William F. Buckley
What is happening to George W. Bush is that dissenters are moving from criticism of him to just plain hostility to him. Swings in the public mood that emphatic aren't unknown to American history, though these days they are more lacerating because of the diurnal polls that give lapidary attention to wisps of sentiment.

No doubt about it, the president's popularity is very low, though the exact meaning of that, and the causes of it, aren't obvious. The most amusing, and jauntily informative, depiction of the popularity track was done by Stuart Eugene Thiel, an enterprising student of psephology. One line shows the price of gas, a second line the popularity of President Bush. The lines follow in fascinating parallel. They suggest that if gas went to $5 a gallon, Bush would be impeached. If down to $2 a barrel, he'd be put up for a third term.

Stuff and nonsense, of course -- though not uninteresting. But some charges being leveled against Mr. Bush would seem to be motivated more by this hostility than by analysis, and I have an example, taken from a letter from an old and learned friend. He complains of the "evangelicalism" of the president. "In his third TV debate in the 2000 primaries, Bush said that the political philosopher who had most influenced him was Jesus Christ. Give me a break. Jesus had almost nothing to say about politics, nothing at all directly, and considered politics a distraction."

Well, slow down.

Tom Brokaw is serving as moderator and asks for viewers' questions, getting this: "What political philosopher or thinker ... do you most identify with?"

Candidate Steve Forbes came out with John Locke. Candidate Alan Keyes came out with the Founders. The question was repeated: "Governor Bush, a philosopher-thinker and why."

Bush: "Christ, because he changed my heart."

Questioner: "I think the viewer would like to know more on how he's changed your heart."

Bush: "Well, if they don't know, it's going to be hard to explain. When you turn your heart and your life over to Christ, when you accept Christ as the savior, it changes your heart. It changes your life. And that's what happened to me."

So, Mr. Bush interpreted the question as asking something more profound than what political philosopher the candidates were most influenced by, and he came up with the name of the founder of Christianity.


William F. Buckley

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

Be the first to read William Buckley's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com delivered each morning to your inbox.