Is Bush a Conservative?

Mitch Berg, my Northern Alliance comrade at A Shot in the Dark, asks us to blog on the question that may present George Bush his toughest political challenge in 2004 — is Bush really a conservative, and if not, will the “true believers” bolt?

While it’s a time-worn principle for the media to call anyone to the right of Roger Moe a “Paleoconservative”, Bush has clearly been no such thing at any point in his career. Oh, sure – he’s a social conservative in all the ways that make the social conservative crowd happy; pro-death penalty, pro-life. There’s nothing wrong with that – except the myopic notion that being socially conservative makes one conservative in any other way. He’s also a conservative in the way that I expect any president to be; he favors a strong military (and acted on that belief even before September 11, thank God).
But he, like his father, has never been a fiscal conservative. Which was why I supported Steve Forbes for President, until the moment George Bush was nominated.

David Frum at NRO also tackles the first question, at least, in his diary today. Frum also notes that while Bush is undoubtedly personally conservative, he has governed primarily from the center. Frum also details some interesting demographics to explain Bush’s caution at becoming too ideological, although I disagree with Frum’s macro analysis that America has grown less conservative since 1980.
Many people have postulated that Bush, rather than being his father’s son in terms of presidencies, is much more the heir of Reagan. However, I think that Bush is much closer to Nixon than Reagan, and I’m not the first to say so. Nixon, for all his reputation as a right-wing vampire, governed to the left-center on everything but the war. He created the EPA and the Endangered-Species list, a regrettable piece of legislation that has significantly damaged private-property rights throughout the western states. Bush has also not hesitated to create or expand government programs such as prescription-drug benefits through Medicare, an enormously costly program.
While Reagan never fully delivered on his promise to shrink government, he had a built-in excuse: Congress was controlled by the opposing party throughout both of his terms, and the Senate most of the time as well. Bush had no such excuse, and it has become apparent that very little changed legislatively on pork when control of Congress shifted to Republicans. Lacking leadership from the White House, which continued to call for new spending on a host of domestic issues, the Republican Congress has gorged itself on tax revenue. Perhaps the lesson from this is that for fiscal restraint, the optimal political configuration is for the House to be controlled by the opposite party of the President. The natural tension between the two parties make for better public awareness of taxation and spending and keep a lid on the pork, at least as much of a lid as possible these days.
But will that apply to this election? No, because there are two mitigating, and in my mind superceding, issues at stake in this election cycle: the war on Islamofascist terror and judiciary appointments. Absent the first, Bush probably would be facing a primary battle this year from a more traditional conservative, perhaps someone along the lines of a Pat Buchanon without the far-right baggage. Bill Frist comes to mind, although I don’t know if he’s red-meat enough for the true believers. As long as Bush stays strong and on the offensive in the war and in building the military to fight it, he will hold his base. Judiciary appointments are always an issue for presidential elections, but this one is even more sensitive: as many as four Supreme Court openings may occur during the next term, and the conservative base understands that conceding this prerogative to John Kerry would be a tremendous setback for conservatives, an earthquake with aftershocks felt for years to come.
So I think at the end of the campaign, the conservative base will make the necessary calculations and support, perhaps even with enthusiasm, the re-election of George Bush. Does that mean they’ll only make happy sounds throughout the process? Absolutely not; they will bargain and barter for as many concessions as they can extract for their public support. But in the end, sitting on their hands on Election Day truly means losing power where it counts for years on end, and they worked too hard to get where they are to backslide all the way to Square One now.
UPDATE: Thanks to all of you who posted the nice comments … Power Line also addresses this issue. Their verdict? He’s not as conservative as he could be, but in my opinion, he’s as conservative as he wants to be, which is not terribly conservative at all.

Ledeen: Iranian Appeasers and Dante’s Inferno

Michael Ledeen at the National Review writes about the proposed trip to Iran by three US lawmakers, and wants to put a “Reserved” sign for them on the seventh level of Dante’s Inferno:

Sorry to say, I haven’t reread Dante’s “Inferno” for some years, but I still remember his description of a very low and extremely unpleasant level of hell that houses traitors. Surely abject appeasers of evil qualify for the same treatment, and we must note grimly that three prime candidates have recently come forward to swell the ranks of that overheated realm: Senator Joe Biden of Delaware (D.), Senator Arlen Specter (R.), of Pennsylvania, and Congressman Bob Ney of Nebraska (R.).
All have undertaken to “improve relations” between the United States and the theocratic fascist regime of Iran. Specter announced over the weekend that congressional staffers would soon go to Tehran in the first stage of the appeasement program. After supping in Washington with the Iranian ambassador to the U.N. at a dinner helpfully facilitated by the State Department, Specter proclaimed that Iran had “helped us in the
fight against al Qaeda and in the Afghanistan situation. I don’t think we have given them sufficient credit. They deserve credit.” And since “They are showing some signs of wanting to improve relations. Now is a
good time.”

Ledeen goes on to detail several areas in which the Iranian government still oppresses its own people, most disgustingly in its traffic of young Iranian girls as sexual slaves. Ledeen also notes that the Iranian government has hardly been conciliatory in its speech and attitude towards the US, and it seems difficult to understand why Specter, Biden, and Ney think that this is the propitious moment for gestures of goodwill. Even looking past all of the terrorist support that Ledeen reports in detail, the mullahs just disqualified almost all of the reformers running in the next election. Does that sound like a “good time” to open a dialogue with the Governing Council?
Ledeen, in this case, is absolutely correct. Not only are such gestures futile with current Iranian leadership, they are counterproductive to the organic agents of democratic change in Iran. The reform movement has gathered great steam recently, assisted by the hardliners’ lockout of reformers from the election. Just when this populist movement seems to be reaching critical mass, the three Senators propose to throw cold water on it by tacitly endorsing the regime. And for what? Does Iran propose to turn over al-Qaeda and Hezb’ Allah terrorists to us, or even to stop sheltering and supporting them? No. Instead, the mullahs continue to lecture the US about having the proper attitude towards Iran before any normalization of relations can occur. In other words, when we learn our place as dhimmis, then they’ll deign to talk to us.
Specter, Biden, and Ney should halt all plans for traveling to Iran until the Iranians can send true representatives of the people to meet with an American delegation. Until then, we should stop trying to act friendly to the people who fund terrorist actions against us. (via Blog Iran)

Blair, Bush Nominated for Nobel

Norwegian legislator Jan Simonsen has nominated George Bush and Tony Blair for the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to remove Saddam Hussein:

Even though the five-member Norwegian awards committee keeps the nomination list secret, those making the nominations often announce their candidate. Norwegian lawmaker Jan Simonsen has nominated Bush and Blair several years in a row. Simonsen wrote that by removing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, they lessened the chance of a war.

Look for this nomination to fail. Two years ago, the Nobel committee gave the award to Jimmy Carter for his work on the treaty with North Korea … the one that allowed the Kim Jung-Il regime to arm itself with nuclear weapons, thanks to the toothless agreement that Carter championed. They also famously gave one to Yasser Arafat, the godfather of terrorism, for showing up in Oslo and not agreeing to much and eventually reneging on the little agreement he gave. Based on results, the Nobel Prize ought to consider renaming the peace award after Neville Chamberlain, since its recipient or the very award itself often honors appeasers and murderous thugs.

Super Boob Halftime Show: A Mistake?

During my live-blogging of the Super Bowl, I mentioned the Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake strip show that occurred at the end of the halftime show. Apparently, I was mistaken in my initial viewing of the scene, as the NFL, CBS, and MTV have apologized for an unplanned “wardrobe malfunction”:

CBS apologized on Sunday for an unexpectedly R-rated end to its Super Bowl halftime show, when singer Justin Timberlake tore off part of Janet Jackson’s top, exposing her breast. … The two singers were performing a flirtatious duet to end the halftime show, and at the song’s finish, Timberlake reached across Jackson’s leather gladiator outfit and pulled off the covering to her right breast.
The network quickly cut away from the shot, and did not mention the incident on the air.

But there was a sticker over the nipple, as I said during my live blog, and now that I’ve replayed it on my TiVo, it doesn’t appear to be accidental, either. Timberlake definitely reached across and grabbed her costume intentionally — you can see the fingers flex into more of a fist, and his arm tenses up as he pulls his hand back towards him. Jackson doesn’t react very quickly to the liberation of half her rack, either, although if you were being charitable, you could interpret that as shock. TJ Simers says in today’s LA Times:

MTV issues a statement: “The tearing of Jackson’s costume was unrehearsed, unplanned, completely unintentional,” and knowing how weird some of the Jacksons can be, maybe she does wear silver stars strategically placed wherever she goes.

Shock, by the way, which would be shared with the entire viewing audience, although in my house it barely registered except as a crowning example of why the Super Bowl should concentrate on football and skip the ridiculous halftime show. (Watching Nelly continually grab his penis was another good example, and I note that hardly anyone even bothered to comment about that.) It registered with a lot of other people, though, because CBS was flooded with complaints, according to the story. The NFL says that MTV will not be producing any more Super Bowl entertainment, and MTV claims it had no knowledge of it.
Power Line, however, agrees with me that the moment was far from unintentional. (Hindrocket posts a picture of the event, if you’d like to see Janet imitating LaToya.) Hugh Hewitt, returning from Minnesota, notes:

Looks like the blowback from the tackiest Superbowl ever is pretty intense. Good. MTV and the NFL have as much in common as Howard Dean and FDR. Whaddaya think Paul Brown would think about the half-time show? Halas? Lombardi? Here’s a suggestion: Hall of Famers pick the music talent next year, not 25 year olds with chin hair and NYU degrees. Tony Bennett, anyone? A great game interrupted by idiots.

On the other hand, with commercials dominated by Levitra and Cialis, this may be the perfect capper to the Erectile Dysfunction Bowl. I mean, if Janet Jackson’s exposed breast doesn’t turn you on, the commercials might say, you should give us a try. If you think that the Great Booby Affair lacks subtlety, then you obviously didn’t sit through endless shots of footballs going through tire swings in an attempt to sell dinghy delights. All that was missing was the stock footage of rockets launching and trains going through tunnels.
UPDATE: The FCC was none too amused by the breast-baring spectacle, either:

The chief federal regulator of broadcasting said Monday he is outraged by the Super Bowl halftime show which wound up with singer Justin Timberlake tearing off part of Janet Jackson’s costume, exposing her breast. Timberlake blamed a “wardrobe malfunction,” but Federal Communications Commission chief Michael Powell called it “a classless, crass and deplorable stunt.” …
The two singers were performing a flirtatious duet to end the halftime show, with Timberlake singing, “Rock Your Body,” and the lines he sang at the moment of truth were: “I’m gonna have you naked by the end of this song.” With that, Timberlake reached across Jackson’s leather gladiator outfit and pulled off the covering to her right breast, which was partially obscured by a sun-shaped, metal nipple decoration.

A local radio station, KQRS, reported on its morning-drive show that CBS had admitted to planning the stunt with Timberlake and Jackson. They claimed a wire report as their source, but I haven’t seen anything about that at all. My guess is that if CBS ‘fessed up to deliberately creating this stunt, it will be the last Super Bowl they see for a long, long time.

Super Bowl: Second Half

7:38 – King suggests that “Saving Silverman” was better than the first half of the game. Well, maybe he’s right; you don’t get to see Neil Diamond on screen too often, and I don’t think you’ll ever see R. Lee Ermey play a gay football coach again.
7:43 – Streaker on the field before the kickoff. Who said there’s no action in this game?
7:58 – The Bud Light chimp commercial was worth a chuckle. The Panthers were lucky that the second-down pass play was ruled incomplete. It was obviously a catch, and the fumble would have resulted in a New England touchdown. Like the two teams, the officiating has been mediocre during this game.
8:06 – Scariest line of the night: “Erections lasting longer than four hours require medical attention.” Owwww. That ought to keep you from trying Cialis. What’s with all of the E.D. commercials, anyway?
8:11 – Did anyone else think that the Gillette commercial was just a tad overwrought? Using a Gillette is like having an angel by your side? I note that the 3rd quarter looks an awful like like the 1st.
8:19 – No scoring in the 3rd quarter; still 14-10 Pats. The Mall of America ad was pretty good, but I have a feeling that was just regional. If anyone outside of the Minnesota market saw it, let me know.
8:23 – Antowain Smith scores a rushing TD, and the Pats take their longest lead of the game. The PAT was successful, but it keeps looking like the snap is off.
8:28 – James Ph. made a comment about a Carl’s Jr. commerical on the 1st-half post, but that one was regional, James. What happened in the commercial? Great catch by Steve Smith, too.
8:31 – Great run by Foster, breaking tackles and tearing holes in the defense for a score. I could have done without the hot-dogging, though. Going for two? How many of you agree with this? Not me … and that’s why. Dumb.
8:34 – Great Simpsons MasterCard commercial. “D’oh! Stupid voiceover!” Speaking of stupid voiceovers, we’re back with Greg and Phil.
8:44 – Nice pick! That should fire up Carolina. He should have just taken the touchback, though. (Hindsight is 20/20, of course …)
8:52 – What a play by Jake Delhomme! That’s a Super Bowl record: 85 yards! Now you go for two.
9:05 – That is the second play blown by Manning against Givens on this drive.
9:06 – Nice drive by Brady and the Pats. It should be 27-22 after the PAT. But they’ve left a lot of time on the clock for Delhomme and Steve Smith …
9:08 – Yeah, I’m good at math! The Pats went for two and got it, so now it’s 29-22 Pats. This has turned into a good game, which is good because the commercials are pretty poor this year. James — I miss Carl’s Jr. I used to love their Super Star burger and the fried zucchini. Mmmm …. fried zucchini … Nice runback by Carolina, but it’s getting called back. Figures.
9:12 – King is right. The lamest commercials so far are the AOL Top Speed commercials. Designed to appeal to your average mouth-breather.
9:16 – There has never been an overtime in the Super Bowl? Carolina’s aiming for the first one.
9:17 – The Pats got burned on their blitz! Big mistake, and Jake Delhomme connected perfectly for the TD. PAT good — it’s all tied up now,
9:19 – Kasay kicks the ball out of bounds … nice job, fool.
9:25 – It’s going to come down to Vinatieri, after all … Brady is doing an excellent job in getting the Pats into field-goal range.
9:27 – HE MADE IT! And the fans go wild … There are still four second left on the clock, though. A runback could win the game for the Panthers!
9:29 – That’s the end of what turned out to be a really good game — the Pats win it, 32-29. Lots of excitement and great plays, and we watched until the final play. A fan couldn’t ask for more, really. The Wang Chung putdown in the Subway commercial was a nice finish to the spectacle.
Big thanks to everyone who hung out with me for the Super Bowl, especially King and James Ph. You guys made this a lot of fun for me!

Super Bowl: First Half

5:40 – How could Vinatieri blow a 31-yard field goal attempt? It looked like the snap came to the wrong side of the holder, and the timing got thrown off. Speaking of being off, the commercials so far are not impressive. The “monkey on the back” car commercial was exceedingly lame, and the Bud Light commercial was only good for a slight grin. They spend $2 million a minute for these?
5:45 – The Panthers can’t get any offense going so far, and the second set of commercials is just as lame as the first.
5:49 – The First Mate liked the Bud bikini-wax commercial. I was cringing. Go figure.
5:55 – The H&R Block commerical with the Willie Nelson advice doll was the first really good commercial so far. The Don Zimmer moment was classic.
5:59 – The Panther’s Wil Witherspoon just blew up a reverse better than I’ve seen in a while, and kept the Patriots from getting a field goal. So far I’m less than impressed with every facet of this game — the (nonexistent) action, the lack of creativity in the advertising, and the dull commentary from the CBS crew. The only thing making me happy is King’s commentary…
6:09 – End of the first quarter. 0-0. The Sierra Mist commercial was cute, but nothing different from what we’ve seen before from them. And the kid was mistaken, anyway; Mike Ditka comparing football to Levitra is just wrong. (Note to Levitra and Ditka: Guys don’t watch football to get sexually aroused, or at least most guys don’t.)
6:13 – OK, the donkey who wanted to be a Bud Clydesdale was pretty funny, but somehow I suspect this may be a continuing series of increasingly-stupid commercials. Look for a play on Rudolph at Christmastime.
6:19 – That’s a great idea — let’s give kids who steal music prime-time commercials as a reward. Nice going, Pepsi. I think I’ll skip their product for a while.
6:30 – I think that was a bad spot, and finally something interesting happened in the game! It won’t result in a reversal, though. The Budweiser farting horse was definitely good, but having the Charmin commercial directly follow sort of seems like an ass theme is developing, here, especially after the Bud donkey. Yeah, told you they wouldn’t reverse it. I think it was a dumb challenge.
6:38 – So far, this ain’t Adam Vinatieri’s night, is it? A Starsky and Hutch remake — I heard about this from Emmett on Hugh’s show. Looks like a broad comedy, though; wasn’t the original played pretty much straight? Nice Muhammed Ali appearance for Linux, too.
6:44 – Thinker, I’m with you … neither of these teams look like they belong in a Super Bowl. This is the longest time ever in a Super Bowl without a score.
6:46 – Jeez, finally!! Brady to Deion Branch for the first score of the game, and Vinatieri manages to convert the PAT. It’s about time someone did something.
6:48 – Greg Gumbel and Phil Simms. Greg Gumbel and Phil Simms. Greg Gumbel and Phil Simms? This is CBS’s A-team?
7:00 – And finally Carolina gets it together, scoring on a third-and-10 bomb to Steve Smith. Impressive drive. This might finally be a game.
7:05 – Now it gets exciting! Great bomb from Brady to Branch. King, I love good defensive battles, but Carolina’s offense was just inept prior to their last drive. The Patriots should be up by six points, too.
7:09 – Now that was an impressive answer by the Patriots. King, I love bagpipes, and that Sierra Mist commercial was pretty good, but the Levitra commercial that followed it just took all the fun out of it.
7:13 – Carolina finishes the half with a 50-yard field goal, and after 27 minutes of offensive ineptitude, we get 24 points scored in the final 3 minutes. Now we get to watch the Janet Jackson halftime show and the CBS analysts try to make the first 27 minutes seem exciting.
7:29 – I have new drinking game — every time Nelly grabs his package, you have to drink a shot. We’ll all be tanked by the second-half kickoff.
7:34 – Nice way to celebrate a Super Bowl on Sunday evening — by tearing off Janet Jackson’s bra and letting her flop out into the open. Yeah, I saw the sticker on the nipple, but still …
7:36 – The NFL Network’s “Tomorrow” commercial was cute. Who knew Jerry Jones was that limber?
I’ll be starting a new post for the second half.

Dean Sinking in South Carolina, Won’t Get Delegates

The Post and Courier report that Edwards and Kerry are locked in a statistical dead heat — and Dean has fallen far off the pace (free registration required):

Edwards, a native of South Carolina and a senator in neighboring North Carolina, was at 21 percent. John Kerry was at 17 percent, Al Sharpton at 15 percent and Wesley Clark at 14 percent in an American Research Group poll.
Howard Dean was at 9 percent, Joe Lieberman at 5 percent, Dennis Kucinich was at 1 percent and 18 percent were undecided. South Carolina will hold its primary Feb. 3, a week after New Hampshire’s Tuesday primary.

Edwards has come up from 12 points to take the thin lead, but the real story is Dean. He’s tumbled from 16 percent and a contending position, or at least in a position to get some delegates. Now he’s in fifth place, behind Al Sharpton, of all people. Dean’s credibility is about to take a beating on the first Super Tuesday of this primary season.

February Link Love

February, the month of love … St. Valentine’s Day, Cupid, and the like … and so it’s time to spread the link-love around the blogosphere a bit.
The Commissar has discovered a new initiative from the Left: a deck of cards with the 52 most dangerous bloggers. Captain’s Quarters has been assigned the ten of diamonds (I would have expected the two of clubs, myself). Every card is a clickable link to a dangerous right-wing blogger. I may ask the Commissar to send me over the graphic for my card, and I’ll include it on my blogroll. Comrade Commissar continues to outdo himself …
Power Line has a great post on Churchill, one of my favorite historical figures as much for his failures as for his successes. Big Trunk notes the relationship between the BBC and Churchill and shows how the BBC has always taken the side of totalitarians in defense of the Left …
Brant at Strange Women Lying In Ponds sparked a blogosphere controversy when he parsed Mel Gibson’s remarks on the Holocaust. Specifically, he took issue with Gibson’s subordinating the Holocaust with Stalin’s systematic slaughter of millions for political purposes. “Atrocities happened” is a strangely passive way to affirm the historical fact of the Holocaust. After receiving a large amount of strong criticism, Brant replies here. Read both posts. At the very least, Mel Gibson strangely tried to split hairs when it wasn’t necessary, unless he really doesn’t believe that the Holocaust was an organized and purposeful attempt to eradicate Jews strictly for being Jewish. …
The Sophorist links to an interesting study on homeschoolers and their academic achievements, community involvement, and overall satisfaction with life. None of this surprises me, but it’s interesting to see it substantiated. Next, maybe someone will ask this question: why can’t we get results like this from public schools? …
DC from Brainstorming writes a great post about the (sob) Patriot Forum, including the fact that she missed seeing me there. She also mentions that she’s applying for membership in the Northern Alliance and in the next post, DC shows that she takes immediate action on directions from the Lord High Commissioner. I think we need more women in the Alliance, myself …
Speaking of Hugh Hewitt, Steve Gigl returns quickly from his self-imposed hiatus to blog about his meeting with Hugh and James Lileks at the Young Life fundraiser last Friday. Let’s hope Steve’s hiatus turns out to be short …
King Banaian at SCSU scholars continues his series on the new academic standards for Minnesota high school graduation, specifically on social studies. You’ll need to review the entire series to get a good grasp of the issue, but in this post King notes the misleading presentation, or at least its rationale, given by opponents of the new common-sense standards. King also notes their refusal to even consider the new standards. Typical bull-headedness from the NEA-affiliated Education Minnesota crowd; they’re even griping about home-schoolers being overrepresented in the process …
Patterico thinks that Justice Scalia should recuse himself from the case regarding the White House energy task force. I’m no lawyer, either, but I can see Patterico’s point. Any real lawyers want to weigh in on this? …
The good news: Electric Venom has found a new hosting service for Venomous Kate’s expansion plans. The bad news: no Snark Hunt so far this weekend. Maybe tonight, if we’re all lucky …
Finally, Jay Reding reviews the “Bush Lied” meme and finds it lacking in substance. First off, you’d have to prove that Bush knew there weren’t WMDs in Iraq while using them as a single casus belli (which he didn’t, of course), meaning that he would have to disregard the data coming from the entire Western intelligence community. The closer you look at this meme, the more it falls apart.
More link-love later in the month …