Monday, July 16, 2007

The Jilted Lover

Conservative pundit and former Reagan speechwriter, Peggy Noonan is fed up with President Bush (see WSJ article). Once an ardent Bush supporter, she now grits her teeth when she sees him at a news conference. She “used to smile at the mention of his name,” but now she says Bush is “strange” and “weird.” His optimistic behavior in the face of everything going south is “jarring” and “disorienting.”

Hell hath no fury like a supporter scorned. Well, except for the frothing hate-Bush mongrels barking from the far Left. Even they may now be excused, according to Noonan, as she discusses how she and her acquaintances feel. Of Bush Derangement Syndrome, the reflexive and passionate “dislike for the president,” Noonan says, “No one thinks that anymore.” No one? This merely shows how isolated MSM pundits can be.

Some might suggest that Noonan and her friends are fair-weather supporters that can’t handle it when the going gets tough. Just last month, Noonan argued that Bush had divorced his conservative base with the immigration bill (see here). This seems like a lot of high drama. Frankly, the whole lover relationship analogy strikes me as rather weird. This is politics, folks, not romance. Noonan sees herself and fellow disappointed conservatives as the jilted lover. Yet it could also be said that she and others like her simply chose to walk out on the relationship when things got bad.

And, boy, have they gotten bad! Noonan notes, “Every major domestic initiative of [Bush’s] second term has been ill thought through and ended in failure. His Iraq leadership has failed. His standing is lower than any previous president's since polling began.” But it freaks her out that despite all of this, Bush seems genuinely defiantly optimistic.

I’m not exactly sure what to make of all of this. Were Noonan and other jilted Bush supporters blind back in 2000? Did they think that they could bring the new compassionate conservative president into thinking ‘right’ after the election? Or did they simply ignore Bush’s socialistic tendencies? And just who was it that pushed through the president’s big government expansion programs during his first term? Who was it that abandoned their principles for their boyfriend, the president?

President Bush is not substantially different than what he advertised himself to be. Conservatives should have understood his nature seven years ago. What seems strange to me is conservatives devolving into Bush hatred when the president is the one that has been relatively consistent (and I’m not necessarily saying that in a good way). It is Bush’s conservative once-upon-a-time supporters that have changed. Can’t Ms. Noonan see this?

Noonan does make an interesting contribution when commenting on the current polarity in politics. She writes, “No one knows in his gut that the guy he supports will do any good. But at least you can oppose with enthusiasm and passion the guy you feel in your gut will cause more trouble than is needed! This is what happens when the pickings are slim: The greatest passion gets funneled into opposition.”

It seems that the pickings are indeed slim for conservatives and classical liberals. While Democrats are relatively satisfied with their field of ’08 presidential candidates, conservatives and classical liberals can’t see anyone in the whole field (in any party) that seems to fill the bill for them (see here).

My guess is that this gnawing fact feeds into Noonan’s acquired distaste for President Bush. She admits that she is simply waiting for the Bush presidency to finally conclude in January 2009, but she doesn’t really have anything to look forward to. And I’m guessing that she has plenty of Americans that find themselves in the same boat with her.


David said...

You make a good point that Bush has been consistent whether we agree with him or not.

The question is, are conservatives turning their backs on him now because they really believe in their conservative principles, or just because they think the nation is ready for conservatism again.

Reach Upward said...

For conservatives, I suspect that it has more to do with having a strong leader that hews to conservative ideals than it has to do with how ready the nation is for a revival of conservatism.

Frankly, G.W. Bush did not look like that kind of leader during the 2000 election. Rather, he looked like the GOP's best chance to win. So the relationship between Bush and conservatives was always a marriage of convenience. After 9/11/01, Bush seemed to take on a steel that conservatives found admirable. But the incompetence with which the war effort has been prosecuted has diminished much of this sentiment.

Conservatives are forever looking for another St. Ronald, the last successful model of a conservative president. (They conveniently gloss over the issues on which they seriously differed with Reagan.)

Reagan was a fluke. He was the more moderate and more likeable version of Goldwater. He forced the conservative movement into the forefront. He had to fight and beat the GOP power brokers to do it. Where is there another conservative that is willing to do that and is capable of successfully pulling it off?

Why do I say Reagan was a fluke? Consider this question. Who was the last successful conservative president prior to Reagan? We can look a long way back down the line without seeing one. Carter, Ford, Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy, Eisenhower, Truman, FDR, Hoover, Coolidge, Harding, Wilson, Taft, TR, McKinley.... None of them fill the bill. That pretty much covers the 20th Century.

Conservatives either need to find one of their own that is capable of stepping up to the plate, or they need to come to grips with reality.