Tom Roeser is sticking with George W. Bush, even after conservative hacks like Peggy Noonan and George Will have figured out that Bush is to limited government as Dracula is to garlic.
I first encountered Roeser years ago, when I wrote about Bruce DuMont’s free-for-all radio show, “Inside Politics,” then on WBEZ. Roeser was the conservative sidekick. An accomplished curmudgeon, he was always willing to go one step farther than his liberal counterparts and (much to my disappointment) usually besting them. (The story appeared in the October 9, 1987, Reader ; colleague Robert McClory wrote up Roeser and conservative Catholicism May 6, 1988.)
Like all good insults, Roeser’s carried a message as well. As far as I know he coined the parodic usage of “saddened,” as in, “I’m sure all good public radio listeners will be saddened by [the outrage du jour].” What could I say? He had us nailed. And the sly truth was that those who are merely saddened by, say, racist attack ads and falsifications of science are not about to fight back.
His opinions are often repugnant, but he doesn’t trim them. At a panel discussion downtown, I once heard him advocate stigmatizing children born to unmarried parents. One of his fellow panelists — a woman who probably knew more young people Roeser would call bastards than he knows Quaker Oats executives — just hung her head and sighed. Few secularists would agree that his end (reducing births out of wedlock) justifies such cruel means, but that just shows how far gone we are in depravity.
But now Roeser’s the voluntary victim, like the man prepared to bet his bus fare home on a three-card monte game that everyone else knows is rigged. He just can’t bear to admit that he was taken in, that what he calls Bush’s Eisenhower-like “resolute firmness” is the bluster of a bully who, unlike Ike, seeks an endless war and unlimited presidential powers.
Some opportunistic candidate — John McCain, say — will no doubt hire wordsmith Noonan again, and perhaps that candidate will also have Will first prepare him for a debate on the QT and then pose as a journalist to praise his performance afterwards. Will and Noonan will be fine. They’re in on the con. Roeser, in a way, is more honest than they are, and paradoxically that’s why he’s staying the course with the worst president in American history, and one of the least conservative.