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President Bush at prayer
10.10.03
Politics and Economy:
God and Government
More on This Story:
Compassionate Conservatism


"I call my philosophy and approach compassionate conservatism. It is compassionate to actively help our fellow citizens in need. It is conservative to insist on responsibility and results. And with this hopeful approach, we will make a real difference in people's lives."

— President George W. Bush, Fact Sheet on Compassionate Conservatism, April 30, 2002




Marvin Olasky, long-time adviser to George W. Bush, was influential in the President's adoption of the slogan "compassionate conservatism." In the foreword to Olasky's book COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATISM, President George W. Bush (then Governor) explained, "We are a wealthy country, but we have too many needy citizens. There are still too many for whom the American dream is distant. Compassionate conservatism is a conservatism that cares about them, and makes a concerted effort to help them bring lasting change into their lives."

Few could argue with such humanitarian goals, yet the concept of compassionate conservatism is one hotly debated on today's political stage. Largely split along party lines, players in this conversation call up age-old issues of separation of church and state as well as questions of economic inequality and social morality in America.

Dr. Olasky is editor of WORLD, a magazine which serves to "report and analyze the news on a weekly schedule in an interesting, accurate, and arresting fashion, and to combine reporting with practical commentary on current events and issues from a perspective committed to the Bible as the inerrant Word of God." He has long advocated the inclusion of religious groups in government programs, as evidenced in his extensive list of books and articles on the subject. Excerpts of many of these can be viewed at Olasky's Web site. As Olasky puts it, "We've come to believe in a 'wall of separation' that requires discrimination against religious programs purely because they are religious."

Attacks on Olasky's philosophy and Bush's policies have come as vehemently as support for compassionate conservatism. This debate is back in the spotlight as the current battle over faith-based initiatives heats up. Below, find links to articles on both sides of the story.

"What Is Compassionate Conservatism?" by Myron Magnet, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, February 5, 1999
"Compassionate conservatism does represent a break with national Republican programs of the past. But far from being an empty slogan, it is a well-formed domestic policy agenda...At its core is concern for the poor — not a traditional Republican preoccupation — and an explicit belief that government has a responsibility for poor Americans."

"Making Compassion Work" by Arianna Huffington and Marvin Olasky, WASHINGTON TIMES, July 19, 1995
"Conservatives are making the case that compassion, to be effective, must be challenging, personal, and spiritual. Liberals are still equating compassion with spending levels; but they are spitting into the ideological wind."

"Bush's Compassionate Conservatism Will Undermine the Republicans and Capitalism" by Andrew Bernstein, CAPITALISM MAGAZINE, July 15, 1999
"'Compassionate conservatism' is in essence nothing more than the theory — and the practice — of the welfare state. If what the conservatives want to 'conserve' is the capitalist system, how can redistribution programs be the means?"

COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATISM Review by Poppy Dixon, June 2001
"Does 'compassionate conservatism' mean that tax dollars will finance the dismantling of civil rights advances that we have fought for together as a nation? In Olasky's scheme - yes."

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