Conserve what?

John McCaslin
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Posted: Aug 09, 2005 12:00 AM

"Your item 'Stop the Presses,' expressing surprise at (White House Chief of Staff) Andrew Card's willingness to refer to (Supreme Court nominee) Judge John Roberts as a 'conservative,' leads me to ask you a question that has been long on my mind.

"Namely: What is it that a conservative wants to conserve?"

So writes William M. Stell of McLean, Va., who points out that at one time in U.S. history, "conservatives wanted to conserve slavery. Somewhat later, an objective of conservatism was to conserve segregation. Certainly, neither of those aims is an issue for conservatives today. So what is it we are trying to conserve?

"One answer is the Constitution as written. Another is the Constitution as interpreted. The latter, for example, could uphold Roe v. Wade. But that doesn't sound right. So please help me out. What is it that conservatives seek to conserve?"

Well, Mr. Stell, we found 24 definitions of what it is a conservative seeks to conserve in this modern age - everything from power granted to the states to the death penalty.

Obviously, the most common political definition of a conservative is somebody who respects tradition and authority, resisting at the same time wholesale or sudden changes (particularly, one would assume, changes proposed by liberals).

Another definition labels conservative "a mere synonym for right-wing" ("conservative Democrats" we know on Capitol Hill would disagree).

Each definition is equally intriguing in and of itself, from "Bible thumping" to a "bourgeois mentality."

Then there's this description of a conservative, credited to Newsweek: "(U)nimaginatively conventional . . . in the buttoned-down, dull-gray world."

LESSER OF TWO EVILS?

Speaking of being confused, an unnamed official at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office wants to know what J.B. Poersch, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, meant this week when he said that newly appointed U.N. Ambassador John Bolton was "a hot-headed pseudo-diplomat who shouldn't be a bureaucrat in the patent office, let alone our sole representative to the United Nations."

DIRTY POLITICS

The nonpartisan American Center for Voting Rights Legislative Fund, which claims it neither supports nor endorses any political party or candidate, reveals that Democrats are as guilty as Republicans when it comes to vote fraud, intimidation and suppression during the 2004 presidential election.

A new ACVR report finds that while Democrats have routinely accused Republicans of voter abuse during the last November election, "neither party has a clean record on the issue."

In fact, the report states that "paid" Democrat operatives were far more involved in voter intimidation and suppression activities than their Republican counterparts, drawing attention to Democrat operatives in Milwaukee who were actually charged with slashing tires on Republican get-out-the-vote vans.

The ACVR this week delivered letters to Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, urging both party leaders to formally adopt a zero-tolerance policy against fraud and intimidation.

"It should be easy to vote but tough to cheat," said Mark F. "Thor" Hearne, ACVR's counsel.

NO DEFECTORS

Despite Democrats losing a "significant" portion of Hispanic support to George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, a new report from James Carville and Stanley Greenberg's Democracy Corps finds that Hispanics are in the "dead center" of the Democratic world.

"These voters were disappointed and dislodged; they did not defect," the report concludes, saying "Hispanic voters remain instinctively very Democratic."

It predicts that Democrats in 2008 "will stem the erosion of the Hispanic vote, not by chasing the defectors or waving the partisan banner, but by rediscovering their own values and beliefs."

It says Sen. John Kerry and his fellow Democrats were "inarticulate on their values and priorities" in the months leading up to last year's presidential election.

As a result, the report states, Bush in 2004 raised his vote among Hispanics to 40 percent (not 44 percent, as initially estimated through Florida exit polls), up from his 35 percent in 2000, and former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole's 21 percent in 1996.

The "dislodged" Hispanics who voted for Bush "raised doubts about Kerry on lacking strong convictions, permissiveness on abortion and gay marriage and lack of support for the military," according to the report.

Also drawing in the Hispanic vote "was Bush's attentiveness, seeming racial tolerance, openness on immigration and support for the family, as well as the Republicans' success in making social issues, like abortion and gay marriage, and security matter more in people's presidential preference."

HOT TICKET

You can't say everyday Americans aren't concerned about losing their hard-earned Social Security contributions.

Rep. Tim Johnson, an Illinois Republican who happens to oppose President Bush's partial privatization plan for Social Security, held an overflow town hall meeting last week in Urbana that one local reporter described as the "hottest ticket in town."

Paul Wood of the News-Gazette observed "more than 200 sometimes-testy citizens, most of them seniors, grilling . . . Johnson on privatizing Social Security. The Urbana Republican turned out to disagree with the president on the private accounts."

The reporter said there were only 120 or so chairs in the Urbana Civic Center, "and well over 200 people showed up, prompting the fire marshal to come by."

Turns out the occupancy rate was 150, and the fire marshal said the temperature in the room was high enough that he wanted to make sure no one was having health problems.

It was the largest town hall meeting Johnson remembers, according to spokesman Phil Bloomer.

NOT IMPRESSED

As part of their bid to prevent George W. Bush from privatizing any portion of Social Security, House Democratic leaders have announced that Democrats have just concluded their 1,000th town hall meeting.

Not impressed with the opposition's milestone is the vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia. He counters that Republicans have already surpassed 1,150 town hall meetings on Social Security matters.

As for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who made the announcement, Kingston says her "muddy" record on Social Security is "as credible as Howard Dean's apologies."

TAKE STOCKMAN

Former Rep. Steve Stockman, Texas Republican, is giving back to the Arlington-based leadership program that helped propel him into Congress.

The Leadership Institute says Stockman will become the director of its rapidly expanding Campus Leadership Program, which organizes independent conservative student groups on campuses throughout the country.

The former one-term congressman credits the institute's training for helping him defeat Democrat Jack Brooks, a 42-year veteran of Congress, in 1994.

Although serving on Capitol Hill for only two years - he lost his bid for re-election - Stockman co-authored "Megan's Law" which protects children from pedophiles, and authored a bill that eliminated three full committees and 26 subcommittees, saving taxpayers millions of dollars each year.

MAN, IT'S HOT

On the heels of the National Weather Service announcing that more than 200 heat records were broken in the U.S. during the past two weeks, the American Progress Action Fund has decided against waiting for science to prove whether mankind is responsible.

This summer's strong hurricanes, which have struck the United States earlier than at any time since records were first collected in 1851, are indicator enough of global warming, says the Washington-based group.

It even faults President Bush and "Washington conservatives" for "doing everything in their power to stop effective action on climate change."

But the blistering heat does not appear to bother Bush. In fact, he seems to bask in it.

"Who's going to the ranch?" the president enthusiastically asked a group of reporters he encountered before departing this week for his ranch in Crawford, Texas, where triple-digit temperatures are not uncommon.

On the other hand, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card expressed his ambivalence about Crawford "in the 108 degree heat."

"For the record, no comment," he said.