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Monday, 4 June, 2001, 07:31 GMT 08:31 UK
Has Bush moved too far right?
The decision by US senator James Jeffords to abandon the Republican Party has caused turmoil in American politics.
Mr Jeffords' defection not only handed control of the US Senate to the Democrats, but also triggered a debate among Republicans about whether their party, and the US president, George Bush, have moved too far to the right.
Mr Jeffords argued that he had not abandoned his party, but rather the party, and particularly President Bush, had abandoned him on issues such as education, appointments to the judiciary, tax and spending, missile defence and the environment.
When George Bush came to power he offered a new era of inclusive, bipartisan politics.
What happened to that? Have President Bush and the Republican Party moved too far to the right?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Mark Hess, San Francisco, USA
Has President Bush moved too far to the right? Quite the contrary. In my opinion, he has waffled too much to try to appease the left. I wish he would stop trying to be like Neville Chamberlain and try to be more like Winston Churchill.
It appears to me that total isolation is on the cards and it is going to be a real danger
Bush hasn't moved to the right at all. His position from the beginning has been the same. A number of people thought the closeness of the election would have made him change his policies, but that hasn't happened. He favours a bipartisan approach to most things, but the Democrats have their own ideas of what bipartisan means. To them, it means their way. To Bush, it means his way. Don't look for any meaningful "bipartisonship".
The Bush administration is all about wanting
it all right now. Conservation takes too long
but we can build more power stations and drill
for oil real quick and the environment can go
to hell for following generations to deal with.
The biggest problem with instant gratification
as far as Bush is concerned, is that it takes too
damned long to say!
Yeah, Bush moved a bit far to the right. His main problem is a perception that he is not representing the majority of the political sentiment in the US. Let's face it, the majority of the voters in the US are middle-of-the-road pragmatists; when voters perceive any sign of shift to the right or left - they get scared. If Bush alienates more "moderate" Republicans, he will have the impossible task to sell himself as a viable candidate in 2004. (The irony is that I don't think his personal views are anywhere close to the right-wing, conservative agenda.)
Bush is not liberal in his political views. The only reason he is meeting with the Dalai Lama and other Asian countries is because he is interested in their business. He sees the potential of over 1 billion people in India alone as consumers for American products. Do you honestly believe he even knew who the Dalai Lama was before he met him? I highly doubt it. This country's leaders have no morals, big business are our leaders. So whatever is best for them is best for the rest of us, apparently.
Jeffords' defection is stupid. He just wants his 15 minutes of fame.
He wants to pass policy and be heard, so he changes to independent.
As an independent will he be more powerful or have more success pursuing his interests? Bush hasn't moved anywhere, it's a publicity stunt.
No, he hasn't shifted too far to the right. He's conservative, get over it. Jeffords is the one who deceived his constituents. He ran as a Republican, now he says he's an independent. I say good riddance to him.
Bush has always been far right. He pretended to be in the centre strictly for political purposes. He was selected by the GOP as their candidate because he would do exactly as he's told. As for Jeffords' "defection", blame the arrogance of the GOP and their intolerance of independent thinkers. Republicans weren't whining when several Dems switched parties. This administration is a sham, self-serving, and much too secretive. The UK should make no mistake, this administration will sell you out if it serves their needs.
While George II's first 100 days may seem to be unfocused, he did: 1) Manage to push through an overdue tax cut. 2) Implement cohesive national education reform. 3) Bluntly inform California that they need to learn how to manage their internal affairs and not look to Uncle Sam for a handout as a result of their electricity mismanagement. 4) Reset the tone with China. Hopefully he will leverage US/China trade for the betterment of Chinese human rights. 5) Tweak the French! Jolly Good.
Edward L. Nemil, US
GWB, like his father, is a disastrous conservative president whose political claims are severely embedded in right-wing ideologies. The U.S. will not see any progressive moves from this president, but we have to keep struggling so that, come re-election time, the Bush regime will see where its true place is - outside progressive U.S. history.
GWB has always been a conservative. He has also never been one to bend to "mainstream" thought. This is a man who does what he believes is right and in the best interests of the great country he was elected (three times!) to lead. It's called Leadership, which is something the USA has been sorely lacking since the poll-driven policy setting days of the Clinton administration.
Gavin Pearson, Detroit, MI, USA
I personally believe that Dubya has always
been extremely far to the right. All anyone
needed to do to know this was to look at his
record in Texas. As for Senator Jeffords,
his defection should be of no consequence to
the people of Vermont. They elected Mr. Jeffords,
they did not elect the Republican Party. Jeffords has
been voting with the Democrats on many issues for
many years. I truly hope that more of our legislators
take his lead (Republicans and Democrats). I would like
to see the voters choosing candidates for their individual
abilities and ideals, rather than their associations with
Bush should govern from the centre considering his mandate; he lost the popular vote, and won Florida by a technical fault (ballot paper design). He will govern from the right as long as he is led by Cheney (the man who opposed banning cop killer bullets, voted against Nelson Mandela's release from prison etc). Bush is capable of governing either from the left, right or centre - it all depends on the advisors who lead him, because I don't think Bush has any well thought opinions about any topic.
It is not whether Bush and the Republican Party have moved too far to the right, they have just lost a sense of reality. Some may disagree with this, but the truth is usually harder to swallow. As for those who do not live in this country saying that this country needs him, just remember that, when your country needs us and Bush and the Republican Party refuse to help.
Of course Bush is too far to the political right. George Wallace, that bastion of ultra-conservative politics, said near the end of his life that he was too liberal for today's Republican Party. Bush leads a minority coalition of the influential and the ignorant. Our Midwesterners moan about the federal government, while turning a blind eye to the fact that their very existence was funded through Washington. No railroads, Homestead Act, highways, dams, open range, timberlands, mining subsidies - no Midwest. In America, if you vote Republican and are not among the wealthy, you are a fool. Even then Republican conservatism provides short-term gains for the rich who fiddle while Rome burns.
To quote a man which most of you "Brits" may recall...I believe this will be George W's finest hour.
Lanny Carruthers, USA
It seems from our perspective in the UK that President Bush indeed was elected on Caring Conservatism, that is, he cares very much to push through a Right Wing agenda despite winning a minority vote! He needs to tread carefully for the next three and a half years as he has no moral mandate for his policies. He needs to stay moderate until the next Presidential Election. It is one thing to win an election on a minority vote where the opposition votes are divided, but the Democrats had more votes alone. No mandate, no majority electoral vote, so no authority for a zealous right wing agenda!
I rather think Mr. Jeffords had planned to defect from the Republican Party for some time. Rather than try and change his party's position and work from within, he chose to change allegiance only 5 months into a new presidency, which strikes me as rather odd. GWB can move as far to the right as he possibly can in my book - I voted for him because I am taxed up to the eyeballs and saw most of my tax dollars being spent on social programmes that do nothing except perpetuate the cult of need. As for the energy crisis - the 8 years of democrat rule did nothing for Californians and their vast energy needs but now it all becomes GWB's fault. I don't think so. We are seeing a man trying to give the US back to Americans. What on earth is so wrong with that?
The USA under Clinton was heading in a Marxist direction. Bush needs to adhere to the precepts of the US Constitution (if you call that heading towards the right). Jeffords' betrayal of the Republican Party is a demonstration of a liberal infiltrating a conservative party, and then causing dissention.
Managing to alienate the rest of the world in 100 days is pretty extreme, especially when you don't even possess an electoral mandate to implement your policies. Mind you, we're talking about a country where banning guns from school is considered dangerously liberal and a population who, as is shown in some of the other comments here, have very little idea that the rest of the world even exists.
I think Dubya is just great! The
more the Europeans dislike him, the
more I want to support our President.
I was appalled by the lack of support
given by Europe to US during the
China spy plane crisis and its disapproval
of weapons sales to Taiwan. As long
as those in Europe hate Bush, I'm backing
him all the way!
Bush has gone a wild spree of sending unpopular conservative policies to the floor of national debate. It's foolish, it's contrary to everything his campaign stood for, and he's now paying the price with the defection of his own. I suggest he soon show unity in Congress by supporting a moderate Democratic proposal, such as investing in Social Security or a Gun Control Bill, or he will risk losing everything come November 2004.
In the US, power no longer comes from the barrel of a gun, it comes from the electron tube of the TV. James Jeffords move to be an Independent will hopefully stymie the Bush/Cheney energy plan which has become "necessary" due to a concocted energy crisis. There are many other intentions by this administration that will also be thwarted. To say that many are relieved that this mad mandate has come to a grinding halt is an understatement. Curiously, one item that hasn't yet been discussed in the national media is the missile defence system and how that is definitely threatened. Perhaps by not mentioning it, they can make a deal in a year or two from now, quietly sneaking it past the attention of the populace. Come watch TV over here, come read the papers, in a year or two you'll forget the name of the capital of England.
More guns, more greed, more pseudo-Christians, more capitalist environmental destruction. Americans are being sold their demise through marketing which thrives on social imbalance: greed, indifference, and violence. Our country may be seen as Faustian, and Bush as Mephistopheles. More than happy to lead us into hell.
It's difficult to understand how Bush can be accused of moving too far to the right when his tax relief legislation garnered 16 Democratic votes, and his educational legislation also has broad Democratic support. To my fellow Americans who are enamoured with the socialist politics of Europe, I suggest you spend some time there first before wishing their ineffective results on us. Considering the enormous taxes they pay, they have very little to show for it.
The people choose Jeffords not just by his party affiliation, but by his election platform and his past results in the Capitol. I am sure that Jeffords will continue to fulfil his promises during elections as an independent.
Bush is selling the American People on the idea that there is a 'bogeyman' that they need to be afraid of. I don't believe it. But, for those who think the US can't defend itself or its friends is foolhardy. So, why do we have to have a fellow who is so determined to build this NMD? Why can Bush just stick with his promises to clean up the environment and do all the other things he promised. I don't get it.
Dave Adams, United States
Tony, I don't know where you get your facts, but Jeffords was elected by his constituents based on who he was, not his party affiliation.
Yes, the Republicans as a whole have moved too far to the right and have alienated the moderates in their own party. The Democrats are no better, becoming shrill and Liberal to counter the Right Wing and the Moderates are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
The people of Great Britain have lost too much freedom to socialism. I believe President Bush is very moderate.
Senator Jeffords perception is accurate and his actions admirable. The American oligarchy is out of touch, and their cloistered denial of reality has been revealed.
Jonathan Reynaga, England
Has the BBC moved too far to the left?
Having listened to Mr Bush while he campaigned for the presidency I don't think he has changed much, if at all. He started as "right" as he is, and he's been running with big-business for years. Nothing new there. Still, he's by far preferable to Clinton or Gore.
The Bush administration is anti-intellectual, anti-science, and anti-mainstream. It is founded on an emotional belief in its own righteousness, gut instinct, and the countless rationalisations that Big Business gives for its more pernicious practices. It is a poor government, internally divided and weakly lead. And in the American political system, it will last for a horrible four full years.
Tobin Alexander Jones, USA
Has Bush moved at all? I do not think so and was surprised, given his background, that he managed to hoodwink so many Americans, including the press, into believing that he wanted a bi-partisan approach to his policy making. I applaud Jeffords for his decision to leave the Republicans after Bush had made so many contentious decisions.
Tony Kimball, US
I don't think Bush is really surprising. He has no opinions, instead he is led by Dick Cheney and his father. I think from the start of his presidency Cheney knew that his portfolio would eventually be constrained but in the meantime he wanted to move as quickly as possible to help his friends in the energy industry.
The notion that Bush has veered too far to the right is an obfuscation of the reality of American politics. Policy is determined by money. Bush does not even bother to hold his nose and is transparent on this issue. His main sponsors were the oil and petrochemical industry, the major US power companies, the US insurance cartels, and the large arms contractors. As a quid pro quo he jettisoned the Kyoto agreement, immediately attacked Iraq, reverted to "Cold War" mode with China, ignored Russia, announced plans to "preserve the US way of life" by increasing consumption and development of power resources. The proffered idea that the democrats represent more liberal views and the republicans represent the conservative agenda is groundless.
Tony, Grenada, both UK/USA passports
The simple truth of the matter is that Mr. Bush is simply implementing the policies and legislation that he campaigned on. He is actually doing what he said he would do during the campaign. He has stayed on target, which is actually quite refreshing for a change considering the last eight years of American politics. Concerning the Jeffords switch, that was really no surprise. He was, after all, a Republican in name only. His switch was simply done out of political expediency over the changing voter demographics of the state of Vermont.
Bush has restored a balance after the sloppy policies of Clinton. The world needs a few more like Bush in Europe particularly, Right is not always right but it certainly beats Left any day.
George Bush is a conservative and will do conservative work: respect for the rule of law and the individual....also he stands for small government and less government control of the people...these are at the base of a true democracy. He is also being a leader and is setting a conservative agenda. The liberal media (BBC) doesn't like this. The way the question was asked reveals this.
Hooray! This has many beneficial ramafications, including that Jesse Helms no longer is Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee (and hence can no longer single-handedly wreck our standing at the United Nations any longer).
Stephen Siemens, USA
Don't forget that over one half of the voters in the last election knew Bush was too conservative. That his own party is repulsed by his views is a sign that they are beginning to tune into the reality of what the general public feels. They too are sick of the Republican, rubberstamp machine.
Has Bush moved to the right a little bit too much? As a die hard Republican my heart tells me no but my mind says yes. Bush said he was a healer but it is obvious from the rumblings in the GOP that even Bush's own party is upset with his agenda. Bush's attitude and that of the hardliners in the GOP is driving many centralists and moderates away. I predict that Bush will have a hard sell for many of his more controversial ideas.
Dan S, USA
Bush has definitely gone to the far right, after pretending to be in the middle during the election campaign. He has no one but himself to blame for Senator Jeffords' departure from the party, thus losing the senate. From the beginning it has been a "my way, or the highway" attitude from his government. It is amusing to watch his aides put a desperate spin into all this. I hope some lessons are learnt, but so far Bush seems to be making blunder after blunder.
Henry Coleman, UK
Has Bush shown any serious indication of adopting a bi-partisan approach since his inaugural speech?
Not as far as I can see. Despite the fact that he's only in power due to a constitutional anomaly, it seems he will try and push through as many short-term, populist policies as possible in order
to try and gain re-election in four years' time.
His reckless abandonment of the Kyoto treaty is a good example of this: painful in the short term, vital if you care about your children in thirty years' time. Still, that's democracy for you.
Thank you, James Jeffords! It's so good to know that we have at least one person of integrity in our Government. I wonder if we'll even have elections in 2004, or even next year. Hopefully, we will and next year we will elect more folk with integrity to Congress who will fight this illegitimate regime and restore democracy to our country.
The Jeffords affair highlights the irony of it all - just as Bush and the Republicans won the presidency without the popular vote, so have the
Democrats won the Senate without any voting by the constituents of Vermont.
Rahul Mahajan, UK / India
Margaret Thatcher when elected said, "Where there is discord, may we bring harmony", and proceeded to do the exact opposite. George Bush said that he would try to heal the split in the nation and proceeded to do the exact opposite. At least the USA doesn't have to go through 18 years of hell.
Bush probably doesn't know his right from his left ...
George Milton, USA and Italy
Thank goodness there was one Republican with the decency to reject Bush's far-right policies. Now there is at least a chance that the Senate can put a stop to the madness of "Star Wars" and Bush's planned environmental catastrophes.
Moved too far to the Right? No, he was always to the Right. As he said himself, people "misunderestimated" him and are learning to their cost that "Caring Conservatism" was a sham.
24 May 01 | Americas
Rebel tips US Senate balance
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