When Bush-Worlds Collide

While the father remained ever skeptical of "the vision thing," the son has several visions to guide his presidency.

The first might be called Davos World.

It is a globalist and utopian vision. In it, mankind, following the Bush principles and policies of free trade and open borders, advances inexorably to the new world of interconnectedness and interdependence. It is a world where the old concerns about rust belts and trade deficits do not matter. For it makes no difference where goods are produced, as we are all integrating into a Global Economy.

The second vision is grimmer. It might be called Neocon World.

This is the world we entered on Sept. 11, a world of good versus evil, where "Islamofascism" threatens us all and "Axis of Evil" nations endlessly pursue weapons of mass destruction to give al-Qaida to attack us. It is a world where a "mushroom cloud" hangs over our cities and a "war president" needs the Patriot Act and the right to eavesdrop on overseas phone calls and e-mails to protect us from shoe bombers, subway bombers, mall bombers. It is a world of color-coded terror alerts and eternal vigilance, for we are in the "long war" that may last 70 years, the end of which must be "to end tyranny on the earth." For only then can America be secure.

What is wrong with these visions is that neither is rooted wholly in reality. Both are based in part on a preconceived ideology. Both are intellectual constructs. Moreover, they collide. And there is no place where they collide more directly than at America’s borders.

In Davos World, it makes no difference if Dubai sheiks buy the British business that runs U.S. ports. But to Middle Americans, who believe all those warnings about mushroom clouds, the idea that U.S. ports would be run by Arabs seems to border on insanity.

"Let none but Americans stand guard tonight," said Washington at Valley Forge. Americans understand that. And when Bush implies it is sheer bigotry to prefer Brits to Arabs running U.S. ports, Americans marinated in Neocon World wonder if the man they entrusted with the nation’s security has not lost his marbles.

The worlds collided when Bush stood beside Vicente Fox and denounced the Minutemen, folks who had gone to Arizona to help spot illegal aliens for the Border Patrol, as "vigilantes." They thought they were patriots helping Bush defend the nation.

Indeed, if we are in a "long war" against Islamofascism and homeland security is our highest priority, why are U.S. troops not defending a 2,000-mile border where a million aliens are caught every year and the number of those from nations other than Mexico has tripled to 150,000 in two years?

Because Bush shuttles back and forth between these two visions in conflict, his foreign policy takes on an aspect of incoherence.

Ideology is the antithesis of conservatism, Russell Kirk wrote. The tragedy of George W. Bush may be that he was converted by courtiers to the ideologies that are failing as visibly now as the discredited ideologies of yesterday: Wilsonianism and Marxism.

Bush’s belief in free trade is not wholly misplaced. After all, the United States is the greatest free-trade zone in history. But world trade has always been an arena of power politics, with winners and losers, rising and receding powers. And it is painfully evident China is eating our lunch.

But to Bush, it does not matter. That one in six manufacturing jobs has vanished during his tenure, that real wages of working Americans are falling, that trade deficits are reaching $800 billion, that dependency on foreigners for vital necessities of our national life is growing — none of this matters, as he mutters on his prayer rug the mantra he was taught: "Free trade good, protectionism bad."

Immigration has surely benefited America. But today’s is of a different character and magnitude than the old immigration, and the Melting Pot is broken. Tens of millions of Hispanics are not assimilating. They are congregating, as Washington warned us they must not. But Bush will not call a time out, for ideology teaches that only racists, xenophobes and nativists oppose open borders.

Ideology rules out second thoughts and course corrections.

Invading Iraq, Bush was assured that peoples of a far different culture and creed with a brutal history of subjugation and submission would quickly adapt to democracy. Yet, it took the European Christians centuries.

History, that great antidote to ideology, could have taught Bush otherwise. But the neocons told him we have reached "The End of History," that free-market democracy is the future everywhere.

Now, as we see elections advance Islamists to power in the Middle East, Latin Americans revert to populism and socialism, Russia returning to autocracy, China behaving even as the Kaiser’s Germany did, a century ago, we realize there is really nothing new under the sun.

"And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more."