- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 28, 2002

Forget that there's a war in Afghanistan. Ignore the maelstrom in the Middle East. The real action is here in our nation's capital. Apparently battlefield commanders in southwest Asia have been getting too much face time, and Israelis and Palestinians killing each other consumes too many column inches. All this has the prattling pols on the Potomac so agitated that they are now making desperate bids for attention.
There is an old saying in this city that you should never get between a politician and a television camera. The political class in Washington needs a regular fix of rapping with Tim Russert or debating with Sam Donaldson or they become like junkies at the Betty Ford Clinic. Evidently that's what motivated Democrat leaders Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle to write to all the cable news networks on April 12, whining about "the lack of television coverage of press events featuring elected leaders of the Democratic Party."
The Democrats' demarche about the inattention the media have accorded their obstructionism would have been downright laughable had it not been followed just days later by an equally pitiful protest from some of Washington's most powerful figures on the right. The conservative complaint: President Bush wasn't pay
ing enough attention to them. It's all enough to make hard-working Americans wonder if these folks ever think of anyone besides themselves.
According to The Washington Post, a periodical well known for having its finger on the pulse of conservative sentiment, "the right" is incensed with the White House because Mr. Bush has been insufficiently supportive of Israel in its fight against Palestinian terrorism; campaign finance reform is an unconstitutional sop to Arizona Sen. John McCain; tariffs on steel imports threaten free trade; and White House support for conservative candidates has been inadequate.
That's it. That's the indictment offered by The Post and for which Mr. Bush is supposedly "facing sustained criticism" from conservatives inside the Beltway. But that's not what the rest of America is saying.
If The Post had bothered to talk to any conservative outside a 30-mile radius of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., they would find, as I did when I surveyed my national radio audience in an admittedly unscientific sampling of public opinion on Wednesday, that only 29 percent answered "Yes" to the question, "Are you losing faith in George W. Bush as a conservative leader?" Fully 62 percent of those responding to my "North Poll" replied "No" and a perpetually disgruntled 9 percent responded, "I never had any."
If these conservatives who live and work outside the Beltway have any concerns with the president, they are related to issues that most affect their families and their communities. Many are concerned that the administration's proposed amnesty for illegal immigrants rewards law breakers. Parents are uneasy about an education reform bill signed on Jan. 8 that is seen as a capitulation to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, and religious conservatives are troubled that too little has been done to stop abortion.
Despite those concerns, Mr. Bush continues to enjoy very high job approval ratings, and even The Post acknowledged a poll that showed a "statistically rare 100 percent of Republican evangelical and fundamentalist Christians support Bush." Ronald Reagan would have loved to have had those numbers a year and a half into his first term.
None of this is to say that constructive criticism from conservatives is wrong or out of place. That's what real friends are supposed to do. We owe it to those we care about to admonish and encourage when circumstances are appropriate. But this should not be mistaken for a "conservative backlash." Credible conservative criticism doesn't constitute a collapse of will or forecast forsaking the Bush presidency.
Conservatives understand that Mr. Bush campaigned on four main themes: reducing taxes; rebuilding our military; restoring honor and dignity to the White House; and improving education. Less than two years later, he's done them all. Not perfectly but he's gotten them done often despite a fractious and deeply divided Congress, a hostile media and a vocal and virulent group of Democrat activists who still try to polarize the country.
And many of those Democrats who actively poison our politics are the same ones who pollute our culture as they did at a Democratic National Committee fund-raiser Thursday at the Apollo Theater in New York. Paraded on stage to speak for the "family values" of the Democratic Party were lesbian activist K.D. Lang; accused child molester, Michael Jackson and serial adulterer William Jefferson Clinton. Will there be any Democrats who question the party leadership's decision to showcase them? Don't count on it.
After eight years of depositions in the Clinton White House, Mr. Bush made a commitment. As he said in his address to the Republican convention in Philadelphia, "When I put my hand on the Bible, I will swear to not only uphold the laws of our land, I will swear to uphold the honor and dignity of the office to which I have been elected, so help me God." And so he has. Conservatives appreciate that more than The Washington Post will ever understand.

Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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