Thanks to a link from Wil Wheaton, I discovered Andrew Sullivan‘s blog. He’s a conservative, so I don’t always agree with him, but I find myself agreeing more than I would’ve expected. Whether I agree or not, his views are intelligent and logical. In reading his blog, I came across an article he wrote for the January 26, 2004 issue of Time. It’s called “Nanny-In-Chief: Bush versus Freedom”.
I’ve written extensively about my displeasure with President Bush and his presidency. There are instances where I believe he is attacked unjustly, or at least for the wrong reasons, but Andrew Sullivan’s article is a brilliant synopsis of President Bush’s agenda and its flaws. Consider:
There’s barely a speech by president Bush that doesn’t cite the glories of human freedom. It’s God’s gift to mankind, he believes. And in some ways, this president has clearly expanded it: the people of Afghanistan and Iraq now enjoy liberties unimaginable only a few years ago. But there’s a strange exception to this Bush doctrine: it ends when you reach America’s shores. Within the United States, the Bush administration has shown an unusually hostile attitude toward the exercise of personal freedom. When your individual choices conflict with what the Bush people think is good for you, they’ve been only too happy to intervene. The government, Bush clearly believes, has a right to be involved in many personal decisions individuals make – punishing some, encouraging others, nudging and prodding the public to live the good life as the president understands it. The nanny-state, much loved by Democrats, is now thriving under Republicans.
I recently heard Bill O’Reilly say that America has the decision of which view of personal liberty to support and promote: secular or morality-based. Obviously, he wants a moral minimum for the country, while I believe that a secular view, based on separation of church and state, is best. Anarchy will not result from either, but freedom is extended to everyone under my ideal.
Mr. Sullivan continues with this:
The president is proud of his big government moralism. As he put it in his first State of the Union, “Values are important, so we have tripled funding for character education to teach our children not only reading and writing, but right from wrong.” Sounds inoffensive enough. But who exactly determines what is right and what is wrong? Churches? Synagogues? Parents? Teachers? Nah. The federal government.
Again, President Bush is attempting to have the federal government parent our children. Parents don’t know enough or may not believe the right things, so Congress and the President (but not the activist judges) will do the job properly. This is wrong.
While Mr. Sullivan’s article loses compelling force near the end, he finishes with a succinct flourish.
There has always been a tension in conservatism between those who favor more liberty and those who want more morality. But what’s indisputable is that Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” is a move toward the latter – the use of the government to impose and subsidize certain morals over others. He is fusing big government liberalism with religious right moralism. It’s the nanny-state with more cash. Your cash, that is. And their morals.
That’s not a fair trade for me. Others may disagree, but it gets back to the dual edge of freedom. You get freedom, but so do I. Anything short of that isn’t freedom.