The Corner

Stuttaford’s Astonishment

Andrew, you may cease being astonished that I might actually defend the president’s record.

The record: What Bush proposed in the realm of immigration in 2000 was the splitting of the Immigration and Naturalization Service into two agencies — one to “welcome” new immigrants and the other to fight illegal immigration. He also sought the expansion of family reunification. While it is true that his current proposal was not reflected in the 2000 campaign, what was reflected was a policy bias in favor of immigration expansion. That is a bias not shared by most of the correspondents in the Corner, which is their right — but any fantasy that anti-expansion conservatives might have had that Bush would reflect their views is just that. As for campaign-finance reform, I agree that the legislation is an abomination — but while it may be thrilling for intellectuals to debate such matters in a vacuum, serious-minded observers of politics need to examine political choices in real-world ways. Bush was sent the legislation in the immediate aftermath of the Enron collapse, and I submit that any politician — Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Abraham Lincoln included — would have been compelled by the crisis of that moment to do what Bush did, which is to say that he would not veto Congress’s campaign-finance legislation. He did not champion it or push it through. As for the NEA, it’s an organization I don’t believe should exist — but a $15 million budget increase for a plan to promote American Masterpieces doesn’t make me lose sleep.

And no, Bush didn’t “promise” to abandon all budgetary discipline, but as I say in my New York Post piece today, he most definitely did not run as a small-government guy. He ran as a tax-cutter, and he kept to that promise more than anybody here or anywhere else anticipated. Which is something that some around here seem to have forgotten.

Along with other things. Andrew, your tone makes my point perfectly: You and others in The Corner have adopted a way of talking about Bush that succeeds in ignoring entirely his titanic accomplishments in the war on terror. What astonishes me is that there’s a powerful sense in which you and some other Corner-ites might inadvertently be contributing intellectually to the liberal effort to erase the issue from the 2004 election.

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