With a Friend Like This…


Principled Republican and free-market activists can't be pleased with President George W. Bush, at least if they are looking past his war on terrorism to the domestic issues they've been pushing for years. To give him Dubya his due, he kept his promise to hammer through a tax cut.

But he has bowed to political expediency at every opportunity. He's pursued protectionist policies on textiles, lumber, and steel. He signed the awful McCain-Feingold campaign finance regulation bill into law. Last month he pandered to rural America by doing the same for the massive farm-subsidy bill.

The policy area that reveals Bush to be more of a cave-in conservative than compassionate conservative is that of civil rights. Activists, including U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson and Attorney General John Ashcroft, have worked long and hard to restore the principle of anti-discrimination to the practical application of anti-discrimination laws. So it must have stung with extra sharpness when the Bush administration filed a brief in support of a Department of Transportation set-aside program that was threatened by years of litigation.

Last week, the Bush Administration slammed the National Wrestling Coaches Association to the mat when it weighed in against a lawsuit to stem the effort of promoting women's sports by merely cutting men's teams. At issue is a Clinton Administration interpretation of a Carter Administration bureaucratic rule that establishes a gender-based quota regime in college athletics. That the Bush Administration is unwilling to do the right thing on this issue indicates that the next three years are likely to be disappointing ones for those who thought they were Bush's friends.