President Bush's armor of invincibility is starting to crack. The president is still infinitely stronger on national defense than any of the nine Democrats running for the White House, but on a growing list of domestic issues, the president is losing his conservative base.In all of this, I keep thinking of John DiIullio, the "Faith-Based Initiative czar" who acrimoniously exited the White House last year, saying all the important policy decisions were being made by the "political strategy" arm of the administration (read: Karl Rove).
Fiscal conservatives are upset about the Medicare expansion as well as the farm bill and a host of other spending extravaganzas. And now another front of criticism is opening up. Karl Rove is picking up his phone to find the Family Research Council and other Christian groups thundering away. The big issue is marriage and whether the president will defend it.
DiIullio's analysis of the difficulties Bush faced in the 2000 election (as well of those of Bush 41 in '92) was incorrect, in my opinion. DiIullio believed that both Bushes would have done better to be even more "centrist," which I think is a risible misreading of the situation. I further suspect DiIullio would see last week's Medicare bill as a positive development in the president's "compassionate conservative" strategy.
Still, from all I know of DiIullio (with whom I share a couple of mutual acquaintances), he is a man of impeccable Christian integrity, and his larger point is worth revisiting: if the administration's is going to implement "policy light" for the sake of political expediency, who will be interested in voting for such an administration a second time?