Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

A Third Awakening?

This WaPo article picks up on the religious aspect of a conversation GWB had with conservative journalists, written up by NR’s Rich Lowry here. Get Religion’s David Pulliam offers some perspective here, while the WaPo’s Dan Froomkin tries to stoke the fires of reaction here.

I’ve always thought that GWB was some kind of culture warrior, but not in the most obvious sense. Here’s how I put it a couple of years ago:

Of course, freedom can be abused and must be used responsibly. Thus the Bush presidency’s major domestic theme, first articulated when Bush was Governor of Texas. As he put it, "My dream is to usher in what I call the ’responsibility era’—an era in which each and every Texan understands that we’re responsible for the decisions we make in life; that each of us is responsible for making sure our families come first; that we’re responsible for loving our neighbors as we’d like to be loved ourselves; and that we’re responsible for the communities in which we live." He used virtually identical language in a May 2004 interview, adding that while "[g]overnments cannot change culture, …I can be a voice of cultural change." This ambitious cultural agenda—often expressed in the language of "compassionate conservatism" —is at bottom an effort to roll back the 1960s....

The challenge that the President has faced is how to press his domestic cultural agenda--which he is perfectly capable of articulating in a "merely religious" (and indeed "merely moral"), rather than sectarian way--in the face of the civilizational struggle in which we’re engaged. For some time, it looked as if the focus on national security would put everything else on the back burner. But I think the President is correct in noting, at least implicitly, that understanding our international circumstances in existential terms (as rightly we should) makes us more serious about ourselves as individuals and as a people. The responsibility era (of which he has spoken domestically in some contexts as the "ownership society") can come as a consequence of our long-term struggle with the radical Islamists. That said, there are some things I wish he’d said and done more frequently to encourage us to think in these terms.

Discussions - 1 Comment

In any political struggle, the dangers of the opposition’s politics, and of the opponents, must be made clear to the public.

The horror stories, past, present, and future, must be told.

Individuals and organizations must be named.

Whatever President Bush believes in his heart, and whatever he says, about these issues, he isn’t doing enough if he can’t bring himself to attack.

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