Is compassionate conservatism (a) a genuine governing philosophy or (b) merely a clever sound bite?
Five years later, we know that the answer is (b).
In practice, Bush has taken the most self-serving aspect of modern liberalism (its instinct to buy public support with massive government handouts) and fused it with the most self-serving aspect of modern conservatism (its instinct to buy support with massive tax cuts).
The president’s “argument” for her amounts to: Trust me.
There is no reason to, for several reasons.
He has neither the inclination nor the ability to make sophisticated judgments about competing approaches to construing the Constitution. Few presidents acquire such abilities in the course of their pre-presidential careers, and this president particularly is not disposed to such reflections.
In addition, the president has forfeited his right to be trusted as a custodian of the Constitution. The forfeiture occurred March 27, 2002, when, in a private act betokening an uneasy conscience, he signed the McCain-Feingold law expanding government regulation of the timing, quantity and content of political speech.
Of course, a lot of folks may not agree with Mr. Will that the McCain-Feingold law is an unconstitutional abridgement of political speech; rather, many see it as a (flawed) attempt to release political speech from rope of big money that has been slowly garrotting it for years. Those same folks, though, might look at the secretiveness and disdain for civil liberties shown by the current Federal Administration and draw the same conclusion:
The current Federal Administration has little respect for the Constitution or for the values expressed therein.