Monday, January 19, 2009

On the Bush legacy

Donald Douglas ponders the state of disrepute -- the 27% approval rating -- with which President Bush leaves office:
For average Americans, it's most likely that folks are simply tired of long and costly wars, fearful of economic uncertainty, and hopeful for vigorous leadership in the new Democratic era. Yet for partisans of the hardline left -- those implacably opposed to the GOP administration and its ideology -- the reasons for joy in the final poll numbers are many: the alleged "stolen" election of 2000; the post-9/11 terrorist "fearmongering" and the “shredding” of constitutional guarantees on civil liberties; the "illegal" war in Iraq, based on "false pretenses" of Iraqi WMD, and evil "neocon" designs for neo-imperial domination of the Middle East; and the "reign of torture" that has allegedly destroyed America’s moral standing around the world.
Despite all that, Douglas says:
President Bush is a leader of uncommon moral vision and clarity of national purpose.
You can read the rest at Pajamas Media. Myself, I think the most damning thing you can say about the 43rd president is: He was another Bush.

No one can credibly say that Bush 41 -- that is, the first President Bush -- was anything other than a patriotic and fundamentally decent man. Yet Bush 41's sense of decency was of that upper-crust WASP variety that frowns on partisan political conflict as something unseemly and divisive. There is something about inherited Republicanism that seemingly inflicts the second- or third-generation Republican with a guilt complex, an apologetic attitude.

In Bush the Father, this manifested itself as a "kinder, gentler nation," which in practical terms meant letting George Mitchell embarrass him into breaking his "no new taxes" pledge. In Bush the Son, the GOP guilt complex was expressed as "compassionate conservatism," a predisposition toward pre-emptive compromise as evidenced in No Child Left Behind and Medicare Part D -- half-measures that betrayed conservative principle without pacifying the Left.

Both Bushes waged war against Saddam Hussein, the son completing what his father had started, each apparently believing that they could expand the Republican Party's appeal on the basis of foreign policy. Yet there has never been any solid evidence for this theory of political dominance based on foreign policy.

The Democrats discovered this; Wilson's World War I was followed by the Republican victories of 1920, '24 and '28. FDR's World War II was followed by the GOP taking control of Congress in 1946, Truman barely winning re-election in '48, and Eisenhower being elected in '52. JFK and LBJ both positioned themselves as Cold War hawks, but beginning with Nixon's election in 1968, Republicans controlled the White House for 20 of the next 24 years.

If there is ever to be a "permanent Republican majority" (a phrase of Karl Rove's that now lives in ironic memory), it must be firmly based in domestic policy, and that policy cannot be the sort of "me too" Liberal Lite stuff of NCLB and Medicare Part D. The GOP cannot win elections based on promising American a more efficient Welfare State. If the GOP will not unabashedly stand in opposition to the Welfare State, will not speak out and vote against the relentless expansion and increasing expense of the federal Leviathan, Republicans will be consigned to permanent minority status, and rightly so.

It is his apparent inability to comprehend this fundamental political reality that ultimately provides Bush with his legacy: Another failure, another Bush.

UPDATE: Linked at Conservative Grapevine.

No comments:

Post a Comment