Monday, June 21, 2004


"Whatever disagreements you may have with President Bush on one issue or another," said Gary Bauer, head of the American Values group, in today's New York Times, "nobody can argue that he hasn't restored honor to the White House."

Another way to say that is that everybody can't argue that Bush has restored honor to the White House, and I would have to count myself among those who can't argue it. Bauer's comment is almost too silly to respond to -- and it would certainly be too tedious and pointless to try to dismantle it completely -- but he surely must be talking only about that particular and peculiar brand of honor practiced by today's conservatives.

For there is a great contingent that feels Bush has dishonored the White House in any number of ways, especially those who feel the president should be honest with his constituents about matters that affect them and do his best for them -- all of them. But this, too, is subjective and unprovable, like Bauer's comment, the point of which was to compare Bush's sober morality with Bill Clinton's easygoing adultery. (Was there something else? Or does the dishonor all come down to dallying with an intern?)

It's better to sidestep the argument entirely, which is made easy by recalling that Clinton was actually more popular than Ronald Reagan by one percentage point, on average, over the course of the two presidents' respective terms (another reference owed to the Times). What this shows is that, while Bush may have "restored honor to the White House," that isn't necessarily the most popular thing, or even the best thing, for America.

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