George W. Bush’s Comparative Compassion

Written by David Corn on . Posted in Breaking News, Posts.

Given that
Washington’s Western European allies (including the nuclear powers of England
and France) had beseeched the Senate to ratify the treaty, that the secretary
general of NATO had urged its passage, and that South Korea and Japan–which
have more to fear than does the United States from North Korea’s reported
attempts to go nuclear–had declared their support for ratification, the
wingnuts were shoving a nuclear-tipped stick into the eyes of Washington’s
strategic partners, as well as Russia, China and others awaiting U.S. acceptance
of the treaty.

The anti-treaty
Republicans could have avoided alienating so many friends abroad by placing
the treaty into a coma. Instead, they pulled the plug and jumped up and down
on the remains. Since the treaty was, in their eyes, an extension of Bill Clinton,
Helms and his gang couldn’t restrain themselves. The Republicans came across
as petulant, adolescent legislators seeking to settle a score with Clinton,
even if that meant telling allies to piss off and nuclear wannabes around the
globe to let ’er rip.

Bush has
to look good in comparison. He, too, condemned the treaty, but without expressing
glee at its demise. His party comrades in Washington, with their nasty ways,
are helping the Governor come across as a different kind of GOPer. His campaign
strategists are probably egging on the congressional Republicans to further
acts of infantilism and spite, which will provide Bush more opportunities to
show he is the un-Gingrich.

Bush began
his separation when he branded himself a "compassionate conservative."
What did that imply about other conservatives? As the presidential campaign
progresses, it’s due time to examine how Bush has served his supposed compassion.
The Houston Chronicle recently reviewed his record as Texas governor
to provide guidance on this front. Though the article did not mention this,
we should remember that the Texas governorship is a constitutionally weak office.
And the Texas legislature that Bush governs meets every other year for only
140 days. That means that in Bush’s five years in office, he has presided
over an in-session legislature for about 400 days–only about one-and-a-half
years’ worth of work.

The Chronicle
scorecard, cooked up by reporter Polly Ross Hughes, selected several policy
areas in which to judge Bush’s compassion: health insurance, immigrants,
abused children, adoption, welfare and the disabled. It found that on several
fronts he’d acted to assist the less fortunate. He signed a bill that would
require insurance companies to treat mental illness more like physical ailments.
He pushed a measure to speed up adoptions. He added $200 million to the state
budget to hire more caseworkers and support staff for agencies handling abused
and neglected children. He also recently announced a state food-aid program
for old and infirm immigrants–people who were cut from the foodstamps program
by the welfare legislation passed by the Republican-controlled Congress in 1996.

But Bush’s
compassion has its limits. He waited several years before initiating the food-aid
project. The money for the child-abuse programs was significant but not sufficient.
"The amount of money was a real big step," said District Judge Scott
McCown, who issued a report on child abuse deaths in Texas. "It’s
not going to solve the problem. It’s not enough. It’s not going to
make Texas a Cadillac agency, but at least you can keep the Chevy running."
Bush called for banning adoptions by gay or single people. When it came to his
own version of welfare reform, W wanted to cut assistance to children if a parent
had a felony drug conviction or refused to work.

Bush also
pushed a draconian measure to impose a lifetime benefits ban on a welfare family
if one of its members was convicted of a felony drug crime. (Several church
groups opposed Bush on welfare legislation, and the state legislature rejected
his get-tough measures.) Last spring, Bush tried to restrict the number of children
covered under a new children’s health insurance program. The Democrats
in the state House of Representatives wanted to include families that earned
up to 200 percent of poverty. Bush fought for 150 percent–and lost. "The
governor tried very hard to make the program serve significantly fewer children
in Texas than we ultimately will serve," said state Rep. Elliott Naishtat,
a Democrat. Critics of Bush in Texas point out he devoted more energy to a bill
granting a tax break to oil companies than he did to the legislation for the
children’s health insurance program. Moreover, Bush initially opposed–but
eventually signed–a bill that ensured children in families moving off welfare
would not be automatically dropped from Medicaid.

compassion is selective. If you’re an abused kid, you might get some attention
from him. If you’re the provider in a low-income family–but not too
low–don’t ask him for help for your children’s health care needs.
(And he has not displayed much compassion for asthma sufferers. Last week, The
Washington Post
vetted his boast that air in Texas is cleaner than when
he assumed office in 1995. "There is statistical evidence," the newspaper
concluded, "that the air in Texas cities is as foul–and perhaps more
so–than when Bush took power.") Bush is no kill-the-state Republican,
which probably does irritate Steve Forbes and the who-cares-about-compassion
conservatives, but he sure is not a champion of comprehensive compassion. Fortunately
for him, given what occurs elsewhere in the GOP, it’s not hard to appear
a saint in that party.

What Is It About Hillary?
Call it the Attack of the Blonde Republicans. In the next few
months, Barbara Olson, Laura Ingraham and Peggy Noonan will be releasing books
on Hillary Rodham Clinton. Olson, a former Capitol Hill aide who became an on-air
Clinton-basher during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, has written Hell To Pay:
The Unfolding Story of Hillary Rodham Clinton, which is being published by Regnery,
a conservative house that most recently brought us Pat Buchanan’s soft-on-Hitler-before-1941
tract. Olson’s book jacket promises a depiction of "the real Hillary
Clinton–a woman whose lust for power surpasses even that of her husband."
(Past law firm and congressional colleagues of Olson note that the author is
a woman not unfamiliar with such lust.) Ingraham is crashing on The Hillary
Trap: Looking for Power in All the Right Places, which she says is a portrait,
not a biography, showing HRC as "a symbol of where women are today, of
the conflicts that animate women’s lives on a professional and personal
level." Hillary as Everywoman? As if being the yuppie-helpmate to a scoundrel
pol is emblematic of anything.

the former Reagan and Bush speechwriter, is producing The Case Against Hillary
. Noonan’s editor at the Judith Regan imprint of HarperCollins
told The Washington Post, "It’s not a biography or journalistic
piece, per se. She looks at the record and raises a lot of serious questions."
No answers? Haven’t all the serious questions about Lady Clinton already
been raised?

Other Hillary
books are growing within the computers of biographer/amateur shrink Gail Sheehy
and former Watergate muckster Carl Bernstein. But the Olson, Ingraham and Noonan
volumes are likely to continue the right’s vendetta against the First Victim.
Regular readers know this column is not friendly turf for Hillary Clinton. My
wish is that she and her costar in our national soap opera depart the stage
in January 2001. Still, even as a non-apologist for Hillary, I cannot fathom
the obsession and hatred that the conservatives have for the woman. In right-wing
circles she is scorned as a closet commie who is the real power behind Clinton,
an idealistic and ideological radical in the wings, waiting for the moment when
she can grab power and impose Mao-like social engineering schemes upon the citizenry.

the evidence? She has been as pragmatic–to be polite about it–as her
husband. When she had her chance to create a comprehensive health care plan,
she devised a Rube Goldberg program designed foremost not to alienate or antagonize
the business community. Can’t pass a plan in Congress if the business lobbyists
are against it, her aides repeatedly told people throughout Washington. It didn’t
work. No one could understand her proposal, and corporate America still shot
her the finger. Hillary stood by her man as he signed the GOP’s welfare
bill, broke with labor on NAFTA, did little regarding global warming and engaged
in campaign fundraising that defied good taste and decency, as well as the spirit
of campaign finance reform law. She reenlisted consultant Dick Morris–the
anti-idealist–for the Clinton cause after the Republicans dethroned the
Democrats in Congress in 1994. Her pre-White House endeavors at the Rose Law
Firm in Little Rock, her involvement in the Whitewater deal and her suspicious
$100,000-from-$1000 commodities deal illustrate she is no profit-averse lefty
antipathetic to the market and free enterprise. Even when the truth emerged
about Bill’s internphilia, Hillary was not a gung ho defender. She not-too-subtly
advertised her distance. So far, in her all-but-announced Senate campaign, she
has separated herself from Bill by denouncing the clemency offer for the jailed
Puerto Rican nationalists, by declaring her support for Jerusalem as the capital
of Israel and by urging more federal funds for teaching hospitals in New York.
These are not the positions of a wild-eyed, ideologically rigid leftist.

has shown as much flexibility as her partner. Yet many on the right still picture
her as a closet revolutionary coming for your children. There is something about
HRC that drives conservatives crazy–which is almost a reason to toss a
contribution into her carpetbag.