Some political pundits see President Bush's veto of the civil rights bill as an effort to appease Republican conservatives, who feel betrayed by Bush's abandonment of conservative economic principles on tax and budgetary issues.
If this is true, I rather doubt that the move will accomplish its intended purpose.Opposition to tax increases and support for pro-growth tax cuts are the centerpieces of a positive Republican strategy for consolidating a broad-based majority among aspiring working and middle class Americans.
I think Bush is right to oppose the current version of the civil rights bill if it impels employers to implement hiring quotas as a defense against discrimination suits. But such opposition cannot compensate for dismantling his party's empowerment and opportunity oriented economic platform.
How many Republicans around the country can run and win saying "I support higher taxes and oppose hiring quotas." The stand on taxes will dissappoint more voters than the stand on quotas reassures.
The civil rights veto has aroused the wrath of the left-wing black civil rights establishment. Despite Bush's efforts to court and placate its leadership, they have unleashed a torrent of harsh rhetoric against him. They say that he is encouraging racism, playing up white racial fears and animosities, perpetuating Reagan era attempts to turn back the clock on civil rights. Apparently the president hasn't won much consideration for his willingness to slight and demean black conservatives in order to win good reviews from the leftist black establishment.
The Bush administration is not renowned for its firm stands on principle. Making a deal at almost any price has been the order of the day. The people who tried to work out a deal with the president on the civil rights bill are probably in shock over his sudden willingness to stand firm against racial quotas. This may explain the unreasonable harshness of their reaction against the veto.
But uncertainty about the persistance of this presidential firmness may keep some people who agree with the veto from springing to Bush's defense. What if the president's action resulted from the fear that failure to veto would destroy his last shreds of credibility with conservative Republicans.?
If his motive is expediency rather than sincere conviction, will ge be tempted to abandon his stand once it becomes clear that it won't placate Republican discontent with the administration? Such questions breed the kind of doubts that make those who support the action hesitate to support the man. When the going gets tough, a president who has displayed no loyalty to principle may find loyal defenders hard to come by.