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By Bill Gallagher

DETROIT -- I have long argued that President George W. Bush and his greedy and arrogant gang are not conservatives. Sure, they like to call themselves that and see political advantage in using the label. But the truth is, the Busheviks' only real ideology is gaining and keeping power to protect and enhance their wealth.

They repeatedly reject traditional conservative principles and beliefs to pursue the narrowest of interests at the expense of the common good. They routinely assault the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights.

Bush claims more executive authority than any other president in our history and treats the separation of powers as a quaint theory no longer practical in 21st-century America. He often rules by fiat and says he can defy acts of Congress. Bush claims some decisions he makes and actions he takes are not subject to judicial review.

Bush's spending is out of control and he's made the nation's fiscal health a basket case. He finances tax cuts with debt, weakens the dollar and drives up interest rates. With the prescription drug benefit, he created the largest new federal entitlement program since Medicaid. Bush has used tariffs on steel and lumber products to protect select industries and drive up the prices consumers pay for basic products. The benefiting industries were in states with key electoral votes.

Bush continues to shamelessly support price supports and agriculture subsidies, which simply add to everyone's grocery bill, while benefiting a handful. How about a little free-market conservatism there?

He brought us a tragic and failed foreign entanglement that fosters terrorism, weakens our military and threatens our national security. How can that record possibly be called conservative?

I suppose it's fair to question my credentials in judging conservatism. I never duck being called a liberal. One of the reasons the Democrats, especially the Capitol Hill variety, are usually so ineffective is that they've allowed the opposition to turn liberal into a pejorative term.

I was twice elected to office as the candidate of New York state's Liberal Party, as well as of the Democrats. I liked the Liberals and I guess they liked me, since they choose me as their candidate. During my eight years in office, they never once asked me to do anything or vote one way or the other. Perhaps they just trusted my instincts.

I saw government as a way to help people and better their lives. Water, sewers, public protection, roads, parks and libraries were essential. The measure of our stewardship was how fairly, efficiently and affordably government could provide those services. I favored limited government and believed deficits were unwise and harmful. I helped shrink the size of municipal government, making me most unpopular with the public employee unions. I believed government should exercise restraint and prudence.

My liberal approach to government is the opposite of the Busheviks'. They want more government doing more to enrich the few. They are craven power-addicts who use government to serve their vile purposes. Calling them conservatives is like calling me, a card-carrying Papist, a Scientologist.

But don't take my liberal word for it. Just ask Richard A. Viguerie, the right-wing direct-mail guru and "funding father" of modern conservatism. In an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, Viguerie wrote, "Sixty-five months into Bush's presidency, conservatives feel betrayed." Unlike so many conservative pundits who compromise principle in partisan defense of Bush, Viguerie exposed his fraudulent claim to conservatism. He calls Bush's failed nomination of his pal and personal lawyer Harriet Miers "an inexcusable act of cronyism." Instead of reforming Washington, Viguerie argues, Bush and his allies in Congress have created "an affirmative-action program for Republican lobbyists."

On social issues, Viguerie asks, "Where are the serious efforts by Republicans to protect unborn children from abortion?" Bush does not want to criminalize abortion. He just likes to use it as a wedge issue and pretend he's doing something about it. The most significant drop in the abortion rate since Roe v. Wade came during the Clinton administration, when the federal government was allowed to mention birth control.

Viguerie also has a good handle on how the Busheviks are so entwined with crony capitalism: "Their agenda comes from Big Business, not from grassroots conservatives." While giving lip service to keeping government off the backs of businesses, the Busheviks want government in bed with their enterprises.

Two of the most favored have been Halliburton and Enron. During the 2000 vice presidential debates, quasi-Democrat Sen. Joseph Lieberman noted that Vice President Dick Cheney had done very well financially as CEO of Halliburton during the Clinton years. "You're better off than you were eight years ago," Lieberman quipped. Cheney replied that "the government had absolutely nothing to do" with his financial success.

Can you imagine a Halliburton business plan without no-bid, cost-plus military contracts and government loan guarantees? Cheney and his company made fortunes and continue to, and the government has had absolutely everything to do with it.

These guys don't want free enterprise. They want a free lunch with the taxpayers picking up the tab. Conservative businessmen? Skilled entrepreneurs? My ass. They're on the dole, corporate welfare queens feeding at the trough their political influence provides.

Bush's buddy "Kenny Boy" Lay is going to the slammer for his crimes when he ran Enron into the ground and cheated employees and shareholders to the tune of $6 trillion. Lay is the personification of Bush's kind of businessman -- heavy on influence, low on ability.

Lay, of course, helped Cheney shape the national energy policy. They did it entirely out of the public eye, in closed White House meetings where they hatched their plans to use the powers of government to further enrich energy companies and screw consumers.

Greg Palast of Britain's Observer calls Lay the "Al Capone of electricity," who controlled and manipulated the "free" market to fix California energy prices, robbing from the ratepayers to line Enron's pockets.

Lay could not have pulled off his heist without accomplices in the White House. Within 72 hours of his inauguration, Bush "issued an executive order lifting the Clinton Energy Department's effective ban on speculative trading in the California power market," Palast wrote.

The deregulation made the state a wild free-for-all. The greedy manipulators could artificially create a crisis and then profit from the mess they had deliberately created. At one point, Enron "sold" the state 500 megawatts of electricity to go over a 15-megawatt line.

"Enron knew that sending that much power through those wires would have burned them to a crisp. To prevent this Enron-designed blackout, the state scrambled for other sources of electricity, which Enron and friends sold them at big mark-up," Palast wrote.

These crooks are not free-market, hardworking risk-takers, the business types conservatives revere. Al Capone never had the White House doing his bidding. He robbed and killed the old-fashioned way. Lay and his ilk get their whores in government to do their dirty work.

No conservative is a Bushevik. No Bushevik is a conservative.

Bill Gallagher, a Peabody Award winner, is a former Niagara Falls city councilman who now covers Detroit for Fox2 News. His e-mail address is gallaghernewsman@sbcglobal.net.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com May 30 2006