Bush's platform of compassionate conservatism has given way to passionate warmongering
It seems laughable that Bush who is passionate about war and killing Saddam would have compassion for anyone. Of the six points of the compassionate conservative program — retirement accounts, home ownership, education, refundable health-care tax credits, prescription-drug benefits for the elderly, and support for religious charities --- none have seen any real support by Bush.
Bush killed about 100,000 Afghanis and another 600,000 will face starvation next year as a result of the destruction that Bush foisted on these people. The United States is not even going to honor its aid commitment to Afghanistan.
Now Bush is going to kill a lot of Iraqis and probably reignite a war in Korea into which the Chinese will no doubt reenter as well.
The key word in compassionate conservatism is conservatism, as in no compassion.
Thursday, December 26, 2002 - 12:00 a.m. Pacific
Compassionate conservatism slow getting started
By Dana Milbank
As Bush this month announced that the AmeriCorps volunteer program was "expanding mightily," the program disclosed that it had halted enrollment; his proposed expansion of national service has not cleared Congress. That same week, the White House acknowledged that it was unlikely to free from congressional gridlock Bush's "faith-based initiative" to help charities, instead enforcing a limited version of it through executive orders.
Meanwhile, action on major welfare, prescription-drug and disabilities legislation was postponed. Proposals to liberalize immigration were dropped, a plan for health-care tax credits was not pursued, and efforts to expand low-income housing are yet to see the funds Bush sought.
The one major success on the compassion list — education legislation — has become the subject of a budget fight, with Bush proposing only $22 billion of the $28 billion the new law authorized for the current year.
Many reasons for the delays are outside the administration's control. Last year's terrorist attacks put on hold much of the domestic agenda, and Senate Democrats have blocked pieces of Bush's compassion agenda. But several lawmakers and current and former advisers say the Bush White House has not pushed its compassion agenda with the energy and determination that it put behind tax cuts, defense spending and other priorities.
"He has always been rhetorically on the right side of the issue," said Harvard University's Robert Putnam, a professor of public policy who is often consulted often by Bush aides. "They have not yet done nearly enough in practical terms to match the rhetoric."
Putnam said right-wing conservatives trumped compassion-minded aides. "The compassionates win a lot of rhetorical battles," he said, "but when you look where the budget is, it shows hardly a hint of the compassionate."
Marvin Olasky, a conservative academic whose writings helped Bush form his views, said the president has expertly used his appearances to stir public compassion, but without victory in Congress. "I give them an A in terms of President Bush's personal effort in setting the message, and an F in terms of legislation at this point," he said, adding that he gives Bush top marks for regulatory changes.
White House officials say such criticism misses the point. Although many legislative items on Bush's compassion agenda stalled in the past Congress, Bush aides note that he has done much with the bully pulpit — his stirring denunciation of Trent Lott's racially tinged remarks was a powerful example of Bush's inclusive rhetoric — and by making administrative changes. "If you look at what's been enacted, what's been achieved administratively, I think we're 80-plus percent there," said John Bridgeland, a Bush domestic-policy adviser.
Aides say Bush will redouble efforts to enact his compassion agenda, and he now will have the leadership of one of his closest allies on these issues, new Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. They expect Congress will enact Bush policies next year on national service, welfare and disabilities. In his State of the Union address, aides said, he plans to propose a major mentoring initiative for low-income children and hundreds of millions of dollars for a new drug-treatment program.
"The president went out and made education one of the top priorities, and he pushed and he pushed and we were able to get a bill," said Jay Lefkowitz, head of Bush's Domestic Policy Council. "I think we're going to see some of that same kind of effort in some of the key and critical domestic-policy areas in the coming year."
Congressional gridlock undoubtedly has made Bush's job more difficult. Still, the president demonstrated — on everything from tax cuts to homeland security — that Congress would bend to his will. And Bush, busy with economic and anti-terrorism policy, did not put much of his compassion agenda at the top of the legislative list.
"I've seen no push for legislation from the White House," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who sought Bush's help with national-service legislation. After an early expression of support, "we never heard from them again," he said, adding that he would use parliamentary tactics to pass the bill.
Steve Goldsmith, who coordinated the Bush campaign's domestic-policy agenda, listed six policy areas of compassionate conservatism in an April 2000 speech to the Hoover Institution. Of the six — retirement accounts, home ownership, education, refundable health-care tax credits, prescription-drug benefits for the elderly, and support for religious charities — one has seen a true legislative victory.
But that ignores progress on several items, Bush aides say. "We're on the 10-yard line," said Margaret Spellings, Bush's top domestic-policy adviser.
The core of Bush's compassionate conservatism is his "Armies of Compassion" proposal to boost religious and community-service organizations. Bush, as he promised, has established a "faith-based" office in the White House and a "Compassion Capital Fund" to help religious groups access government funds.
But the centerpiece of Bush's effort, a 10-year, $90 billion plan to increase charitable donations by giving deductions to those who don't itemize tax returns, was cut to $6 billion by the House in agreement with the White House, and never passed the Senate. And charities complain that repeal of the estate tax will deprive them of billions of dollars.
"They talked a really good game, but in the end the compassionate part of compassionate conservatism got omitted from the final calculation," Harvard's Putnam said.
The "charitable choice" component of Bush's proposal, which would ease restrictions on religious charities receiving government money, became embroiled in controversy when the White House and House Republicans included provisions that would allow religious charities to avoid laws against hiring discrimination. The bill "bore few marks of 'compassionate conservatism,' " John DiIulio Jr., former head of Bush's "faith-based" office, said in the current issue of Esquire magazine.
Bush's recent executive orders eased restrictions on religious groups but did not attempt to extend "charitable choice" through the government.
In contrast to the "faith-based" bill, Bush's experience on education was a triumph. The White House reached broad consensus on legislation to increase education funding and standards, while freeing schools from many rules and requirements.
Now, however, Democrats say the White House has "gutted education funding," as David Sirota, House Appropriations Committee Democratic spokesman, put it. When GOP moderates complained last month about lack of funds, Bush budget director Mitchell Daniels Jr. criticized the "explosively larger education bill."
"There is a flat-out contradiction between the promise the president has made and the position of his OMB (Office of Management and Budget) director," said William Galston, a University of Maryland professor who was an adviser to former President Clinton.
As with the "faith-based" initiative, action on Bush's national-service initiative has been limited to executive action. He created the USA Freedom Corps to oversee the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps volunteer programs. The new entity, in turn, created a clearinghouse of volunteer-service opportunities and a survey to monitor volunteerism.
But the White House for now has dropped earlier notions to enhance the Freedom Corps by using tax credits or a major scholarship program to boost volunteerism. Larger proposals — expanding AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps — await action. Bush this year opted not to challenge House Republicans who oppose the AmeriCorps. A number of experts say Bush missed a chance to channel the outpouring of patriotism after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks into a broad volunteer effort for homeland security. "What was new and cutting edge disappeared," said Amitai Etzioni of George Washington University.
In a variety of related areas, Bush has made generous requests for funding to fulfill the components of his compassionate-conservative agenda. But relatively few of the requests for funding and legislation have been accepted. Failure to complete fiscal 2003 spending bills has delayed Bush's requests for housing programs, drug treatment, child nutrition, help for prisoners' children and foreign aid.
Some smaller items have become law. Although Bush has not won action encouraging charitable contributions from corporations and IRAs, and he has not pushed his plan to seek state tax credits for anti-poverty donations, he won a permanent extension and increase in the adoption tax credit.
In some areas where legislation has foundered, Bush has taken unilateral action, proceeding with an administrative restructuring of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and implementation of a Supreme Court decision broadening rights of the disabled.
In other areas, the White House backed away from some bold ideas. After sending signals that it would expand guest-worker programs that would allow more immigrants to earn legal status, for example, the administration quietly dropped the idea after the terrorist attacks.
Also, some legislation has not turned out as advertised. When Congress passed a measure pledging more money for nursing training, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said, "the Bush administration has issued what I call a 'call to care.' " But the funds are not in the spending bills. The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, which lobbied for the legislation, said that for now, "it's all just rhetoric."
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