely, should all future presidents be able to act without regard to Congress or the Constitution simply by asserting, 'We're at war?' Conservatives should understand that the power given the president today will pass to the president's successors, who may be only too eager to abuse that unbridled power domestically to destroy their political enemies. Remember the anger directed at President Clinton for acting above the law when it came to federal perjury charges? An imperial presidency threatens all of us who oppose unlimited state power over our lives.” —Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas) on the libertarian website www.antiwar.com 24. “Retrospectively, now that the inadequate intelligence and faulty conclusions are being revealed, that all things being considered, it was a mistake to launch that military action, especially without a broad and engaged international coalition. The cost in casualties is already large and growing, and the immediate and long-term financial costs are incredible. Our country's reputation around the world has never been lower, and our alliances are weakened. From the beginning of the conflict, it was doubtful that we for long would be seen as liberators, but instead increasingly as an occupying force. Now we are immersed in a dangerous, costly mess and there is no easy and quick way to end our responsibilities in Iraq without creating bigger future problems in the region and, in general, in the Muslim world.” —Representative Doug Bereuter (R-Nebraska), a senior member of the House International Relations Committee and vice chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence who voted for a House resolution that authorized the president to invade Iraq, in an Aug. 18 letter to his constituents 25. “As Republican former governors, senators and public officials, we urge our party to renew its allegiance to the proven, common-sense values that unite America. Instead of partisan ideology—which increasingly has led moderates to leave the party—what's needed is a speedy return to the pragmatic, problem-solving mainstream. Here's how the president and Republican-majority Congress can send that clear signal to the nation: “•Stop weakening environmental law—and once again protect our air, water and public lands as Teddy Roosevelt and other great Republican leaders intended; “•Restore fiscal responsibility—with 'pay-as-you-go' budget discipline to end record deficits that jeopardize economic growth; “•Put the health of millions first—and clear the way for embryonic stem cell research; “•Appoint mainstream federal judges—and respect the Constitution; “•Make America safer—and protect cities and towns, still vulnerable three years after Sept. 11, by securing chemical and nuclear plants and shipping containers; “•Rebuild our alliances—with real partnerships and restore America's standing in the world. “By returning to the mainstream in these ways, our party can regain the trust of a divided nation and earn a vote of confidence in November.” —Statement signed by 17 former Republican governors, senators, state attorney generals, and members of the Nixon and Ford administrations that appeared in a full-page ad if the Aug. 30New York Times  26. “It's because of the influence of [neo-conservatives] on the president that Mr. Bush may have 'overreacted' to the threat of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, said Mr. Scowcroft, and that the 'preoccupation with terrorism' meant that 'we are maybe not paying enough attention to other problems in the world that have nothing to do with terrorism but are really significant.' Mr. Bush had squandered opportunities to avoid war in Iraq, said Mr. Scowcroft, who also speculated that the Bush administration had exaggerated the threat of weapons of mass destruction because it provided 'the only reason which you could use to propel a war [in] a particular time frame.' He fretted that the ongoing fighting in Iraq made it impossible for the administration to confront nations much closer to actually acquiring nuclear weapons, like Iran. Most of all, Mr. Scowcroft reiterated his skepticism about the prospects for gunship democracy in the Middle East—outlining the kind of realism for which George W. Bush's father was known around the world. “'It's not that I don't believe Iraq is capable of democracy,' said Mr. Scowcroft. 'But the notion that within every human being beats this primeval instinct for democracy has not ever been demonstrated to me.'” —From a Sept. 6New York Observer profile on former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft  27. “Log Cabin has proudly supported the President's firm leadership in the war on terror. As principled Republicans, we believe in our Party's commitment to a strong national defense and a confident foreign policy. We especially applaud the President's leadership in cutting taxes for American families and small businesses, his belief in free market principles and his compassionate and historic leadership in the global fight against HIV/AIDS. . . . At the same time, it is impossible to overstate the depth of anger and disappointment caused by the President's support for an anti-family constitutional amendment. This amendment would not only ban gay marriage, it would also jeopardize civil unions and domestic partnerships. . . . Some will accuse us of being disloyal. However, it was actually the White House who was disloyal to the 1,000,000 gay and lesbian Americans who supported him four years ago. Log Cabin's decision was made in response to the White House's strategic political decision to pursue a re-election strategy catered to the radical right. The President's use of the bully pulpit, stump speeches and radio addresses to support a constitutional amendment has encouraged the passage of discriminatory laws and state constitutional amendments across America. Using gays and lesbians as wedge issues in an election year is unacceptable to Log Cabin.” —Excerpts from a Sept. 8 press release by the Log Cabin Republicans, an advocacy group for gay GOPers, announcing the group's withholding of an endorsement for President Bush's re-election campaign 28. “Anyone who was involved in the 2000 McCain campaign, as I was, knows exactly who is responsible for the 'Swift boat' slime attack on Senator Kerry—in Bush World, all low roads lead to [Karl] Rove. When I was at the Christian Coalition, I witnessed first-hand the alliance of the deregulation, no-tax crowd with the religious conservatives. Ironically, the rank and file of the religious right are hardly the country club set. They are largely middle-class Americans who don't rely on trust funds or dividend checks for their livelihoods. But the leaders of the religious right have betrayed their constituents by failing to champion such economic issues as family leave or access to health insurance, which would relieve the stresses on many working families. The only things the religious conservatives get are largely symbolic votes on proposals guaranteed to fail, such as the gay marriage constitutional amendment. The religious right has consistently provided the ground troops, while the big-money men have gotten the goodies. —Marshall Wittmann, who ran the “Bull Moose” website before leaving to work for John McCain. A Teddy Roosevelt fan and McCain Republican, he says he's voting for John Kerry  29. “The fact is a crisp, sharp analysis of our policies are required. We didn't do that in Vietnam, and we saw 11 years of casualties mount to the point where we finally lost. We can't lose this. This is too important. There's no question about that. But to say, 'Well, we just must stay the course and any of you who are questioning are just hand-wringers,' is not very responsible. The fact is we're in trouble. We're in deep trouble in Iraq. We need more regionalization. We need more help from our allies. We need the Iraqi people to come around us in a more supportive way. That means more jobs, more development. The hearings we held this week in the Foreign Relations Committee were an eye-opener on the long side of this. —Nebraska Republican Senator and Vietnam veteran Chuck Hagel, on CBS'sFace the Nation, Sept. 19  30. “We have to have better coordination between our people who are doing the bombing and the military side and the Iraqis who are doing the police work so that we do not alienate further the Iraqi people by intrusions that are very difficult and are costly in terms of lives. We've got to get the reconstruction money out there. That was the gist of our hearing this week, that $18 billion is appropriated a year ago and only $1 billion has been spent.” But why isn't that happening?“Well, this is incompetence in the administration.” —Indiana Republican Senator Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on ABC's This Week, Sept. 19 31. “I think President Bush needs to get the message from people across this country, including Republicans, that his strategy in national security and his economic policies need revisiting.” —South Charleston, West Virginia Mayor Richie Robb to theWheeling News-Register on Sept. 10, explaining why he might not cast his Electoral College vote for Bush  32. “As son of a Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, it is automatically expected by many that I am a Republican. For 50 years, through the election of 2000, I was. With the current administration's decision to invade Iraq unilaterally, however, I changed my voter registration to independent, and barring some utterly unforeseen development, I intend to vote for the Democratic presidential candidate, Senator John Kerry.” —John Eisenhower, in a Sept. 28 guest column in the Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News  33. “Four items trouble us the most about the Bush administration: his initiatives to disable the Social Security system, the deteriorating state of the American economy, a dangerous shift away from the basic freedoms established by our founding fathers, and his continuous mistakes regarding Iraq.” —From the Sept. 29 lead editorial in theTexas Iconoclast endorsing Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. The Crawford, Texas-based weekly bills itself as President Bush's hometown paper and endorsed his 2000 presidential bid and the war on Iraq. That was a mistake, the paper now acknowledges: “Instead we were duped into following yet another privileged agenda”   ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: Greg Stacy's got 59 more reasons to hate Bush.

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