BuzzFlash Reader Commentary
October 11, 2002
What Exactly is a "Compassionate Conservative?"
BuzzFlash Reader Commentary
George W. Bush came into Washington on his white steed preaching about his "Compassionate Conservatism." However, on a day when he has received permission from Congress to lead the United States into what may turn out to be a bloody and ill-advised war, perhaps we should take a look at exactly what that mantle means.
Would a compassionate conservative execute more people than any governor in American history?
Would a compassionate conservative seek vengeance on a leader of another country by leading an entire country into war just because the leader "tried to kill my dad"?
Would a compassionate conservative hold people who have not committed a crime because they "may be" involved in terrorism?
Would a compassionate conservative advocate cutting the amount of government financial-aid money given to college students while giving millionaires and billionaires a tax-break?
Would a compassionate conservative tell the American people that he would help senior citizens with a plan to cover the cost of their medications, only to ignore that promise?
Would a compassionate conservative insist that addicts who violate drug laws not receive a chance for treatment, something that his niece is struggling with at the present time?
In an attempt to answer those questions, I went to the American Heritage dictionary and thesaurus to find the meaning of compassionate. The thesaurus lists words like humane, humanitarian, charitable, and merciful. The definition includes "a disposition to be kind and forgiving."
Bush's push for military action in Iraq demonstrates that he is anything but "kind and forgiving." Nor is he merciful and humane, as his words in his quest to kill the Iraqi people in his search for vengeance against their leader indicate.
How, then does he define his beliefs? "I call my philosophy and approach 'compassionate conservatism,' " Bush told an audience in San Jose earlier this year. "It is compassionate to actively help our fellow citizens in need. It is conservative to insist on responsibility and on results. And with this hopeful approach, we can make a real difference in people's lives."
Really? How has he helped "our fellow citizens"?
In real terms, he talks about his "faith-based initiatives" as a part of this philosophy. Under this, tax money is given to religious groups to help them carry out their mission. Is this a violation of church and state? Even if it is, does this make him compassionate?
Even conservatives dislike this approach. "Compassionate Conservatism is not conservative and not compassionate," said Steven Fuller. "It is but the latest in a series of schemes designed to derail true conservatism and true compassion. If we are then to stand by America, and stand by our Religions, whatever they may be, we ought to reject Compassionate Conservatism and its ministers with all the energy of our souls."
However, today we should ask more questions about Bush's compassion. Bush likes to talk about his compassion in religious terms. But in reality, has he always followed the Ten Commandments?
For instance, Bush did not tell the truth when asked about his alcohol and drug use during the campaign of 2000. In fact, he did not tell people that he had been convicted of driving under the influence three decades ago.
When asked where he was during the final months of his hiatus in the Alabama National Guard, he lied when he said that he had honorably completed his military service. Honorably discharged, yet. Honorable service, not at all.
When asked about why he did not tell the American people of his shady dealing with Harken Energy, he said that the situation had been "completely vetted" by the SEC. As the Harvard documents released on Oct. 9 indicate, he was disingenuous about that -- that is called lying.
So let us send the Compassionate Conservative a message in November. "You may be a conservative, but you are certainly not compassionate."
Imagine: If Bush is compassionate, how bloody would a regular conservative be?
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Hugh Conrad is a freelance writer and college English instructor from Lilly, Pa.
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