- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 4, 2005

Conserve what?

“Your item ‘Stop the Presses,’ expressing surprise at [White House Chief of Staff] Andrew Card’s willingness to refer to [Supreme Court nominee] Judge John Roberts as a ‘conservative,’ leads me to ask you a question that has been long on my mind.

“Namely: What is it that a conservative wants to conserve?”

So writes William M. Stell of McLean, who points out that at one time in U.S. history “conservatives wanted to conserve slavery. Somewhat later, an objective of conservatism was to conserve segregation. Certainly, neither of those aims is an issue for conservatives today. So what is it we are trying to conserve?

“One answer is the Constitution as written. Another is the Constitution as interpreted. The latter, for example, could uphold Roe v. Wade. But that doesn’t sound right. So please help me out. What is it that conservatives seek to conserve?”

Well, Mr. Stell, we found 24 interpretations of what it is a conservative seeks to conserve in this modern age — everything from power granted to the states to the death penalty.

Obviously, the most common political definition of a conservative is somebody who respects tradition and authority, resisting at the same time wholesale or sudden changes (particularly, one would assume, changes proposed by liberals).

Another definition labels conservative “a mere synonym for right-wing” (“conservative Democrats” we know on Capitol Hill would disagree).

Each definition is equally intriguing in and of itself, from “Bible thumping” to a “bourgeois mentality.”

Then there’s this description of a conservative, credited to Newsweek: “[U]nimaginatively conventional … in the buttoned-down, dull-gray world …”

Lesser of two evils?

Speaking of being confused, an unnamed official at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office wants to know what J.B. Poersch, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, meant this week when he said that John R. Bolton, the newly appointed U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was “a hot-headed pseudo-diplomat who shouldn’t be a bureaucrat in the patent office, let alone our sole representative to the United Nations.”

Dirty politics

The nonpartisan American Center for Voting Rights Legislative Fund, which says it neither supports nor endorses any political party or candidate, reveals that Democrats are as guilty as Republicans when it comes to vote fraud, intimidation and suppression during the 2004 presidential election.

A new report by the group finds that although Democrats accused Republicans of voter abuse during the last election, “neither party has a clean record on the issue.”

In fact, the report states that “paid” Democratic operatives were far more involved in voter intimidation and suppression activities than their Republican counterparts, drawing attention to operatives in Milwaukee, Wis., who were accused of slashing tires on Republican get-out-the-vote vans.

The group this week delivered letters to Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, urging both party leaders to formally adopt a zero-tolerance policy against fraud and intimidation.

“It should be easy to vote but tough to cheat,” said Mark F. “Thor” Hearne, the group’s counsel.

Hot enough yet?

On the heels of the National Weather Service announcing that more than 200 heat records were broken in the United States in the past two weeks, the American Progress Action Fund has decided against waiting for science to prove whether mankind is responsible.

This summer’s strong hurricanes, which have struck the United States earlier than at any time since records were first collected in 1851, are indicator enough of global warming, says the Washington-based group.

It even faults President Bush and “Washington conservatives” for “doing everything in their power to stop effective action on climate change.”

But the blistering heat does not appear to bother Mr. Bush. In fact, he seems to bask in it.

“Who’s going to the ranch?” the president enthusiastically asked a group of reporters he encountered before departing this week for his ranch in Crawford, Texas, where triple-digit temperatures are not uncommon.

On the other hand, White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. expressed ambivalence about Crawford “in the 108-degree heat.”

“For the record, no comment,” he said.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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