WP: Actually, Bushies are bullies at home, too

R. A. Hettinga rah@shipwright.com
Fri, 21 Mar 2003 14:47:29 -0500

At 10:31 AM -0800 on 3/21/03, Rohit Khare wrote:

> Bush is a manichean 
> ass

I think it's more the behavior of a new elite "establishment" emerging, myself :-).

cf: Bartley's article in the WSJ, included below.

Remembering my *liberal-until-graduation official-student-politico days in the late 1970's, the left routinely does this kind of thing to itself, for all its touchy-feely posturing. They just call it "organizing", yes? Who in liberal politics *doesn't* fear the knock on the door of the local unibrow ward-heeler or, worse, union goon, "requesting" you do something you'd rather not do?

Back when the (blessed :-)) Iron Lady ran the roost, the Tories might have called it "Putting a bit of stick about", but Francis Uquhart couldn't possibly comment.

That's why they call it a monopoly on force, boys and girls...

Who thinks there *is* little difference between the French, the Democrats, or  California, for that matter. :-). Except for Orange County, Vandenberg/Edwards, and bits of San Diego, anyway.

*actually, that's "namby-pamby-airy-fairy-touchey-feely-liberal-until-graduation official-student-politico", to you.


The Wall Street Journal

January 20, 2003 


The Dawning Bush Establishment? 

"Present at the Creation," Dean Acheson titled his memoirs. As Secretary of State, he meant the creation of post-World War II foreign policy, the containment doctrine that finally did produce the collapse of the Communist Empire in 1989. But it was more than that. Mr. Acheson and his colleagues also created an Establishment that dominated American society for a half-century. 

"The Establishment," the Oxford English Dictionary explains, is "a social group exercising power generally, or within a given field or institution, by virtue of its traditional superiority, and by the use esp. of tacit understandings and often a common mode of speech, and having as a general interest the maintenance of the status quo." Politics may ebb and flow, but the Establishment wields moral authority; society tends to defer to its judgments and assumptions despite much arm-flailing by critics. 

Prior to the Great Depression, the American Establishment was rooted in big business, led by the House of Morgan. But Franklin D. Roosevelt managed to tag the old Establishment with the Depression, and with World War II success managed to build his own. Junior officials such as Acheson, rapidly promoted on the basis of merit, emerged self-confident and able to retain respect despite failures like the Korean War. We have just recently had a spate of books celebrating the greatest generation, six wise men and the like. 

These thoughts come to mind by what seems to me a radically different political and social texture since the last elections. Now that Republicans control both houses of Congress and the other two branches of government, Democrats have to fear not only losing elections. They have to fear that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Condi Rice, Paul Wolfowitz and, yes, Karl Rove could conceivably consolidate a new Establishment, dominating the next half-century as FDR's progeny dominated the last one. 

Consider for example Trent Lott's misfortunes. His mindless comments called forth opprobrium in ways long rehearsed by the old establishment, threatening to tarnish the White House and Republicans everywhere. Lo and behold, Sen. Lott is demoted to a still-honorable position but out of the line of fire. Instead, Democrats face a majority leader who made a big mark as a physician in private life, has logged vacations tending AIDS patients in Africa, and is a close ally of the White House. No muss, no fuss, some gentle nudges including some remarks by Secretary Powell, and the president emerges not weaker but stronger. That is how an Establishment operates. 

Or consider the Bush tax proposals. For weeks all the stories out of Washington speculated on how much the administration would compromise with itself before proposing anything; after all, Republicans have always done that. Instead, the president offers a sweeping proposal, then drops a press conference remark dismissing "class warfare." The "tax cut for the rich" mantra has never swayed many voters, but it has been a proven device for intimidating Republicans. It's not likely to dent an Establishment that assumes that compromises are something for the other guys. 

With the loss of the Senate, Democrats have suddenly spouted the droll complaint that the media is prejudiced against them: They want their own Rush Limbaugh. This is not quite as foolish as it sounds to most people and all conservatives. The media is an Establishment transmission belt, and it's true that liberal ideas no longer get automatic approval. Mr. Limbaugh provides an alternative to the leftist slant of National Public Radio, and does it without government money or imprimatur. 

Even more importantly, the amazing success of Roger Ailes at Fox News has provided a meaningful alternative to the Left-Establishment slant of the major networks. His news is no more tilted to the right than theirs has been tilted to the left, and there's no reason for him to drop his "we report, you decide" pretense until they drop theirs. And his commercial success suggests that he is more attuned to the moral sensibility of the public. 

Establishment moral authority has also traditionally been conveyed by the clergy. Here the believing, conservative and Republican denominations are prospering, while tepid, liberal and Democratic mainstream denominations are dwindling away. Academia, another traditional transmission belt, is now dominated by radicals; even here there are stirrings, with Harvard President Larry Summers backing the military, and Columbia University revoking a Bancroft Prize given to politically correct but fraudulent scholarship. In any event, society has thrown up academic alternatives such as Heritage, Hoover, AEI and Cato. 

On the political front, Democrats have a tough row asserting moral authority after Bill Clinton, and after winning Senate seats by bending the rules in New Jersey and avoiding a recount in South Dakota. They face foreboding 2004 arithmetic. Republicans who won Texas get to redistrict House seats there. In the Senate, the GOP will defend 15 mostly safe seats while the Democrats defend 19, 10 of them in Bush red states. Filibusters against the Bush tax plan or judicial nominees are only likely to dig Democrats further into the moral and political hole, especially if they take place in the context of war in Iraq and confrontation with North Korea. 

There are no sure things in life, and President Bush could still come a cropper either abroad or on the home front. A new Establishment remains only a possibility. But remember that for all the Texas twang George Bush is an aristocrat -- Yale, Skull and Bones, Harvard, a presidential son. And that FDR, castigated as "a traitor to his class," showed what can happen when an aristocrat turns against the old establishment. We may be witnessing not only a change in political power but, perhaps more important, a change in moral authority. 

R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah@ibuc.com>
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