With regard to all of this SCHIP business, the Economist tries to account for the rationale behind the President’s veto, noting:
Neither fiscal restraint nor the veto pen has characterized President George Bush’s time in the White House. America continues to run a deficit, and Mr. Bush has vetoed only three bills in his whole tenure. But now that he has a Democratic Congress to battle with, the president is promising to be tougher.
Mr. Greenstein [of the Centre on Budge and Policy Priorities] speculates that the president is really trying to force Congress to attach the health care tax-incentive proposal he unveiled in January. An aversion ot government-run health-care programmes and new taxes—a tobacco-tax increase would fund the SCHIP expansion—may also be driving Mr. Bush’s opposition. Or he may simply be trying to reestablish his credentials as a fiscal conservative
In adding to Bush’s reasons behind the veto, I argue that moral reasoning also played a role. I base my analysis off of the book Moral Politics by Berkeley Linguistics Professor George Lakoff. Lakoff argues that the liberal/conservative split over key issues is based on more than just partisan politics—he argues that these differences “arise from radically different conceptions of morality and ideal family life—meaning that family and morality are at the heart of American politics.”
Lakoff offers two structural models for the ideal family—the Strict Father model and the Nurturant Parent model. ‘Conservatives’ tend to prefer the former, ‘liberals’ the latter. From these differing conceptions of the ideal family, arise different moral systems for discerning what is good.
Lakoff characterizes the Strict Father model as:
A traditional nuclear family, with the father having primary responsibility for supporting and protecting the family as well as the authority to set overall family policy. He teaches children right from wrong by setting strict rules for their behavior and enforcing them through punishment…He also gains their cooperation by showing love and appreciation when they do follow the rules. But children must never be coddled, lest they become spoiled; a spoiled child will be dependent for life and will not learn proper morals.
If you accept Lakoff’s thesis, then President Bush’s veto of SCHIP makes perfect sense, assuming he adheres to the Conservative/Strict Father moral worldview (a pretty safe assumption I’d say, noting the President’s deep devotion to a conservative strain of Christianity, which espouse traditional family values).
The President would see SCHIP as undermining the ‘traditional’ family that his whole moral system is based upon. He would see SCHIP as transferring the responsibility of providing for the family from the father to the government. This diminution of the father’s authority strikes the heart of the Strict Father moral worldview. If this primary tenet is struck, then the whole moral conception loosens and waivers. In vetoing SCHIP, the President may believe that he is maintaining the very foundation his moral system—the authoritarian patriarchal father figure.