Bush-Cheney: Worth A Second Look

The thought of casting my presidential ballot for George W. Bush, the son of a president I rejected in 1992 in favor of the dishonest philanderer who now occupies the White House, depresses me. Bush — the man who founded his campaign on “compassionate conservatism,” abandoned that mantra for rabid attacks on Arizona Sen. John McCain in the GOP primaries and later rushed back to the center — clearly has mastered the art of political pandering. Like his father, he lacks conviction, and I value conviction in a leader.

But the thought of casting my ballot for Vice President Al Gore, who is as shifty as Bill Clinton but lacks his boss’ talent for spin and deception, is even less appealing. I also have no inclination to vote for the right- and left-wing extremists in the race (Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan and the Green Party’s Ralph Nader) or, as I did in 1996, to vote for no one out of protest. Life as a non-voter seems so … un-American.

Principled without being dogmatic
All of which leaves me in something of a political pickle. I desperately want to cast a vote for president, but I am troubled by what I see as serious flaws — in character or political views or both — in all of the candidates who have even a remote chance of winning the race. What is a disaffected voter to do?

One answer came to me this week, when Bush tapped Dick Cheney to be his running mate: Vote for the administration, not for the man. In picking the former defense secretary and Wyoming congressman as his vice president — and earlier in raising the possibility of naming former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell to be secretary of state — Bush may have won the votes of political fence-sitters like me.

Cheney, once considered a potential GOP presidential challenger to Clinton in 1996, has shown himself to be a politician worthy of admiration. President George Bush rightly called him “a widely respected man of principle” when he nominated him to be defense secretary in 1989. “He’s a thoughtful man, a quiet man, a strong man — approaches public policy with vigor, determination, and diligence,” the elder Bush said then.


God And Government

Originally published at IntellectualCapital.com
By K. Daniel Glover

To hear Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville tell it, religion and republican government once were inextricably linked in the minds of all Americans. “I do not know whether all Americans have a sincere faith in their religion … but I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions,” he wrote in Democracy in America. “This opinion is not peculiar to a class of citizens or to a party, but it belongs to the whole nation and to every rank of society.”

That was the 1830s. The America de Tocqueville knew may or may not have achieved a consensus on the appropriate intersection between church and state, but that understanding long ago disappeared. Today, Americans take sides on everything from religious mottos and symbols to prayer in school and holiday displays.

Civil libertarians and secularists blame the religious right and others who endorse faith-based government for trying to impose its values and teachings on the nation through schools and other government-funded institutions. The religious-minded, meanwhile, decry the efforts of their foes to “kick God out of the schools” and government, and to corrupt the country with their humanistic and pagan doctrines. More often than not, the courts have to play referee.

But that, says Mark Silk, founding director of the Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College, is simply the way it must be. “Part of the problem [with the church-state debate],” he says, “is that it’s fairly messy, and it does drive people who want things in bright lines and distinct packages. … The court has to kind of do a balancing test.”

Battling for the upper hand
These days, people like Anne Nicol Gaylor, founder and president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, say the pendulum clearly has swung to the advantage of religion. Conservative evangelicals in particular have so much political clout that Gaylor says television stations are reluctant to accept advertising that presents an anti-religious view. And news shows that extended invitations to “free thinkers” like her on a weekly basis in the 1970s now do so no more than once every two months.

“Religion is automatically good,” Gaylor says of the American attitude today. “No one takes a second look. … And those of us who would like to call attention to religion’s shortcomings are pretty effectively squashed. … We’ve been stifled.”