December 1, 2008
W Too Nice to be President?By Larrey Anderson
Conservatism needs a fresh start. It is losing arguments ... and it is losing elections. One person, more than any other (even more than John McCain), has caused this: President George W. Bush.
Conservatives have not been winning arguments -- or elections -- by defending President Bush and his record. We have been, repeatedly, thumped rhetorically and electorally in our efforts to support his policies. It is time for conservatives to move on.
George W. Bush is undoubtedly a sincere man. He is, in all probability, a good man. His dramatic conversion to Christianity indicates that he, at least at this point in his life, is a man of high moral principles. He is compassionate. And therein lies the problem: President Bush was too compassionate to be a good president.
A few conservatives saw this coming. I remember cringing at Bush's promise for "compassionate conservatism" and at these lines from his first Inaugural Address:
President Bush really believed this -- and probably still does. His opposition on the left, however, never has believed it and never will. President Bush "misunderestimated" the ruthlessness of his political opposition. And the Democrats spent eight years running circles around him. As a result, conservatism will probably spend the next eight years paying for Bush's naïveté.
The reason we will pay is because partisan politics, in spite of what President Bush and Senator McCain believe or would have us believe, is not a quest for civility, or respect, or fair dealing, or forgiveness. Partisan politics is the pursuit, acquisition, and the use of power.
Our Founding Fathers were well aware of this cold hard political fact. They were not congenial in their descriptions of the process:
Our Constitution was not written to ensure forgiveness. It was written to prevent any one political faction from obtaining too much power.
The founders did not demand or expect cooperation and compromise between competing political ideologies -- they wanted and expected wide-eyed and vocal competition:
Any politician who claims that politics is or can become a cooperative and civil process is either gullible (Bush) or is deliberately trying to deceive his constituency (Obama).
Conservatives must decisively distance themselves from the failed Bush administration. We cannot rationally defend President Bush's legacy and conservative policies or principles in the same argument. All such attempts are doomed to failure.
◊ We say: "The bailout was a horrible idea." The left responds: "It was George Bush's proposal."
◊ We argue that Medicare and Medicaid are bankrupt. The left counters that George Bush pushed through comprehensive free prescriptions for the elderly.
◊ We assert that our educational system is a disaster. The retort from the opposition: "No Child Left Behind."
◊ We contend that federal spending is out of control. The left just laughs at that one: "Ten years of Republican control of both Houses of Congress and most of those years with Bush in the White House. It is absurd to blame out of control spending on the Democrats."
◊ We insist that something must be done to stop illegal immigration. The left doubles over in laughter. Bush was on their side of this debate -- not ours.
And the left is right on every one of these issues.
The Bush administration was a near disaster even when the president stuck to his "compassionate conservative" principles. Bush spent the first few years of the war in Iraq conducting a "kinder and gentler" conflict. (Remember all of those months when the Islamofascists ran Fallujah?) If not for the absolute strategic necessity of the very late "surge" the war would have been lost.
And Bush nearly appointed an inexpert "school marm" (remember Harriet Miers?) to the U.S. Supreme Court. No doubt Bush thought it the decent thing to do as a repayment for her many kindnesses and unwavering support -- but it was a bad idea. If not for the outcry from the conservatives in America, Bush would have appointed an inexperienced version of a Sandra Day O'Connor to a crucial seat on the Court.
In short, almost nothing good was accomplished during the Bush Administration -- either for conservatives or for America. Let us no longer fool ourselves. Let us stop defending the indefensible. George W. Bush was no conservative. And he was too nice to be president.