William F. Buckley
They wrestle over a prescription-drug bill but not, really, over whether the entire approach is defective. We hear the grand figure that under the Senate bill, we would undertake a trillion-dollar entitlement over 10 years. That translates to: taking a trillion dollars from some people and giving it -- not exactly to a different set of people, but to people identified by different means.

The emphasis is of course on help to older people, the principal beneficiaries of whatever the reduced cost would be in buying drugs. Older people have more to worry about in looking after their health, but less in looking after school bills and mortgage payments. It would be very difficult to prove, over the long run, that older people will, as a class, benefit from the pending bills. There is no tax bill on the table that exempts older people from taxation, and it is probable that they will devote the same percentage of their income as before to medical expenses.

The House bill being manifestly superior to the Senate bill, one wonders: What happened to President Bush? He is, incidentally, everywhere criticized abroad, and now, by Democratic presidential candidates, as autocratic, domineering. How to account for his passivity in most matters of legislative, to say nothing of judicial, consequence?

He fought hard for his tax bill and, of course, for his nominees to the courts of appeal. But on most other matters, it is as if he did not exist. The Supreme Court has pronounced itself arbiter of all serious questions having to do with states' rights. The president was manifestly pleased that the court took over the whole affirmative-action problem, and he confessed himself "pleased" that the court acknowledged the utility and the pleasures of diversity.

Diversity will, one supposes, be interpreted by some as license to incestuous love, and Justice Kennedy can be counted on to look into "spatial" and "more transcendent" dimensions of the question. We know only this, that laws seeking to regulate moral questions will govern only if the Supreme Court OKs them.

Mr. Bush has to concern himself with the care and feeding of American conservatives, here defined as men and women who believe that there are institutional matters that governments rightly concern themselves with. Most such have for generations been taken for granted. It was simply inconceivable, up until a few years ago, that a judge could not display the Ten Commandments in his courtroom, unthinkable that marriage could take place except between a man and a woman.

William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

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