Friday, April 08, 2005

Bush Expectations

Victor Davis Hanson explores why President Bush who has seen remarkable foreign policy successes, especially this year, continues to face approval ratings only around 50%.

Perhaps the wear and tear of being targeted by elites for nearly five years, from Michael Moore to the New York Times, has taken its toll. Or perhaps the casualties from the Iraq war and hysteria over Social Security reform explain the discontent. It is said that the Terri Shiavo matter did not win the president American support either.

Perhaps. But I think the answer lies instead in a strange paradox of George W. Bush and the optimistic prospects he has raised about solving problems of the first order. The President has shown himself so resolute in matters of foreign policy that he has raised the bar of his expected performance on the home front.
But, on the domestic front, there are at least three critical issues that engage Americans Left and Right — and right now Social Security reform, as salutary as it could be, is unfortunately not one of them. In contrast, worry about long-term American financial strength, illegal immigration, and soaring energy prices most surely are.
You see, we are all creatures of the heart as well as of the mind. Thus, at a time of war, we wish for our country to appear as strong financially as it appears militarily, and for our tough president to be backed as much by a respectable dollar as by our singular military.
Similarly, we don't need any more lectures from economists — accurate and commonsensical though they are — that in real dollars a $2.50 gallon of gas is actually cheaper than what we paid in the dark days of the late 1970s during various embargos, or that the present economy is not so dependent on fossil fuels in its postmodern age.

Instead, we are folk of emotion as well as reason, and we simply don't like seeing our gas prices soar while we borrow money to pay billions to illegitimate regimes who recycle those dollars in ways that often hurt the United States. Every time an American fills up at the pump, he is reminded not that it is a good deal compared to prices in Japan or Europe, but that the billons we send abroad for $55-a-barrel oil are insults to our pride as well as to our pocket books — and so we wish it all to stop, pronto.

Everyone from the Wall Street Journal to the National Council of La Raza assures us that open borders offer a cure for the demographic crisis of an affluent West, ensure cheap laborers, and reflect a confident multicultural society. Once again: Perhaps.

But a growing number of Americans simply doesn't like the idea that their laws are not enforced but mocked. They bristle at lectures about national security's not applying to a porous 1,500-mile border. And they go ballistic when a failed Mexican president hectors Americans about how insensitive and callous they are to be concerned about their own sovereignty — and all this from a corrupt government that can neither feed nor house its own people, depends on billions from U.S. worker remittances to stay afloat, and publishes illustrated guides for its emigrating population on how to thwart American laws.

In short, the president's critical strength — his bravery in the face of bitter status-quo invective, his worry more over history's verdict than polls of the hour, and his concern over the honor, rather than the mere happiness, of the American people — is either being untapped or is dissipated here at home.

Brilliant. The magic of the Clinton years for which the Left pines were dominated by good feelings. A strengthening American dollar, cheap oil, stock markets that knew no upside limits and, a President who was so smooth that he made Ronald Reagan (once dubbed the Teflon President) look like Velcro. We felt great then, happy to be rid of the Soviet Union, spending our peace dividend with a President who was so universally popular that a third term would have been a certainty. And we paid no heed to the gathering storm.

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