One of the early Daily Shows with John Stewart, set up a mock debate between Governor Bush, the candidate running for president, and President Bush. It's a wonderfully funny bit comparing what he said then and says now.
It makes my point about campaign rhetoric not being a predictor for future action.
And it makes me wonder how the word "compassionate" came to be connected with his brand of conservatism. Does anybody know when it began? Who started it?
For a fact, it's in his presidential biography. It was quoted in his first campaign for president in 2000.
Whether it was Rove or Bush that gave us that spin on Bush's conservatism, most of us bought it. Since then we've seen that it was just words, truly a spin. A more harsh interpretation would be that it was a lie.
Remember Lee Atwater? How ruthless he was? How harsh? How his words were so well chosen that they drilled their message into the hearts of the intended victims but sailed by everyone else?
Did you know that Bush was good friends with Atwater and worked across the hall from him during his father's campaign for president? He learned from and repeatedly endorsed Atwater's tactics and practices. One of Atwater's lessons was repetition. Repeat a key phrase or idea from a variety of sources and people's disbelief will slowly deteriorate.
Having been in that business and known the players - including Atwater - it's hard to be compassionate to Bush regarding his and other's repeated use of the term "compassionate." I see it as nothing other than a ploy to rename his conservatism and favoritism of the wealthy. I see it as the tactical lie that it was then and the really BIG lie that it has proven to be now. And I don't feel that I'm naive in this belief because I knew Atwater and felt the blows of his attacks and the pain of his victories. It was good training for Bush and there's no doubt that he was a quick and thorough learner.
Atwater came to recant what he had done.
In a February 1991 article for Life Magazine, Atwater wrote:
My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The '80s were about acquiring -- acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn't I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn't I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don't know who will lead us through the '90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul.
It took a fatal brain tumor to elicit Atwater's poignent repentence. I don't see anything short of that which could shake President Bush's repeated lie that he is a compassionate conservative when all his actions say otherwise.
PS: MoveOn.org is distributing a petition to not nuke Iran. It's not that far-fetched.