Four years after swooning over Bush in his flight suit, Peggy Noonan is feeling let down:
The White House doesn't need its traditional supporters anymore, because its problems are way beyond being solved by the base. And the people in the administration don't even much like the base. Desperate straits have left them liberated, and they are acting out their disdain. Leading Democrats often think their base is slightly mad but at least their heart is in the right place. This White House thinks its base is stupid and that its heart is in the wrong place.
For almost three years, arguably longer, conservative Bush supporters have felt like sufferers of battered wife syndrome. You don't like endless gushing spending, the kind that assumes a high and unstoppable affluence will always exist, and the tax receipts will always flow in? Too bad! You don't like expanding governmental authority and power? Too bad. You think the war was wrong or is wrong? Too bad.
But on immigration it has changed from "Too bad" to "You're bad."
The president has taken to suggesting that opponents of his immigration bill are unpatriotic--they "don't want to do what's right for America." His ally Sen. Lindsey Graham has said, "We're gonna tell the bigots to shut up." On Fox last weekend he vowed to "push back." Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff suggested opponents would prefer illegal immigrants be killed; Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said those who oppose the bill want "mass deportation." Former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson said those who oppose the bill are "anti-immigrant" and suggested they suffer from "rage" and "national chauvinism."
Why would they speak so insultingly, with such hostility, of opponents who are concerned citizens? And often, though not exclusively, concerned conservatives?
Are you surprised, Peggy, to learn that "concerned citizens" are spoken of "insultingly," treated with "hostility," when they disagree with the Bush administration?
Welcome to a world you help make, Peggy--where a governing philosophy giving any consideration to compromise, bipartisanship, "rising above political theater" (oh yes, and to being "a uniter, not a divider") was long-ago replaced by a political philosophy of throwing red meat to the base and demonizing everyone else. What so upsets you now is merely that same principle taken to its logical conclusion: Bush and company no longer need even you, the conservative base; they only need that fifth vote in the Supreme Court, a Justice Department willing and able to stonewall everything for the next two years, and enough congressional Republicans to block at least the most dangerous threats to their plans.
Welcome to our world, Peggy--welcome to the world of 50% minus 1. The rest of us have lived here since 2001.
Welcome to the world where, if the President and his people don't think you can help him get re-elected, you're not even worth the bother of lying well to--where their disdain for you is that self-evident.
Welcome to the world where policy preferences of a majority of all Americans--of all Americans, Peggy, not just of your pissant 28% conservative base--are immediately and contemptuously brushed off by a president too vain and shallow and insecure to admit a mistake of historic proportions.
Shocked and disappointed to be called disloyal and un-American by the Bush administration? Welcome to our world.
What political conservatives and on-the-ground Republicans must understand at this point is that they are not breaking with the White House on immigration. They are not resisting, fighting and thereby setting down a historical marker--"At this point the break became final." That's not what's happening. What conservatives and Republicans must recognize is that the White House has broken with them. What President Bush is doing, and has been doing for some time, is sundering a great political coalition.
Wake up, Peggy, it's been Morning After in America for the rest of us for quite some time now, even if you're only now stumbling downstairs to find out about it. And--trust me on this--we've got bigger problems than just your hurt feelings and the damage Bush has done to the Republican party:
Everything he's doing to the GOP, he's already done to America.
Peggy Noonan: Shocked and disappointed when the destructive engine she helped fuel for so many years suddenly turns on her.