Covert Radicalism

President George W. Bush’s radicalism was a surprise to everyone. Nobody thought he would be the most radical president in American history, not his opponents, not the media covering him, not even his closest campaign aides.

Bush permitted himself some radical overtones throughout his 2000 presidential campaign. The opposite is true. He was quick to pledge moderation and skillfully presented himself as a “compassionate conservative,” an identity designed to contrast with the discredited Republican radicals in the House of Representatives. They took control of Congress in 1994, declared a “revolution,” shut down the government twice over the budget, and attempted to impeach President Bill Clinton, only to be unsuccessful. Bush tried to differentiate himself from his fellow Republicans in Congress by saying he was not anti-government. “The tone in Washington” would be altered under his leadership. He would be a more moral choice than Clinton and the House Republicans. As evidence that he would be “a uniter, not a divider,” Governor Bush emphasised his history of working with Democrats in Texas.

By promising to ensure the financial security of Social Security, he hoped to dispel the doubts people have about conservative Republicans. When asked about his approach to foreign policy, he replied that he would keep a low profile, reasoning that other countries would view the United States less favourably if it appeared arrogant, but that we would gain respect if we presented ourselves as a modest power. In this context, he was slamming President Clinton’s efforts to achieve peace and stability in the Balkans and implying that he would be much more constrained. His main argument against Clinton’s foreign policy was that the former president wouldn’t be as careful with the rights of Arabs falsely convicted of terrorism. According to his claims, Arab Americans are subject to racial profiling in the form of “hidden proof” (classified or unclassified evidence that is withheld from the accused). As a result, people are being detained, and action is required. This was not an off-the-cuff remark made during one of the debates with Vice President Al Gore; instead, it was meticulously designed and presented. In Florida, where there were roughly 90,000 Muslims, Bush received an overwhelming majority of the Muslim vote, largely thanks to the support of the American Muslim Council, whom he had hoped to win over with his speech. 

And so Bush, his father’s son (at last) in political temperament but also an experienced executive who had learned the art of compromise with the other party and who differed only in personality and degree from the sitting Democratic president, offered himself as an alternative to the divisive congressional Republicans. Bush hoped the media would cover his determination to rein in and moderate his increasingly conservative party. Like Clinton’s “Third Way” (A political ideology that seeks to create a middle ground between communism and capitalism; progressive social policies) he advocated that his supporters call his platform the “Fourth Way.”

Source: How Bush Rules by Sidney Blumenthal


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s