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Thursday, Oct. 19, 2006 | There are Neoconservatives, and President Bush tried to establish a Compassionate Conservative label, but the development that may ease us toward the light at the end of this national sewer we are in is the growing Conscious Conservative movement.

Conscious Conservatives are those conservatives, mainly Republican, who have become compelled by the events of the past five years to start putting some distance between themselves and George W. Bush as their political chief executive. They and he may still share some core ideologies and philosophies, but they have just become too conscious of Iraq and Katrina, cronies doing a heck of a job, executive power grabs, the word “terrorism” as a political tool, dangerous detainee policies, national surveillance practices and end runs on the Constitution. Unconscious Conservatives have witnessed these same things, and some of them may be nervous about Bush, but they wouldn’t give up his guarantees to pro-life, guns, and James Dobson, if Bush declared Congress unconstitutional and locked out the Supreme Court.

The irony is, they can have those things, and a competent chief executive, too, when the nation’s electorate becomes conscious-based, a consciousness that takes into account globalization, and terrorism, and the price of being lured into asymmetric warfare against the wrong enemy. No president may have been available who could measure up to the demands on this country after 9/11, but President Bush’s record would not be too difficult to top. If consciousness, and not political railroading, had been a feature of the 2000 conventions and election, the nation may still have had a pro-life, evangelical Republican president, whose record today almost certainly would have to be preferable to that of George W. Bush.

Conscious Conservatives may be starting to realize something else. The administration points out almost every day that the nation has not been attacked by terrorists since 9/11. The emerging reality is that the 9/11 attack hasn’t ended yet. It was just the starting point, the place in Manhattan where the enemy plunged a syringe into the nation, injecting us with a fear-based virus that set into motion erosive events that are occurring still, unchecked. One such event is the immigration wall measure that James Goldsborough wrote about last week. Another is the signing yesterday, by President Bush, of law that deprives some people of the habeas corpus rule that is a cornerstone of U.S. jurisprudence.

Such events don’t affect most of us directly, but they create a climate. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about loving airplanes. I also love anticipating trips on airplanes. We are going on a trip soon, and I was online at the airline website, looking at the planes we will be on, looking at our seat assignments, looking at maps of our destination airports, and suddenly I stopped and stared at the screen. I could feel somebody out there in the government, feel what it would be like if somebody was watching my clicks, and wondering what I was doing. I remembered what a student told me recently. At the library he checked out a book for a paper he was writing on terrorism. A few days later, the FBI showed up at his door. President Bush likes to ask: do you feel safer than you did five years ago? At that moment, looking at a map of DFW, I had to respond: No. I felt watched. This is an erosive climate. I can feel the fear.

Some of this new cadre of Conscious Conservatives enjoy high position. Every time you see a Republican office-holder trying to distance him- or herself from the president, you are looking at a Conscious Conservative. With the November elections close by, their awareness is apparent. As they reassure their district and state voters that they are not in lock-step with Bush Administration policy, the Conscious Conservative movement grows.

The movement should have the effect of expanding the political middle. Not only Dubya-dubious Republicans, but independents and moderate Democrats could find Conscious Conservative appealing. I feel that I am one of those. I am pro-choice, but I am also pro-state’s rights, pro-less government, pro-taxes, as long as they are fair, pro-Constitution, pro-separation of powers, pro-business, pro-mom, pro-apple pie, pro-flag, a veteran, and pro-faith. If a person is pro-faith, how can he also be pro-choice? It is difficult, yes, but so is the woman’s position, and the decision she must make. Only she should have the right to make it.

Who would our candidate be? I have a feeling he or she would come from the conservative side. I can’t think of any particular Democrat smart and tough and willing and aggressive enough to lead the country at this uniquely difficult time. John Kerry couldn’t even rise to keeping himself from getting swift-boated in 2004, and good old avuncular Al Gore lacks the charisma to galvanize the millions away from the margins of the staunch, even on the left. I’m not sure there is an American alive, Republican or Democrat, who after six years of Bush leadership could step in and do anything but sink up to his or her knees in the Bush muck. Colin Powell is tall, and John McCain has been in very deep muck before, so one of them might be able to find some useful footing.

What we really need is a Dave, like in the movie. Good old Dave. I have been thinking about him ever since Bush turned his back on New Orleans. If indifference were an impeachable offense, Congress could send George Bush winging off to Texas at just about any time. But it’s not, and George W. Bush will be president of the United States for more than two years. The best that Conscious Conservatives can hope for is for Dave, a stand-in with affection for the country and a reasonable idea of what to do next. Where have you gone, George Washington? Wow. George W. From first to worst.

Journalist, author and educator Michael Grant has been putting his spin on San Diego, and the city putting its spin on him, since 1972. His Web site is at www.michaelgrant.com.Or, send a letter to the editor.

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