Elected with a tiny electoral-vote majority and a slim popular-vote deficit in 2000, President Bush has given ground time after time, apparently trying to push enough issues to encourage Republican core supporters, while finessing, appeasing on, preempting, and de-fusing any matters that might energize habitual Democrats. As core supporters bristled, Bush maneuvered adroitly to capture the position of new era bipartisan and paint Democratic opponents, particularly Senate Contrived Majority Leader Tom Daschle, as rigid, hyperpartisan, and obstructionist. Until recently, leading Democrats obliged by displays of obstinacy and enmity on every turn.
Naturally, the September 11, 2001, massacre and the ensuing War on Terror redounded in Republicans' favor. Republicans are usually seen as the attractive stalwarts on foreign affairs, and Democrats tried to separate foreign and domestic issues, saluting dutifully on the former and maintaining dogged defiance and battling for the agenda initiative on the latter. Republicans, of course, strove to present the War on Terror as overweeningly comprehensive, the rightful driver of all domestic as well as foreign policy issues and priorities.
But, just recently, a number of domestic and cultural issues have broken in Bush's and the Republicans' favor. For one thing, the national Democratic strategy memo circulated to Democratic congressional and other candidates made no mention of gun control issues, whereas Bush's appointment of outspokenly pro-Second-Amendment Attorney General John Ashcroft was, before September 11, a Democratic howling point. Gun-rights advocates had adroitly presented their topic as a self-defense issue, and the Republican perspective prevailed, as the public quite sensibly judged that, if we are at war or even unsuually threatened by aggressors, consistency demands at least the right to have means of self-defense close to hand.
Recently, the federal judicial branch handed Bush two lustrous talking points. The U.S. Supreme Court decided that taxpayer-funded education vouchers distributable to parents of schoolchildren attending demonstrably inferior public schools could be used at private schools backed by religious as well as secular organizations. That 5-4 decision paralled Bush's soft-pedaled advocacy of eligibility of faith-based organizations to deliver taxpayer-funded social services as well as his position that vouchers to rescue pupils from substandard public schools should be issued with no anti-religious strings attached.
Hapless Judge Albert T. Goodwin of the perennially far-Left U.S. Ninth Circuit of Appeals obliged with the other Bush talking point, penning a ruling that the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance made the pledge's recitation in public schools unconstitutional. Judge Goodwin saw fit to stay effect of the order, that is, let the defendant school district's teachers keep leading the pledge pending further litigation, even though his stay order duplicated an already existing stay. Judge Goodwin's gesture, however, did not come before religious Conservatives, traditional Republican stalwarts, were out of their seats and roaring outrage, defiance, and ecumenical cultural jihad. Republicans to Judge Goodwin: Thank you, Your Honor!
Consistently, on June 27, the Daschle-headed Senate broke a long-standing stonewall and passed a defense appropriation bill President Bush had long been demanding, saving back only some antimissile defense system development money Bush, with majority popular support, had demanded, but that, only conditionally.
And, on the same day, the House of Representatives passed, 215-214, an increase in the authorized federal debt ceiling, taking this action one day before estimates from the Treasury Department indicated some government departments would have to start shutting down, the money having run out.
Republicans voted 212-6 in favor of the federal debt ceiling increase; Democrats, having tried to hold the debt ceiling elevation hostage for higher federal spending, voted 206-3 against the proposal; two Independents voted against, while one Independent voted "present," i.e., abstained. The vote on the debt ceiling increase, probably not really that close, had all the earmarks of an orchestrated deal, preserving for Democrats the talking point of trying to hang current increases in deficits on Bush and the Republicans, but making sure the measure passed and the President and other Republican talking heads did not celebrate the Fourth of July Weekend excoriating the Democrats for obstrucrionism.
Leftwing-sycophantic mainstream media reliability is not, since the twlight of Turner-Fonda sinistro CNN and the ascendancy of middle-of-the-road Fox News, nearly what it used to be, and Democrats shied away from an Independence Holiday face-off with the telegenic Bush in the Bully Pulpit.
In the issue-preemption department, the Republican-controlled House, on June 29, passed a measure to provide private-enterprise-based prescription drug benefits to Medicare recipients. Democrats denounced it as insufficiently beneficient and socialistic and all expected a fight in the Democratic-controlled Senate, but the House Republicans had grabbed the headlines on the "compassion" issue just before the July the Fourth Holiday.
It's early days yet, but Democratic campaigners have yet to find a traction topic, and were last reported contemplating trying to hang all lately infamous corporate corruption on Republicans, but facing the fact that political donations from denounced corporations have only predominated in favor of Republicans by a slim margin. Again issue-preempting, the White House pre-heralded Bush plans to spend the holiday denouncing misbehaving corporate miscreants.
For Conservatives and Libertarians fuming as the U.S.A. and the West continue to be threatened by international terrorism, government security measures appear ever more Statist-ominous, the pork trough overflows, et cetera et cetera, there may be some hope in the recent shift of the tread-softly imperative in a Leftward direction.
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