10/8 Editorial

It’s not exactly news that President George W. Bush has pursued policies that are far from the ideals of limited, constitutional government that we endorse on the editorial pages. But the president’s performance at his Rose Garden news conference Tuesday was unimpressive even by our rather low expectations.

Asked about the potential avian flu pandemic, his first answer was to envision a military role in quarantining areas that are affected. “I have thought through the scenarios of what an avian flu outbreak could mean. … One option is the use of a military that’s able to plan and move. So that’s why I put it on the table. I think that’s an important debate for Congress to have.”

We understand that the military was successful at helping Hurricane Katrina victims after civilian government efforts failed, but we’re troubled when a president instantly envisions a domestic military role for wide-ranging problems, including flu outbreaks.

Conservatives are angry at the president for his choice of Harriet Miers to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Clearly, the president picked a nominee without much of a record, and whose views have sometimes veered to the left, to avoid a bitter confirmation battle with Senate Democrats.

Yet when asked questions about his strategy, the president heavily relied on the gender card: “She was the first woman hired by her law firm — the first woman partner, I mean. … She managed the law firm. She was the first head of the Dallas bar — first woman to head the Dallas bar, first woman to head the State Bar of Texas.”

There’s no question she’s an accomplished lawyer and trailblazer, but what about her views of the Constitution? Conservatives and libertarians are more interested in legal philosophy than resume issues. The president seemed tone-deaf on that score.

The president insisted that he is “still a conservative, proudly so, proudly so.” But this “conservative” president has yet to veto a spending bill (let alone any other type of legislation), and domestic spending unrelated to the war has risen at record levels on his watch. Monday, he pointed a proposal to “eliminate or streamline 150 programs in the budget process,” then blamed the deepening budget red ink on the war and disaster relief.

Regarding the war, the president made it clear that the military is in it for the long haul. “We’re not leaving Iraq,” he said. “We will succeed in Iraq.”

The president did at least call for expanding the nation’s oil-refining capacity and emphasized the importance of the private sector in rebuilding the Gulf Coast, even as he defended more government spending. Like we said, not much for believers in limited government to feel good about.