Research Proposal: George W. Bush

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Bush Religion

The Religious Policies of George W. Bush

The Bush Administration, which held the White House from 2000 to 2008, was an outright failure in most regards. During the period of George W. Bush's rule, the United States was driven into a series of bloody international conflicts, was plunged into a desperate economic recession produced by an epidemic of corrupt abuses and generally fell under the pale of social programs and legal ideologies both founded on explicitly pronounced tenets of Christianity. Though in sum it would be the whole of the presidency that earns this evaluation as having been both destructive and willfully malevolent where America's future prospects are concerned, it would be the aggressive extension of his own faith that would help to define George W. Bush for so many voters. For supporters and political dissenters alike, his oft-pronounced status as a Born Again Christian would be a key characteristic upon which perceptions of the former president have been based. Those who sought to resist the efforts of the Bush Administration have tended to view his religiosity as simply another example of his poor suiting to serve as chief executive based on his outright refusal to acknowledge constitutional separations between church and state. In most regards, we can say that Bush used his office inappropriately to proseletyze and to extend the influence of Christian beliefs and values. By contrast, those who would coalesce around him, especially to see him reelected in 2004 on a poor performance record by massive religious right support, did so in no small degree based on the belief that, indeed, Bush would use his office to spread Christian beliefs and values. Both of these groups would be reinforced in their perspective on the former president by his own rhetoric, behavior and policy. In such areas as gay marriage, stem cell research and the implementation of faith-based initiatives, Bush would prove himself driven by his own Christian values rather than by social, political or scientific imperatives.

Perhaps this was best illustrated in the catalyzing events of 2004, when specific states begin to push forward legislation recognizing gay marriage. Gay marriage has long been a lightning rod for conservative, Republican and Christian groups, offending a proclaimed sensibility that homosexuality is a sin which must be eradicated from society. Naturally, this is a perspective which is steeped in a complex morass of psychosocial complexes, moral dogmas and geographical patterns. However, the Bush Administration would tie the issue most directly to an 'ideal' constructed by Christian values. Quoting scripture in heavy doses and appealing to a certainty of public support on the matter, the Bush Administration for the first time in United States history since the repeal of prohibition, sought to use the terms of the Bill of Rights to actually take away public rights rather than to protect them. Accordingly, in February of 2004, "calling marriage between men and women "the ideal," President Bush on Friday defended his decision to seek a constitutional amendment outlawing gay wedding." (Brunker, 1) The administration would make the claim that those attempting to violate Christian values by pursuing gay marriage, or those who did so by granting its allowance in such progressive states as Massachusetts, New York and California, were acting against the 'institution of marriage.' The idea that this institution was to be defined in courts as existing only between a man and a woman was driven by a clear and deep sense of prejudicial discrimination toward America's homosexual population.

As a result, the president would defend his push for a ban on gay marriage by aggressively reinterpreting and mischaracterizing the responsibilities of the presidency. A habit for which Bush would become quite well-known, he would on this subject as with his preemptive strike in Iraq and various other radical policy behaviors, explicitly claim a definition for presidential responsibilities theretofore un-proscribed but justifying policy specificities. Thus, on this matter, he would note, "I believe marriage has served society well, and I believe it is important to affirm that -- that marriage between a man and a woman is the ideal,' Bush said. 'And the job of the president is to drive policy toward the ideal.'" (Brunker, 1) It seems important here to make recognition of the use of the term 'I believe' several times in his comments, as it reveals an unabashed willingness to draw social and constitutional policy based on a personal belief system. Both a distortion of the president's real charge of responsibility or authority, this would also reflect an outright hostility toward a minority group in the United States to the end of obstructing personal freedoms and constitutional rights. In a certain regard, the Bush Administration would help to magnify a Civil Rights issue, lashing out in policy form against a clear pattern of increasing public acceptance and legal protection for a group frequently targeted for abuse, exclusion and discrimination. The use of the Christian faith as a way to further instigate this abuse, exclusion and discrimination is not only a total subversion of the U.S. Constitution, but it also smacks as inhumane and distinctly unchristian.

It is thus that we are encouraged to consider the political implications of such a policy initiative. Indeed, at the time of Bush's bid for reelection, many of his prospects were rather grim. Indeed, as an incumbent, he was facing an extremely close race with Senator Kerry. Much of this was based on his terrible record to that juncture in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, his very poor handling of an economy increasingly in dire straits and, in the wake of congressional hearings both on the handling of 9/11 and the lead up to Iraq revealing the administration to have willfully botched intelligence findings. Bush entered his reelection bid with greater negatives and approval ratings challenges than any incumbent in history who has proceeded to victory. And the incredibly slim majority vote which he received, we may argue now, would be powered by the very divisive issues which Bush had championed in place of Iraq and the economy. Amazingly, the gay marriage ban issue would prove an electoral strength in the midst of weaknesses. To this very point, "in 2004, gay marriage referendums littered state ballots and were used by Republicans to motivate social conservatives to turn out and vote for George W. Bush. A gay marriage referendum may have helped Bush win Ohio and reelection." (Schaller, 1)

This is to suggest that, Bush's true religious values aside, the gay marriage issue would be a clever political tactic. Quite to the point, the difficult of actually achieving a constitutional amendment, demanding various permutations of majority congressional support, suggested that passage was never Bush's intent. Instead, this was a cynical but successful way of motivating a base driven by many of the same cultural prejudices that were Bush's. This strategy would be effective in helping the Bush Administration to a second term, in which it essentially abandoned its aggressive tactics against gay marriage. Nonetheless, as proven by California's statewide ban on gay marriage passed ironically during the otherwise progressively minded 2008 election, the political movement stimulated by Bush continues to be lived out in an active, aggressive and well-organized religious right.

Another area in which Bush's devotion to Christian doctrines would enliven public debate while depressing American progress would be that of stem cell research. For the last 8-year years, America's stance on the subject would be defined by President George W. Bush's sharply articulated position. As reported by a close political ally of Bush's, Republican Senator Sam Brownback in 2001, "Recently, President George W. Bush announced that his administration would support federal funding for stem-cell research on approximately 60 existing cell lines. This highly publicized decision to overturn existing policy" made it such that no new funding was to be created for the purposes of embryonic stem cell acquisition. (Brownback, 42) By the middle of the decade, this 'existing' clause would actually only account for 10 cell lines still viabile under the umbrella of federal funding within the continental United States. Though there would be no real ban on the books, there had already here developed a clear tone of opposition to any move forward with embryonic stem cell research, which the Bush administration had characterized as giving 'false hope' to sufferers of conditions such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Multiple Sclerosis, for whom genetic research of stem cells is often asserted to possess the opportunity of a cure. This position would occur in direct parallel to other positions within the Bush policy that were, if not guided by theology or Christian morality, were at least devised to appeal to that prevalent interest in the American population. Bush's electoral success was complimented by a platform which consistently included his vocal stance on denying future federal funding to stem-cell research on grounds of ethical apprehension.

Granted, this would stimulate significant legislative efforts against Bush's denial of federal funding. Also fearing the institution of a legislative slippery slope, many see this hindrance as evidence… [END OF PREVIEW]

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