Pundits on the Right: Some Doubts About Bush
By Dave Astor
Published: February 11, 2004
NEW YORK There are three things one can usually depend on: death, taxes, and conservative columnists strongly supporting President Bush. Well, maybe two things.
During the past couple of weeks, some scribes on the right have expressed misgivings about Bush because of his Feb. 8 "Meet the Press" performance, his minimal military experience when compared with John Kerry's, the burgeoning budget deficit, and the fruitless search for weapons of mass destruction the president claimed were in Iraq.
E&P read 27 columns by conservatives who mentioned Bush during the past 13 days. Nine of the columns had at least some questions about the president and his policies.
For instance, George Will of the Washington Post Writers Group wrote that Bush's "accumulating errors are undermining the premise of his reelection campaign, which is: Wartime demands hard choices and sacrifices, and a president who is steady, measured, and believable. ... Once begun, leakage of public confidence is difficult to stanch."
Another conservative WPWG columnist, Charles Krauthammer, said voters may choose John Kerry over Bush because of the Democrat's stronger military experience. "Sept. 11 reminded us that the '90s were an anomaly," Krauthammer wrote. "And upon returning to a world of mortal conflict with people who really want you destroyed, you instinctively want someone not new to the idea of war."
penPopUpWindow('/eandp/yearbook/epdpopup.jsp?Id=85154','Yearbook','width=530,heigh t=450')>) and Creators Syndicate added: "Most worrisome to Republicans is Kerry's war-hero image while, in the words of one prominent Bush supporter, 'our guy was drinking beer in Alabama.'"
Wall Street Journal contributing columnist Peggy Noonan wrote of Bush's "Meet the Press" appearance: "The president seemed tired, unsure, and often bumbling. His answers were repetitive... . He did not seem prepared."
Debra Saunders of the San Francisco Chronicle and Creators wrote that the Bush administration's "first-term spending spree isn't sitting well with those who have to bankroll it. ... Simply put, Bush broke the covenant Republican officeholders are supposed to share with voters: that they'll be tight with other people's money."
William Murchison of Creators asked: "Why no Bush vetoes of inappropriate appropriations?"
Pat Buchanan of Creators wrote that the Bush administration "invaded an oil-rich country on what the world believes were false pretenses and forged evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction."
Another Creators columnist, Fox News Channel host Bill O'Reilly, was quoted by Reuters as saying he's "much more skeptical about the Bush administration now" since weapons inspector David Kay expressed doubt about Iraq having WMDs.
Some of the above conservatives had occasionally criticized Bush prior to the past two weeks. But the amount of negative commentary seems to have increased, as noted in a Tuesday New York Times article.
Still, criticism from conservatives is sporadic and relatively muted -- with the majority of columnists on the right remaining solidly behind Bush.
For instance, Cal Thomas of Tribune Media Services wrote about the president's Iraq policy: "Bush acted on the best intelligence available at the time, stopping a madman who has been responsible for the deaths of perhaps millions... . Was that not worth doing?" And David Limbaugh of Creators wrote: "I still think Bush is an odds-on favorite for reelection."
Dave Astor (firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>) is senior editor for E&P.