Opinion: In today’s pages: GM bailout, Proposition 8, post-Bush conservatism


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Today’s editorial page is an extravaganza of topicality, hitting on three top-of-the-news issues: The proposed federal bailout for U.S. automakers, the taxing problems facing California lawmakers as the state budget melts down, and the ongoing protests by gay-rights activists following last week’s passage of Proposition 8.

On the bailout, The Times urges Congress to look before it leaps into a $50-billion aid package for the Big Three automakers. These companies aren’t failing for the reasons they like to claim -- high health care and pension obligations, unfavorable exchange rates and government fuel-economy standards -- but because they aren’t building competitive vehicles. A bailout alone won’t change that, nor would it replace the Big Three’s failed managers or change their troublesome union contracts.


On the state budget, The Times urges Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to reinstate the car tax that he rashly slashed after bumping former Gov. Gray Davis out of office. Though it’s a regressive tax, it’s not nearly as bad as the 1.5% sales tax Schwarzenegger is proposing. And it’s tax-deductible! (From your federal taxes, that is.) Finally, The Times points out the many mistakes made by opponents of Proposition 8; while it’s nice to see them marching in the streets now, where were they before the election? Where were the gay leaders before Nov. 4? Opponents ran a disorganized campaign, failed to target the African Americans who proved crucial to the measure’s success, and waited until the last minute to get serious about fundraising.

Wresting equal rights from a society reluctant to grant them isn’t easy. It can take years of nonviolent resistance, passionate speeches and even in-your-face radicalism. If people who voted yes on Proposition 8 say they didn’t see it as a civil-rights matter, that’s because until now there has been nothing resembling a civil rights crusade by the gay community.

Over on the op-ed page, columnist Jonah Goldberg ponders George W. Bush’s legacy for the conservative movement. Bush’s brand of conservatism has always been troubling to many on the right, even if they rallied to his side in the face of ‘shrill partisan attacks from Democrats who seem more interested in tearing down the commander in chief than winning a war.’ As the movement looks to reinvent itself, the question is whether it will choose ‘a debugged compassionate conservatism 2.0 or a Reaganesque revival of conservative problem solving?’

New York Judge Joseph Fahey, meanwhile, takes time out on Veterans Day to ponder the U.S. government’s shameful treatment of Vietnam vets and their families whose lives have been torn apart by exposure to Agent Orange. With the courts failing to adequately compensate these victims, the government needs to fashion another remedy, such as a compensation fund. And author Norah Vincent, a libertarian conservative, regrets her decision not to cast a vote in last week’s historic election. Turned off by John McCain’s ‘doctrinaire sensiblity’ and his choice of running mate, and disturbed by Barack Obama’s tax proposals, he ended up supporting neither. But now she’s a little caught up in Obamania:

But after watching the video of Obama’s acceptance speech (I went to bed early Nov. 4), I have, to my great surprise, found myself moved to tears by the president-elect, by his poise and graciousness, not to mention what seems to be his almost Hegelian historical significance. I now wonder if I missed out on the moment. Am I going to feel a little caught out one day when I have to say that I did not vote for him? Or will I feel vindicated by what will surely be the many and great disappointments of the Obama administration?

* Illustration by Anthony Russo / For the Times