"Compassionate conservative" thinkers optimistic about Bush Administration

by Steve Sailer

UPI, December 21, 2000

 

The two conservative intellectuals who most helped to define George W. Bush's campaign philosophy of "compassionate conservatism," Marvin Olasky and Myron Magnet, appeared generally pleased and upbeat about how the upcoming Bush Administration's personnel choices are shaping up. Although thinkers often end up disappointed by the politicians who endorse their views, both men, especially Olasky, are enthusiastic about what they see as Bush's determination to do more than just talk about compassionate conservatism.

"I just came from a meeting with President-Elect Bush, Indianapolis Mayor Steve Goldsmith, and some religious leaders. It was very encouraging," said Marvin Olasky, the author of "Compassionate Conservatism" and a Senior Fellow of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.

"Goldsmith would be excellent for the new Office of Faith-Based Action, as would Don Willett." The latter was an adviser to Gov. Bush in Texas.

Olasky, who was raised as a Jew, joined the Communist Party in 1972, and then became a born-again Christian toward the end of that decade.. He advocates using hard-headed means to achieve soft-hearted goals such as helping the poor, rehabilitating ex-cons, and getting welfare mothers to work. One of his suggestions is that addicts are more likely to get off drugs when they believe that they are made in the image of a God who cares about them. Some traditional counselors who continue to argue that addiction is a disease, not a sin, have criticized this view.

Olasky argues for increased support for anti-poverty programs run by religious groups. President-Elect Bush implemented many of his ideas during his six years as governor of Texas.

Although Olasky and Magnet have focused much of their thinking on how to help the African American underclass, black voters were not impressed. African Americans voted ten to one for Al Gore over Bush. The Republican candidate did even worse among blacks than the hapless Bob Dole did in 1996. Wednesday, Bush attempted an end run around conventional black leaders such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton by inviting a large number of African American ministers to meet with him and Republican luminaries like Olasky.

Among the minorities who know Bush best, Texas blacks gave him only five percent of their vote. On the other hand, Texas Hispanics gave him 43 percent of their vote. Yet, Bush pulled in less than 30 percent of the Mexican-American vote in other states. In total, Bush won 92 percent of his votes from whites.

Compassionate conservatism may have paid off, however, by appealing to white women. After voting for Clinton in 1996, white women gave Bush a 49 percent to 48 percent margin over Gore.

The energetic and prolific Olasky is a professor of journalism at the U. of Texas and editor of the Christian "World" newsweekly. He said he was not seeking a government position for himself. Olasky stated, "I want to stay in an advisory capacity."

Olasky described Mel Martinez, Bush's choice for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, "A terrific guy, pro-family, pro-life, a brilliant man."

For Secretary of Education, Olasky said there are several good candidates, including the Rev. Floyd Flake. He is a former Democratic Congressman who is now a charismatic preacher. "The Rev. Flake is a strong proponent of charter schools," Olasky observed.

Either Rep. Jim Talent (R-Mo) or Linda Chavez, head of the conservative Center for Equal Opportunity, would delight Olasky as a Secretary of Labor. "They're both extraordinarily bright and dedicated individuals."

For the crucial post of Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Olasky likes Heritage Foundation senior fellow Kay James or Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, who was a pioneering proponent of welfare reform.

Myron Magnet, editor of the libertarian-leaning Manhattan Institute's periodical "City Journal, noted, "I'm just a policy guy, so I don't pay much attention to the players." Magnet wrote "The Dream and the Nightmare: The Sixties' Legacy to the Underclass," which the President-Elect has said influenced him more than any book besides the Bible. Magnet does enthuse, "I'm thrilled by the idea of Tommy Thompson getting HHS. He's been a trailblazer of the right kind from the start."

Steve Sailer (www.iSteve.com) is a columnist for VDARE.com and the film critic for The American Conservative.

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