Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Is Bush a President or an activist?

George W. Bush has used the Presidential veto for the first time in his Presidency to block a bill to lift the ban on federal funding for stem cell research. Rather than act as the leader of the US people, the majority of whom back the research which could help find cures for serious illnesses, Bush chooses instead to act in accord with a narrow ideological agenda.

Let me be clear that I've never liked the personal abuse of Bush. There's a lot about his policies and actions as well as about the way he came to power that one can quite legitimately criticise him for. Attacking him for being seemingly thick, incoherent or for passing out while choking on a pretzel devalues such criticisms. (Nor do I think Bush is as dumb as his detractors like to claim. He very much fits in with the US desire to believe their President is like them, one of the ordinary folk. How many of the masses at large would avoid the gaffes Bush came out with if they had the same exposure and pressure?) But what I really don't like is the way Bush has brought a religious zeal into politics (and here was ignorant old me thinking the US has a constitutional division between religion and state!), seeking to enact policies in line with a narrow sect of opinion rather than with the needs and wishes of the many. This is not a case of a President taking a lead - this is a man responding to one of the most disgusting elements in US politics. The statesmanly approach would have been to ignore the clarion calls and sign the bill into law. Instead Bush shows himself to be ever more a weak leader.

5 comments:

the dúnadan said...

Actually, George Bush has shown himself to be a strong leader by refusing to sign this bill into law. He is not elected to be a weak leader and pander to the wishes of the majority. He is elected President to take the decisions that he understands are right and good for his country, whether they are widely supported or not. That is what all good leaders do. In certain cases, they may be wrong to ignore what people are saying, but being wrong is not the same as being weak.

I was listening to a report on this subject on the World Service this morning and the reporter said that Bush had been consistent in his opposition to stem cell research since - and he mentioned 2001. That means Americans, even if they didn't know what he stood for when they elected him the first time in 2000 must have done when they re-elected him in 2004. However, the reporter added that this was not even an issue about which Americans have a great concern for. If that is the case, so much for the clarion calls. Presumably they came from within Congress - somehwere with a narrow ideological agenda, if ever there was one.

Bush can be blamed for many things, but I don't think bringing religious zeal into politics is one of them. It has always been there. Just as secular zeal has been - most noticably, I would suggest, in Spain. So if secularism can be zealous, why not religion. The important issue is not whether people are zealous or not but how they act upon that zeal if, say, the result goes against them.

Paul Burgin said...

The strange thing is that the UK is more secular in practise and yet we have a tie between the Anglican Church and the State!

El Tom said...

Ah tim, you're so 'one nation'...

Richard said...

He very much fits in with the US desire to believe their President is like them, one of the ordinary folk.
Except for the fact that he comes from one of the most powerful US political dynasties since the Kennedys. His brother is Governor of Florida, his father was President of the United States, Vice President, and Director of the CIA, and his grandfather was a Senator from Connecticut.

Tim Roll-Pickering said...

All true, but there's nothing new in the US about candidates presenting themselves as humbler than they really are. Look at the way most of the mid 19th century Presidents made such a big thing of being born in a log cabin. Or look at the UK and see how Anthony Wedgewood-Benn shed half his name and ceased to acknowledge his public school background. Or John Major, whose upbringing was a bit posher than "the boy from Brixton" tag suggests. Or the way Margaret Thatcher went from being the wife of a millionaire and daughter of an Alderman to being the "grocer's daughter". Or Harold Wilson's claims to have walked to school barefoot.

Ultimately whether or not Bush really is "one of the folk" doesn't matter much now (especially as he's reaching his term limit). Bush has somehow managed to come across as a bit more of an ordinary middle American that is sufficient for the voters to believe he is "one of them". In the same way the US still likes to think all its foreign policy is moral!

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