Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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An unlikely award-winner

A tremendously amusing and extremely underreported event will occur this Friday. Every year, George Bush (the elder) gives out the appropriately named “George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service” to a deserving individual. This award is decided entirely by the former president and is widely thought to be the most prestigious award connected to him. The two previous winners were former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

To whom did George Bush grant this honor in 2003? None other than Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.

Yes, “that” Edward Kennedy; the Edward Kennedy whom House Majority Leader Tom DeLay accused not too long ago of reaching “a new low” in American politics after voicing criticism on the war in Iraq. It is highly doubtful that our 41st president, after decades of serving the public from a conservative perspective, had a radical shift in his personal beliefs. What could have possibly led him to give his most distinguished prize to an individual whose views differ so radically from his own?

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According to Bush Foundation executive director Roman Popadiuk, Kennedy’s “commitment to excellence in public policy and his devotion to public service serve as an inspiration to all Americans and make him a superb recipient of the Bush Award.”

Now, I realize that any attempt to generalize a political party is somewhat futile. Any organization that once held everyone from Pat Buchanan to Jim Jeffords among its membership can hardly be expected to hold a concurrent view. That being said, is it not reasonable to assume that there are still some fundamental beliefs — some ground rules — that hold together the Republican Party?

One would wonder nowadays. It seems to be getting to the point where the extreme wings of the party hold more influence than the popular center. Take the always-contentious issue of religion, for example. Most Republicans — and Americans for that matter — are not afraid to emphasize the priority of religion in their daily lives. Most of them feel there is not nearly enough of a religious presence in most public institutions and that extending such an influence would be in the best interest of all Americans. Whether you agree with it or not, it is difficult to argue that such sentiment is commonly held.

What about following such beliefs when making key policy decisions? House Majority Leader Tom DeLay went on the record to state that he opposed the Bush Administration’s plan for an independent Palestinian State because it would become a “terrorist state”. Did Tom DeLay cite any facts or situations that led him to believe such a conclusion? No, he explained that he came to this position because of his convictions as a “Christian Zionist” led him to believe this. One would hope that our leaders carefully examine all the relevant details and possibilities before deciding to pursue a course of diplomacy that threatens grave consequences for the world, rather than simply “follow their (religious) convictions”.

The most popular belief among many people today is political apathy, but a close second would be the oft-quoted “Fiscally Conservative, Socially Liberal.” Most Americans are fairly well off with the status quo and are only in favor of minimal changes that they believe will be beneficial. Massive social upheaval is not a commonly held belief and not one that most Americans would advocate.

The current administration, however, is pursuing many positions that seem to go against commonly held beliefs. Has the world changed so much that they are now supposed to advocate a bigger government that runs on deficit spending with massive invasions into personal privacy and a policy of foreign-nation building? It would be easy to take a few issues and spin them out of context, but this administration has consistently gone against the things it is supposed to be defending. Which leads to the question: if the Bush administration is no longer pursuing its popular conservative goals, who is going to hold them accountable?

It is impossible to explain exactly why George Bush chose to recognize Edward Kennedy. We’ll probably never know for certain, but one explanation seems quite plausible. George H.W. Bush worked to carefully establish formalities and manners in his diplomatic behavior. He worked in traditionally Republican administrations for over two decades.

Rather than directly criticize, maybe Bush chose to recognize Kennedy because he wanted to send a signal and let people know that the his party was heading away from what they had previously found successful, and into a direction of uncharted territory … which, if you think about it, is anything but conservative.

Rob Welygan ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in history and political science.

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