Friday, March 25, 2005

Second thoughts on America's direction

At the worst possible moment, President Bush and his conservative-religious juggernaut face what every political movement dreads—second thoughts about the cause among supporters.

The latest indicator that stalwarts are turning on the Bush ideological movement was the Florida state Senate's refusal on Wednesday to become a puppet in the White House-scripted spectacular in the Terri Schiavo feeding tube fiasco.

This is the same Senate that earlier had enacted original legislation in behalf of Schiavo, but that was declared unconstitutional. Never again, was the clear message in Wednesday's vote.

As the frenzy over Schiavo accelerated, the more bizarre the conduct struck Americans: A new poll shows Americans by a majority of more than 80 percent feel the White House and Congress were wrong in their heavy-handed federal intervention in the Schiavo drama. Even conservatives, by a majority of over 70 percent, opposed the actions of the president and Congress.

The war in Iraq is another source of second thoughts: A majority of Americans now say President Bush deceived them about the need to attack Iraq, and on top of that believe the war isn't worth the cost in lives.

President Bush's planned "reforms" of Social Security have run into solid opposition by a majority of Americans—even among the Republican majority in Congress, where doubts have robbed Bush of enough votes for passage.

The resignation of Environmental Protection Agency administrator Christine Todd Whitman and her revelations about meddling in the EPA by social conservatives has helped create more doubts about the president's programs.

And now: solidly conservative Republicans joining hands with Democratic liberals to gut major elements of the post-9/11 Patriot Act.

A new group—Patriots To Restore Checks and Balances—has congealed with support from the likes of the Free Congress Foundation on the far right and conservatism's anathema on the far left, the American Civil Liberties Union.

The goal is to repeal from the Patriot Act, now up for renewal, three provisions: the easy seizure of records from businesses and other entities in the name of fighting terrorism; "sneak and peek" searches conducted without a property owner's knowledge, and the overly broad definition of a "terrorist."

True conservatives and liberals share distaste for such grotesque expansions of government's police powers and an intrusion into private lives with insufficient justification.

The Bush-conservative-religious combine is losing its aura of invincibility, the inevitable consequence of arrogance that leads to conduct and decisions that not even loyalists can continue to support.

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