Priceless image making
Social conservatives work hard to elect a Republican president, who then tends to behave pretty much like a conventional Democrat on social issues. Bush did appoint a committee to look into reform of Title IX's ban on sex discrimination, which Washington bureaucrats have converted into a coercive and quota-driven program. But Bush backed away from the committee report, so the distortions of Title IX apparently are now permanent.
This shows that the full-time search for a compassionate image is a costly one. Bush can't back a sensible reform of Title IX because women might be offended. He can't put much effort into pushing vouchers because suburbanites might think he is out to destroy the public schools. He can't get rid of bilingualism, a proven disaster for children and a long-term boondoggle, because it might appear to be anti-immigrant or anti-Latino.
The most important cultural frontier is the courts. This is where dubious programs that command no majority support are rescued by judges willing to stretch the law on behalf of the cultural left. Bush has offered no real resistance to the Democrats' efforts to filibuster away many of his judicial nominees. Does he think that fighting hard for good judges is another one of those niceness violations that might cause the sought-after suburbanites to frown? Or is he just working hard for a solidly Republican filibuster-proof Senate this fall? Let's hope it's the latter. It would be bracing to see a conservative president act in a conservative manner.