Let me preface this by saying that there are many areas where conservatives believe that President Bush has disappointed them. The debate over McCain-Kennedy comprehensive “immigration reform” is the most recent example of this perceived apostasy, and it’s a great example of how tone-deaf the administration has become lately. We are also annoyed with the massive increases in federal spending that the President allowed to pass his desk. To some conservatives, there is a long list of Dubya’s sins, real and imagined, and they are ready to move on from this President. Our reasons are different than those of the Democrats. While acknowledging that he should be given all of the credit for his SCOTUS picks and some of the credit for our strong economy, we still find him lacking in other areas. Some of the criticism is unfair in this way: He never ran as a fiscal conservative. He was always supportive of making it easier for illegal immigrants to come here. We voted for the President, not because of these things, but because of Iraq and because we wanted conservative judges on the Supreme Court.
Bill Kristol believes that President Bush will be judged as a successful president. His argument almost convinces me, but even though I know that there have been some successes with the surge strategy, I’m just not buying his optimism on Iraq. He says that in order for a war president to be judged a success, the war has to be won. Many of us are discouraged with Iraq. Maybe we are buying in too deeply to what the MSM is selling. Maybe we are just being realistic about the obstacles the administration is facing in continuing the surge and trying to improve the conditions on the ground in Iraq. In either case, it’s an uphill battle to keep the Republicans from defecting to the Democratic side on the war, and it’s a continuing struggle to keep the impatience of the American people with the progress of this war from forcing those defections from those standing for re-election next time. I’m not rooting against the President. I want him to succeed, not because it validates me, or neocons, or because he would have a better legacy. I want Iraq to succeed because that would mean the terrorists and insurgents have failed there.
Maybe we are asking for too much in our presidents and in our presidential candidates. After all, none of the Republican presidential candidates currently in the field are as committed to reducing the size of the federal government as the average conservative is. They don’t have any new ideas on Iraq, Iran, or North Korea, and they would not implement anything different from what Bush has done so far. On the other hand, Romney, Giuliani, and Fred are all better communicators than President Bush. Romney is probably the weakest of the three because of his tendency to sound wonkish when discussing anything. All I’m saying is that if conservatives intend to vote for a Republican for President in ’08 (rather than sitting the election out and giving the election to Hillary by default), that means that we will have to settle for someone who doesn’t fit everything we want. And that includes FRED.