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Bush embraces politics, abandons principle

By Charles Bloomer
web posted March 25, 2002

It has taken fourteen months, but President George W. Bush as finally succumbed to the beltway method of decision-making. While he is to be admired for his principled approach to foreign policy in general, and for the war on terrorism specifically, he is apparently yielding to his political advisors on domestic policy.

George W. BushThe President has announced that he will sign the campaign finance reform bill that was recently passed by congress, despite his acknowledgement that the bill is "flawed". Not only is the bill "flawed", it violates President Bush's own principles regarding campaign finance. According to the White House website, the president sent a letter to Senator Trent Lott in March 2001, outlining the principles of reform that the president wanted included in any bill sent to him. First on the list is "Protect Rights of Individuals to Participate in Democracy: President Bush believes democracy is first and foremost about the rights of individuals to express their views". To achieve this protection, the president supported "updating the limits...on individual giving to candidates and national parties" and "protecting the rights of citizen groups to engage in issue advocacy". Additionally, the president's principles were to "Promote Fair, Balanced, Constitutional Approach" that should not favor "incumbents over challengers".

Even before the March 2001 letter to Senator Lott, President Bush had clearly stated during his presidential campaign that he felt the president had "a duty to make an independent judgment of what is and what is not constitutional, and veto bills...he thinks are unconstitutional". When asked by a television interviewer, he stated he would veto the Shays/Meehan bill.

How can President Bush rationalize signing the McCain/Feingold/Shays/Meehan brand of finance reform when it obviously violates these important principles? What would motivate the president to sign a bill that is blatantly unconstitutional, that severely inhibits the rights of individuals to express their views, that curtails the rights of citizen to engage in issue advocacy, that tilts the balance of campaign regulations to the favor of incumbents at the expense of challengers? Why is the president willing to sell out his principles on this issue?

This is what happens when a president heeds the advice of his political advisors instead of listening to his own intuition. Political advisors are more concerned about the appearance of an issue, not the merits. These people are more concerned about what will be said by the likes of the Washington Post, the New York Times, and other "inside the beltway" pundits. They are telling the president not to expend any "political capital" by vetoing the campaign finance bill. "Don't worry," they say, "You can't lose. You defuse any potential criticism, and the Supreme Court will strike it down, anyway."

But the advice the president is getting is even more flawed that the campaign finance reform bill. There are people in this country that believe in principles over politics, substance over style. There are people in this country that believe in integrity and honesty. There are people, mostly living outside the beltway, that are offended and insulted by the political machinations that taint the government workings in Washington.

"I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and will to the best if my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." That is the constitutionally mandated oath of office that President Bush took when he became president. Preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution includes protecting the free speech guarantee of the First Amendment.

If the president wishes to retain his reputation as an honest man, as a man that can keep his word, as a man guided by principles not politics, he must veto the campaign finance reform bill. Immediately after vetoing the bill, he should fire all his political advisors. Otherwise, he will be perceived as just another scheming politician who is willing to shred the Constitution to gain a little "political capital".

Charles Bloomer is a Senior Writer for Enter Stage Right. He can be contacted at clbloomer@enterstageright.com. © 2002 Charles Bloomer

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