- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 7, 2001

It's time for the conservative friends of George W. to put on their boots and bite their tongues.

It's goo-goo time.

Not the goo-goo of the Chattanooga Goo-Goo Cluster, but the goo-goo that mamas who let their little boys grow up to be cowboys usually find tracked from the barnyard into the house.

The president is in Texas, practicing his warm, fuzzy, feminine 'n' carin' side. He campaigned as a "compassionate conservative" and for six months we've seen a lot of the red-meat, all-man conservative tax cuts, the missile shield, a warning to China to lay off Taiwan, a back of the hand to the Kyoto treaty, congressional victories only this week on health care and energy — and now it's time to show off a little of his compassionate side.

Karl Rove, the president's Dick Morris (without the diversion of the hooker's toes), has a full agenda of compassion 'n' carin' lined up for most of the month of August, with side trips to Colorado and New Mexico, to Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all to demonstrate that a rough-and-ready Texan can feel your pain just like, maybe, a rowdy-and-randy Arkansawyer.

The compassion 'n' carin' campaign looks suspiciously clintonian, enough to get under the skin of the Democrats. Joe Lieberman calls George W.'s scheme for August a "political makeover," and if anyone should know about political makeovers to exploit an opportunity of the moment it's the little senator from Connecticut. Holy Joe is worried lest George W. pull it off with half the success that Bill Clinton had with his themes of tears 'n' leers. Mr. Clinton demonstrated not only the efficacy of Barnum's Law — "there's a sucker born every minute" — but that Americans of the present day have an insatiable thirst for celebrity malarkey and maudlin moonshine.

"I'm headed home to the heartland," George W. said in Washington on the eve of his departure to his 1,600 acres of heartland, "to listen to the American people and to talk about the values that unite and sustain our country. We must show that our welcoming society values the ideals and contributions of immigrants. We must challenge Americans to be citizens, not spectators, in the renewal of their neighborhoods."

Well, why not? The president's monthlong strummin' of the heartstrings of the heartland is reminiscent of Bill Clinton's taking a poll to determine that a camping trip to the Grand Canyon was the most politically popular place to take the family on vacation. This president's polls show the Hispanic vote to be a target of opportunity for '04, and we can expect him to pour a lot of sugar and treacle on the subject of immigration over the next few months. There's even talk of making Spanish the official national language.

The president's aides embroidered the heartstrings of the heartland theme again on the first day at the ranch, where the president went jogging early and then went to fish at a pond in a grove of oaks and cottonwoods, where the fish have been warned by the Secret Service to bite early and often, or else.

"The 'home to the heartland tour' is really about the values of America," the president's press agent told reporters. "The president looks forward to this as an opportunity to listen to the concerns of the people across America and to highlight the values that bring Americans together." Later, George W. showed that he was a friend of the earth, after all, and cleared brush from a nature trail among the shallow canyons that lace the ranch. "The president is enjoying being back home," his spokesman said. "He plans to work as well as take a little bit of time off." Later this week or next, he'll drive into Waco to take hammer and nails and maybe a handsaw to a Habitat for Humanity house, just like Jimmy Carter.

Only a Scrooge would begrudge any president his vacation time, though the critics of this president are not likely to let such an opportunity slip past them. The president was accompanied by some of these critics, the world-class grumblers of the White House press corps who will be stuck for a month amongst the 700 residents of Crawford, a wide place in the road with one stoplight and a combination service station-coffee shop hardly big enough to fit the description of the typical Southern crossroads town as "two stores, two whores and a cotton gin."

But the White House never sleeps, and goes where the president goes. Controversy will find him wherever he is, as George W. will learn soon enough. Conservatives of limited compassion should take a deep breath if all the carin' and compassion seems to be a bit contrived over the next few weeks, and remember that it probably is, and for a cause. Democrats have been manufacturing sincerity like this for decades, and wise men don't knock it. It works.

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