No compassion here

Former Bush speechwriter, and now Wasghington Post columnist, Michael Gershon, one of the driving forces behind Bush's so-called “compassionate conservatism” sticks it to the modern Republican party (though singles out Fred Thompson) in a great column today:

At a campaign stop attended by a CBS reporter in Lady's Island, S.C., Thompson was asked if he, “as a Christian, as a conservative,” supported President Bush's
global AIDS initiative. “Christ didn't tell us to go to the government
and pass a bill to get some of these social problems dealt with. He
told us to do it,” Thompson responded. “The government has its role,
but we need to keep firmly in mind the role of the government, and the
role of us as individuals and as Christians on the other.”

Thompson went on: “I'm not going to go around the state and the
country with regards to a serious problem and say that I'm going to
prioritize that. With people dying of cancer, and heart disease, and
children dying of leukemia still, I got to tell you — we've got a lot
of problems here. . . . ” Indeed, there are a lot of problems here —
mainly of Thompson's own making.

While he is not an isolationist, he clearly is playing to
isolationist sentiments. His objection, it seems, is not to government
spending on public health but to spending on foreigners…

Thompson's argument reflects an anti-government extremism, which I am
sure his defenders would call a belief in limited government. In this
case, Thompson is limiting government to a half-full thimble. Its
duties apparently do not extend to the treatment of sick people in
extreme poverty, which should be “the role of us as individuals and as
Christians.” One wonders, in his view, if responding to the 2004
tsunami should also have been a private responsibility. Religious
groups are essential to fighting AIDS, but they cannot act on a
sufficient scale.

Thompson also dives headfirst into the shallow pool of his own
theological knowledge. In his interpretation, Jesus seems to be a
libertarian activist who taught that compassion is an exclusively
private virtue. This ignores centuries of reflection on the words of
the Bible that have led to a nearly universal Christian conviction that
government has obligations to help the weak and pursue social justice.
Religious social reformers fought to end child labor and improve public
health. It is hard to imagine they would have used the teachings of
Christ to justify cutting off lifesaving drugs for tens of thousands of
African children — an argument both novel and obscene.

I don't know, pretty much sounds like an indictment of the better part of the Republican base to me.  Gerson clearly is a man of compassion– sadly, I think he's wasting his breath trying to convince fellow Republicans they need more of it

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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