John, I wasn’t at all surprised that you tried to defend the president’s record, merely startled by the way you did so. There’s no doubt indeed that Bush has achieved a great deal in the war against terror. Indeed, that achievement alone makes it vital that he wins this autumn. It does not, however exempt him from criticism from those who supported him in 2000. Criticism won’t cost him the election, but the current drift in his policy just may. It was also dismaying to read in your article that the White House is ‘frustrated’ by conservative criticism. Well, that’s just too bad. An old saying involving heat and kitchens rather comes to mind. More to the point, if the president wishes to reduce criticism from his allies on the right, he might want to consider stopping poking them in the eye.
Turning to other points you raise in your post. You’re certainly correct that candidate Bush signalled that he wanted a more expansionary immigration policy, but, of itself, that’s no reason to quash debate on that subject now, particularly given that the scope and stupidity of his proposals goes far beyond anything that even the most paranoid of ‘restrictionists’ might have expected. And if we’re going to talk about the war on terror, let’s do so. The president’s immigration proposals, if enacted, will be a menace to national security. They run the risk of undoing much of the excellent progress made in this area. As for campaign-finance reform, I’m at at a loss to understand how a president can sign into law something that he himself believes to be unconstitutional. Maybe I just misunderstand what a presidency is for. Sometimes principle has to come before political advantage, and for, what it’s worth, I doubt that the political cost of a veto would have been that high. Remember, that this law (an abomination, as you rightly say) was opposed by many on the left as well as the right and regarded with complete indifference by most of the country. Remember too, that Bush was riding high in the polls at time. Vetoing McCain-Feingold would not have changed that.
Credit for the tax cuts? Certainly. I’m no deficit hawk, but the president’s long-term low tax credentials will be more credible once he has explained exactly how all the spending he has unleashed is going to be paid for. He hasn’t so far.
Finally, the president’s Marie Antoinette moment over at the NEA. Yes, seen in the light of current federal spending, $15million is not a lot of money, but the decision to blow that dough in that way at a time of budgetary stringency gave off all the wrong signals, both fiscally – and politically.
Yes, the president is coming in for some tough criticism from the right at the moment, but it’s difficult to deny that he deserves it.