09/23/2004: "What Does Bush Really Believe?"
How do you really know what someone really believes? Unfortunately there’s no truth machine like in a science fiction book I read a couple of years ago, little red and green lights in every room that scan and evaluate truthfulness based on brain activity. For example, how does Bush really feel about Social Security, the basic existence of regulatory agencies like the SEC, and how to make progress against poverty? All of these have reached the status of Motherhood and Apple Pie (or third rail status), so that any politician who wants to keep getting a government paycheck doesn’t dare disparage them. One thing you can do is look at the impact of the officeholder’s administration on these, but it’s imperfect for unequivocally saying what someone really believes. If the policy negatively impacts a third-rail issue, the officeholder will merely say that this was an unavoidable side effect, or will deny the impact in the first place. For example, while Bush’s insane fiscal policy virtually guarantees a Social Security meltdown, he’ll never admit it. Fortunately, there is a way to have a pretty good idea what someone really thinks about Motherhood issues. You merely look at what they said about these issues before they had a reason to guard their words. It’s true that people’s attitudes can change over time (at least some people), I believe that the really strong, visceral feelings last. While they may be diminished in intensity, they still place the person’s core attitudes in the right ballpark. So how does this apply to Bush? Well, it turns out (as reported by Kristoff) that at Harvard, Bush was quite open with sharing his attitudes about America’s sacred cows with others. He reportedly made quite an impression. Here is what Professor Yoshi Tsurumi told him: “My Daddy has good friends” that got him into the guard. He denounced the New Deal as socialist, the SEC an impediment to business, civil rights movement as “socialist/communist.” “People are poor because they’re lazy” is a particularly memorable phrase. Let me remind you that we’re not talking about a high school student, but an adult pursuing an advanced degree at one of America’s most prestigious educational institutions. Note how these attitudes closely match the impact of Bush’s policies in the relevant areas. A coincidence? I think not.