Compassionate Conservative

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Fri Feb 4 08:09:45 UTC 2000

Compassionate Conservatism: New Direction or "Just a Gimmick"?
--CINCINNATI ENQUIRER (headline), 11 February 1999, pg. B1.

George W. Bush has given us a new term: compassionate conservative, and many
people are wondering if they are one.
--INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY, 26 August 1999, pg. A22.

George W. Bush, Mr. Compassionate Conservative.
--CHICAGO OBSERVER, 1 November 1999, pg. 78.

"Gov. George W. Bush of Texas recently called himself a compassionate
conservative," notes New York Post columnist David Gelernter. (...) "As a
politican slogan it is almost as brilliant as 'Vote for Me--I've Stopped
Beating My Wife!'" (...) "Bush's critics have noted that 'compassionate
conservative' is a two-headed cow-type of phrase, based on the proposition
that most conservatives are uncompassionate (as most cows are monoheaded).
The proposition is wrong, in fact offensive.  There are no grounds for
believing that liberals are more compassionate than conservatives.  Why would
anybody entertain this crazy idea in the first place?"
--WASHINGTON TIMES, 26 February 1999, pg. A6.

"I have ordered my staff to never--ever--utter the words 'compassionate
conservative,'" he (Dan Quayle--ed.) said.  "This silly and insulting term
was created by liberal Republicans and is nothing more than code for
surrendering our principles."
--INDEPENDENT (London), 13 January 1999, pg. 15.

     Who coined Compassionate Conservative?
     There are 2,791 hits for this phrase on the Dow Jones publication
database.  I didn't research it before now because I was certain that William
Safire did it (perhaps in a column I had missed while out of the country).
However, I don't see "Compassionate Conservative" in the NEW POLITICAL
DICTIONARY (1993).  I typed in "William Safire" with the phrase on the
database search, but an "On Language" column didn't come up.
     It's certain that George W. Bush didn't coin it in the past year or so.
The phrase is older than that.
     San Francisco talk radio personality Michael Savage has billed himself
as a "compassionate conservative" since about 1995, and he claims to have
coined the phrase (PR NEWSWIRE, 12 October 1999).  However, a check of hits
with his name show that the phrase is much older than his use of it.
    This is from BUSINESS WEEK, 20 September 1999, pg. 6:

     It's in his campaign mantra: George W. Bush=Compassionate Conservative.
He repeats it so often you'd think he coined the phrase.  Think again.  One
of Bush's rivals for the Republican Presidential nomination, Utah Senator
Orrin Hatch, first used the term in 1981.  "I'm a conservative, and proud of
it, but I'm a compassionate conservative," Hatch told The New York Times
after saving the Jobs Corps from the Reagan Budget knife.

     The Lexis-Nexis Universe didn't locate this citation from 1981--perhaps
the full Nexis does.  No other hits on Lexis-Nexis or Dow Jones are earlier.
I haven't yet checked JSTOR.
     The only other early, interesting hit is this, from the NEW YORK TIMES,
14 September 1980, sction 4, pg. 20, col. 3:

     It is a compassionate and conservative action to help the unemployed
individual and the economy quickly and effectively. (...) WILBUR T. COHEN,
Chairman, National Commission on Unemployment Compensation.

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