Why I Support President Bush

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A friend writes:

I do wonder about your support for Bush, however. You are a Republican on ideological grounds, but I feel that Bush has done a fairly poor job of executing Republican ideology. Why do you support him? Maybe it is a "lesser of two evils" type of support, but your posts don't seem to have that tone. Anyways...just wondering.

Here is my slightly edited response:

I think this is a misleading description of why I support him. I've commented somewhat on this in a few blog entries, but I'm not sure I've expressed all my reasons for supporting him.

My reasons for being a Republican are mostly because Republicans tend to cater more to the issues I think are most important that I agree with them on than Democrats do. [I should say that this post shows why I'm as tentative on this as I am. Update: my links changed, and the link went dead, but I may have meant this post.] The only reason I'm in a party is so I can vote in a primary. It's purely pragmatic. I don't think I'd accept a political alliance with a worldly entity if I didn't think it would at least slightly increase the influence of my vote. My parents have always been independents, and I was too until I realized that I had the opportunity to vote in the NH primary in 1996. I later found out NH doesn't require that, but NY does.

First of all, I just like Bush as a person. He seems to be a genuine Christian believer, something I don't think has been true of most presidents. That will tend to increase the likelihood that he values the same things I do, at least on fundamental issues. He also just seems like a nice person who understands the average person, not because he's ever been one in terms of finances, but because he's not a lifetime politician but someone who spent most of his life being concerned more about the kinds of things most non-politicians care about. I don't think he's stupid, though he's no intellectual and isn't interested in issues for their own sake. Sometimes that's refreshing, though.

As for his views, I think I agree with him more than not, and often I'm agreeing with him more than I agree with other Republicans. He genuinely seems opposed to abortion. I don't think abortion is classifiable as murder, since that's a legal term, but I do think it's morally equivalent to murder in most cases, with some qualifications that aren't the usual ones. A recent post, I think, made some of those qualifications. [Update: Again, I'm not sure which post I originally linked to, but it may have been this one.] Republicans tend to agree with me on this, and I think it's one of the most awful sins of our time. (Divorce is the other that comes to mind, but I'm not sure that's in the same category, since it doesn't involve killing or even physical violence but just psychological violence. I do think tighter laws on no-fault divorce would be a good thing, but I'm not sure how far I'd go with it.)

I think Democrats have all the wrong views on race issues, despite some of them having their hearts in the right place, with Republicans tending to have no views or better views for the wrong reasons. I think Bush's background and family have opened him up to these issues more than even most Democrats, and his cabinet has reflected ethnic diversity more than any other without generally sacrificing on the quality of his people. This seems to me to be the right strategy. I haven't studied the details of his immigration policy, but there are things I like about it if it's done right. Sam doesn't even like it, but I really think he's onto something here, and I think he's basing the policy on a genuinely Christian value.

I think full-blown libertarianism is moral wimpiness (believing privately that things might be wrong but not being willing to have laws about them). It's a way to hold conservative views without embarassing yourself about it. I wonder if something similar goes on even with the economic conservatism of some Republicans. I tend to have mixed feelings about economic conservatism vs. social justice. I think Republicans tend to have the right views on the most efficient way to run a government, serving some of the most important interests of the people. However, I also think it's the government's responsibility to promote social justice. I'm not sure most government ways of doing it are the best, but at least Democrats tend to better in terms of the basis of their policies. I think the Bush Administration's compassionate conservatism tends to have better ways of achieving social justice goals than Democrats have done in the past. The spending is way too much right now, partly because he refuses to veto anything out of the fear of people criticizing him for hurting people by not funding everything Congress passes, but this really is an issue of a lesser of two evils. The Democratic candidates' proposed budgets are much higher, and this is allowing for the tax cuts they've proposed to offset that a little. I had a post about this a while back. Add to that the fact that I like the things he's spending money on more, and there's an easy answer who I like better on this issue.

On defense and terrorism issues, there's no doubt in my mind that I'd prefer him to any of the Democratic candidates, even with some of the worries raised against how he's done some things. I think the Iraq invasion can be defended within traditional just war theory, suitably modified in plausible ways for a terrorism WMD generation, and I think the evidence David Kay has found (which doesn't amount to no WMD being found but just no large quantities) is enough to justify self-defense, particularly given that the Clinton Administration agreed (and Clinton still does last I heard, which was some time in 2004). I'm more inclined to defend the humanitarian aid reasoning anyway, something more and more confirmed as a good reason as time has gone on, and the general problem with that approach had to do with legitimate authority, which I think can be explained given the U.N. incompetence and corruption before the war, at least among the nations relevant to giving the ok for this operation. The next highest authority level would be the individual nations willing to do what's necessary to enforce the resolution, which is exactly how Tony Blair defended it.

I hope that should clear up some of the reasons why I support Bush, not quite whole-heartedly but closer to that than simply a lesser-of-two-evils basis. Some of the main complaints about him from conservatives don't move me as much, because I tend to agree with him more than them on many of them. There are probably other issues that affect this that I'm not thinking of right now, but this probably shows which issues are more important to me at the moment of writing it, though that's also affected by which ones are being talked about more at the moment and are fresh in my memory.

[I didn't think to include this in my original reply, but I also think character is an issue. With some exceptions, I think the slate of Democratic candidates has been pretty poor in this area. Dean, Clark, and Kerry are probably the worst of the bunch. People have raised questions about Bush, but I think most of them had fairly easy responses, some were about things from before his surrender to Christ, and a few were unsubstantiated rumors with no more support than the adultery charges against Kerry. The ones that remain at best aren't clearly character issues or aren't clearly true, though there might be some evidence there. What remains is still better in terms of character than the primary opposition, and together with the other issues he comes out way ahead.]

11 Comments

One thing,

"He seems to be a genuine Christian believer"

I once saw Bush in an interview where the interviewer asked him to describe a recent death-row inmate and what transpired with the appeal for a stay of execution. Bush mocked the person (who he didn't give a stay) and said, "oh, please don't kill me!" while waving his arms around, and then he shared a laugh with the interviewer. This seemed to indicate to me a certain callousness and disregard for human life and a lack of realization of the seriousness of what occured. Also, as far as being a Christian, Bush, as a rich man, who says that Christ is his favorite political philosopher, should be far more giving to charity, since a rich man has as much of a chance of getting into heaven as a camel has of passing through the eye of a needle. Also, Bush's tax plan seems to favor the rich and not benefit the poor (but, hey, maybe he really believes that trickle-down stuff). Bush's foreign policy also seems anything but informed by Christian morals. Alright, peace out!

First of all, no Christian has ever claimed to embody Christ's teachings or the mind and heart of God even remotely adequately. Lots of people genuinely follow Christ and yet don't reflect that in everything they do. I've wrestled with questions about some Christians not seeming very nice and some non-Christians seeming quite good in comparison, and yet Christians believe that the Holy Spirit of God is at work in Christians to transform them into the image of Christ, which should show in their value system and their actions. I think it's a mistake to see the ways this hasn't happened yet as clear evidence that someone isn't a genuine believer, because they way this happens is a process from a starting point. George Bush, as far as I can tell, was a rebel against God for most of his life, and it's only been something like 15 years maybe that he's been seriously seeking God. He's changed quite a bit in that time, which is why I think he's quite serious about his Christianity.

As for the interview, I'd need to see it to judge for myself. I'd also be interested to know if he went on to say anything else or if that was all he said.

The rich man/eye of needle point isn't about how much someone gives to charity. It's about how hard it is for someone with more resources to see one's whole life as devoted to God and to see one's whole set of material resources as much belonging to God as any abilities one has, which is more the struggle with people without as much material wealth. I don't know how he thinks about any of those issues, but the facts about how much he donates to visible charities is only a piece of all that.

I think he really does believe the trickle-down stuff. I certainly do. I think conservatives have basically won the argument on this. The liberal criticism of Bush's policies is no longer that tax cuts don't accomplish what conservatives say they accomplish. It's over the details of the best way to make the trickle-down policies work and over what other steps need to happen to cover the things trickle-down policies don't cover. All the Democratic candidates (except maybe Kucinich and Sharpton) have taken this sort of attitude, and I've seen it as pretty much conceding the major point to the Reagan view. As I said in the post, I think Christian conservatism needs to focus on other social justice issues, but I think he's done that, receiving the condemnation of traditional conservatives. I'm not sure I agree with all the details of how he's done it or the amount of total spending he's been willing to allow (by not vetoing anything), but the general outlook seems right to me and not just consistent with Christian values but flowing directly out of them.

As for foreign policy, I think I've addressed that in my comments on the war, but I should say one or two things. It's true that Christ spoke with people about what to do when an individual has harmed you as an individual and taken advantage of you. Responding in kind is revenge, not justice. He never says anything about self-defense or coming to the aid of another, something Christians pacifists ignore. Also, he says he's the fulfillment of the Torah, and not any jot or tittle of the Torah will pass away. The Torah includes instructions for divinely-ordained war and for capital punishment, both of which pacifists oppose. I can't see Christian pacifism as a legitimate view, therefore. I don't know if that was what you were getting at, but I don't see it fitting with the entirety of what Jesus says.

Second, the other common claim that's made is that war (or the kind of war we engaged in with Iraq) doesn't stem from loving your enemy. I think that's both false and stemming from a simplistic view. The simplistic view is that loving your enemy is the only relevant moral imperative. There's also the biblical view that it's a government's responsibility to seek justice and to punish evildoers. This is throughout the Torah, the prophets, and the New Testament epistles (most notably Romans 13 and I Peter 3). This is in fact Paul's explicit justification for submitting to an evil governement that persecutes Christians. They're legitimately constituted and put in place by God to administer justice, and even if some of what they do is not just it's not the Christian's place to rebel against them. Implicit in all that is the government's responsibility to care for the downtrodden (as emphasized throughout the Torah and prophets) and to punish those who trod on the downtrodden. I think President Bush sees that as one of the primary justifications for the Iraq invasion.

As for whether it's consistent with loving our enemies, I think it is. We took great care to try to carry out this conflict in as just as way as possible. The other side's tactics made this more difficult, and sometimes people made huge mistakes (though I know many of them were at least understandable mistakes). It certainly involved loving the people of Iraq, though. The whole goal was to secure a just peace in Iraq, and that's proved more somewhat difficult than he had imagined, but it's come a long way, and he's committed to finishing the job.

As for foreign policy in relating to other nations, most of the nations he hasn't been as friendly with have been ones who were enabling an evil dictator and even told him that it couldn't come to war no matter what (and it turns out in some cases have even taken bribes from him, though we didn't know that at the time). I'm not sure how standing up to moral spinelessness is inconsistent with loving someone.

Jeremy, I think you will beat me on this stuff just out of pure weariness on my part. And I thought I was a graphophile! Some good stuff on clearing up a few things w/scripture, but I would contest quite a bit about Bush's domestic/foreign policy--although this would go on too long. Damn--get to your dissertation, and take some of the load off me! :)

Something which impresses me about Bush is that he actually does what he says he's going to do. That's something you can't count on from most politicians, least of all the Democrats.

Well, that's not entirely true. He ran on no nation-building, and then he engaged in it, but his whole foreign policy had to undergo a serious rethinking once 9-11 hit, so at least there's an explanation there. He's also changed his policies on protectionism, but that was after he saw some hard data that showed protectionism to be harmful to American jobs and NAFTA as actually leading to more American jobs (because of companies like Toyota producing most of their vehicles in this country).

It will remain to be seen (assuming he gets re-elected, which I think is still more likely than not) whether he will balance the budget as he's saying he'll do. He's been allowing far more spending than would make it easy.

Congress hasn't allowed some of what he wanted to do, but he has made attempts to do most of the things he ran on, with the full changes in view as notable exceptions.

I know I've seen other criticisms on this matter, but I can't remember what they are. One was just the general lack of fiscal conservatism he's had, but I don't remember if it was clear he was running on that. Compassionate conservatism involves throwing government money at some things but doing it in more conservative ways or according to more conservative values, and that was clearly the backbone of his campaign.

Josh Claybourn has an interview with Marvin Olasky (of World Magazine, which I don't always agree with), and this excerpt expresses my thoughts quite well:

I'm against the Social Darwinist wing of the GOP (ignore the poor), so if the Democratic Party wasn't sold out to abortion I could be swayed to vote that way at times. In general, though, compassionate conservatism is biblical, and a foreign policy that realizes we live in an evil world is also biblical, so I don't see an overall conflict of faith with my general support for Pres. Bush. Maybe I should be pushing for more, but I don't expect any semi-miraculous transformations of life through politics: it's a fallen world and will remain that way, until Christ returns.

I disagree with Olasky on many of the details, but that's about what I've been trying to say.

I'll post this here for now, since someone is calling out to me... I'm not sure where else to put it right now.

I was in Carousel Mall earlier, with some people. I saw a sign that if you are under 18, that you have to be accompanied, by an adult, etc. I was asked why, and I mentioned the problems that used to be there ... shoplifting, thugs in the parking lot, high schoolers getting in to fight.

The answer I was given ... "Well, you can thank Bush for that." "Its all Bush. He cut social services, so what do you expect ?"

What do you think ?

- Raj

I believe the Carousel Mall policy was instituted by the current mayor, who is a Democrat. Those problems had been around long before Bush, so I think it's just the usual ignorance without any sense of a direction that becomes directed against Bush, since any stick is good enough to beat him with.

Right... but thats just an example - the Carousel Mall problem.

The general problem is that social services have suffered a cut.

I'm no economist(!), but I think that these cuts stemmed from his trickle-down economic policies. I was just talking to a person in Starbucks. He told me ~ (paraphrasing) "Since you are not going to tax the upper income folks, the money that you wont get through this venue, will have to be made up somewhere else - and where ?" By cutting social services.

TDE & Human Nature:

Here's a thought w/ trickle-down economics(TDE) -which I have only just started studying. It seems that one of the tenets of TDE is giving tax-breaks to 1. Rich folks and 2. Rich corporations - who will reinvest in the economy.

The problem I have is with (1). TDE has to presume that at rock bottom, human beings are good. However they are not. So, I see no reason to suppose that rich folks will reinvest in the economy, because they are genuinely concerned for the poor or the bettering of the economy.

God Bless,
Raj
"From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth." ~Psalm 50v.2

P.S. Incidentally, the client that I am currenltly on project for (AIG) out in Delaware is in deep kaka. They might be the next Enron.

The problem with this argument is that trickle-down economics has been shown to work in some ways. Cutting taxes does put a boost to the economy. The only thing people are debating now is whether it also adds jobs. That the debate rests there shows that conservatives have won the original argument on this issue.

Cutting programs is much more complex. For one thing, any balancing of the budget requires that. If there's anything to complain about with Bush on this issue, it's that he spends too much, not that he cuts too much. Most of the programs need to be cut anyway, so they can scale back and learn to do their job rather than relying on a fat paycheck while not benefiting the people intended to benefit. I've spent enough time with social work programs to know that there's a ridiculous amount of red tape, and many of the people receiving the benefits are irresponsible parents, able to afford really expensive clothes and cell phones while able to make themselves look poor on paper.

From my observations of people and their interactions with others and their own kids, I'd guess that fewer than 50% of the people in the WIC office when we go there seem to me to be the type who really need it and are responsible enough to use it wisely. I know of one person who didn't even raise her own biological daughter who used to take her daughter to get the WIC checks so she could get free food and then returned her daughter to the people who have been raising her for years. WIC checks require that you buy everything on the check, even if you don't use it, so you can buy the eggs, milk, and juice and waste the milk and eggs, or you can refrain from using it. We'd use the juice and some of the eggs but not all the milk, and it would waste tax money to use it all, so we don't. I'm sure many people don't care. I also make sure to buy the cheapest stuff I can to save the government money, but I'm sure many people try to milk it for all it's worth. A critical mind can easily see all the waste to a lot of the programs. Just cutting them isn't the answer, but opposing cuts to them as if there's something sacred about the exact level of money they need to get is pretty silly.

The thing that really seems wrong about this argument, though, is that crime might be the result of government cuts to social programs. The social programs are supposed to get people on their feet so they can earn a living. If the people who are supposed to be helped thus have become so dependent on the programs that they have to steal to survive, then the programs are at fault, not the removal of them. If it leads to an attitude among the youth of families who receive these benefits, then that again reflects badly on the programs and not on those who cut their funding.

Don't get me wrong here. I think the government has a responsibility to see justice is done, and one kind of injustice is dealing with those who have been marginalized or prevented from living a fruitful life. I just don't think many of the people in these programs are in that condition, and the ones who do can be as easily harmed by the programs as helped by them, depending on how it's done, not to mention that much money is wasted in government programs just because they have incompetent people making decisions, often by committee, that any critical eye can see is wasteful.

Bush is doing more good for america than any wrong..Do you want September 11 2001 to happen again? No, neither do I...Let president bush do what he has to do...Since he has been in office, Sadaam Has be captured, Irag is becoming a better place(school,hospitals etc)...The people who go in the miltary know what is expected of them...They make the decesion to fight for our country...America wake up and stop whinning...Don't put the blame of your problems on 1 man...you don't have a job---its not Bush's fault is yours...President Bush and His dad has done more than Clinton...America needs to get reality and do their parts as well...Bush is doing the best he can(he is one person) it takes more than the president to make this place better...Irag is not done and we need to try to prevent 9/11 from happening again...Look at all the good Bush has done instead just seeing the mistakes...I don't see "you" doing a job as hard as his...I SUPPORT BUSH!!!! He is doing a good job and we got to have faith..

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