George W. Bush is not only America’s president, but also its most prominent moralist. No other president in living memory has spoken so often about good and evil, right and wrong. His inaugural address was a call to build “a single nation of justice and opportunity.” A year later, he famously proclaimed North Korea, Iran and Iraq to be an “axis of evil,” and in contrast, he called the United States “a moral nation.” He defends his tax policy in moral terms, saying that it is fair, and gives back to taxpayers what is rightfully theirs. The case he makes for free trade is “not just monetary, but moral.” Open trade is a “moral imperative.” Another “moral imperative,” he says, is alleviating hunger and poverty throughout the world. He has said that “America’s greatest economic need is higher ethical standards.” In setting out the “Bush doctrine,” which defends preemptive strikes against those who might threaten America with weapons of mass destruction, he asserted: “Moral truth is the same in every culture, in every time, and in every place.” But in what moral truths does the president believe? Considering how much the president says about ethics, it is surprising how little serious discussion there has been of the moral philosophy of George W. Bush.
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