January 19, 2009
Bush's Legacy: None of The AboveBy C. Edmund Wright
Will the legacy of George W. Bush be the deranged Keith Olbermann style analysis of today's media? Or will it ultimately become the flowery "he was a decent man who kept us safe" eulogy offered up by the likes of Sean Hannity and Bill Sammon? Or something in-between?
None of the above.
Allow me to submit: George Bush's legacy will be the end of Ronald Reagan's impact and the beginning of Barack Obama's. Rush Limbaugh, opening his November 5th show, said during what might well be the most anticipated five seconds in all of talk radio history:
"...well my friends, the new tone has come home to roost." Indeed. And his implication was that the new tone (and related GOP psychoses) led to the election results and that this roosting will have profound negative impact for years to come on the country. In other words, Bush's legacy.
From the start, the "new tone" strategy was akin to a circular firing squad -- doomed by a basic design flaw. But as it failed, Bush and Karl Rove's answer was not to re-examine the strategy, it was to make the circle even rounder. The more "new tone" they got, the more their enemies hated them and the less their supporters liked them. Down down down went the "Republican brand."
Thus, it can be said the defeat of the party of Reagan had been self-engineered by the administration for at least eight years.
(Only the Wellstone Memorial in 2002 and an extraordinarily weak Kerry campaign in 2004 disguised the drip drip drip erosion effect of the new tone on the GOP.)
Since Presidential terms are not isolated in a political-historical vacuum, the following election result is by definition part of the previous President's legacy. An administration's perceived successes or failures have more to do with who wins the next election than perhaps any other factor.
Bush's actions as president were largely not failures. His "new tone" communications strategy, however, was an unmitigated disaster that led to nearly 80 percent of the country thinking they were.
Consider the track record: 9-11 was inspired, dreamed up, planned, financed and rehearsed during the Clinton years but was attributed to "Bush's watch." The response to Hurricane Katrina was largely a failure on the part of Democrat-controlled Louisiana politics but of course was blamed on Bush and Republicans. Thirty plus years of liberal energy policy restricting domestic supply led to four dollar gas yet Bush, capitalism, Big Oil and Republicans got the blame. Decades of liberal cronyism, politically correct lending pressures and incompetent Democrat control of Fannie and Freddie crashed the housing market and by extension an overleveraged economy, but Bush and free enterprise absorbed the hit.
Of course a liberal media allowed these beliefs to fester, but the new tone dictated that no one from the administration dare challenge any of this. We "must not assign blame," you know.
Conversely, Bush's tax cuts helped bring the economy out of the 9-11 shock and the tech bubble, yet neither he nor conservative ideals are credited. Hawkish military and intelligence policies -- including the hated wire tapping -- did the impossible by preventing another 9-11 type attack for seven plus years, but no credit accrues to the President or conservatism. And "the Surge" is winning the Iraq War, but again, neither he nor his supporter's beliefs are connected with this success.
All the new tone did was to guarantee that Bush -- and by extension his party and his supporters -- never got credit for anything good yet got blamed for every problem.
Connect the dots. This, not reality, led to the historically tiny approval ratings -- which led to the nomination of a candidate like McCain who wanted to run against Bush -- which led to the 2008 election defeats -- which will lead to God knows how much trouble in the near future under extremely liberal governance.
Pardon me for saying so, but this "decent man" (and I'll cede that point) who I voted for twice appeared somewhat naïve and perhaps arrogant in "misover-estimating" his Texas charm's ability to bring about a "new tone" in Washington.
Moreover, he was not elected to do that by his supporters -- nor was there ever a shred of evidence that his detractors wanted a new tone. As Bush came to find out, leftist rattlesnakes are not vulnerable to his charm. They bite back, period. Was this really such a surprise?
Say great words about Clinton in the White House? Let Ted Kennedy and John Edwards write legislation? Give the UN months to act? Throw Rummy and Scooter under the bus? Sign CFR? Play nice with Putin? No matter. The left still called Bush a cowboy and a terrorist and a Nazi and to this day hate him more than they hate anyone on the planet.
More to the point, by extension, they also hate us and what we stand for. That is, they hate much of what America has stood for.
Memo to President Bush: this was NOT your fight alone. This was not YOUR office. It is our office and our fight. You shouldn't have capitulated on our important principles to establish a new tone that only you wanted.
To this day he seems not to have realized just how devastating the "new tone" was to his supporters and what we stand for, even as he admits the failure of the new tone. This misguided strategy (including compassionate conservatism) is nothing more than an extension of Bush 41's "kinder and gentler" America. It is a rollback of official support for Reaganism's successes by embarrassed Republicans who seem not to understand it. Since Reaganism was good for America, the weakening of it necessarily hurts America.
And this will be his defining legacy. Bush's refusal to fight back has allowed the left to define conservatism, capitalism, business, profit, terrorism and Reaganism. The born again Christian Bush has some admirable ideals, but he appears to have missed how he should have applied the Biblical principle of stewardship of the ideals his supporters elected him to uphold.
The failure to use the bully pulpit to explain and define key principles has contributed to an ignorant American electorate now poised to drive us further and further left. No one in the White House, aside from the all too short tenure of Tony Snow, had the vaguest notion of how to use that pulpit to fight this.
In the early days after 9-11, Bush "the cowboy" had approval ratings in the 90's and was making cocksure statements of moral clarity about the "axis of evil" and being "with us or against us." America's role on the planet was clear, as was Bush's vision of it. The only naysayers then were, well, Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright.
But somehow he tired of the cowboy image. Or he ran scared of it. Never mind that he is a cowboy and that people (except for American liberals) LOVE cowboys. So he became a nice decent meek man who preferred not to dirty his hands with political realities and he thought it was noble of himself to fall on the sword at every calamity.
We need nice decent meek men in this country. We just don't need them as President. Sometimes we need the confident cowboy. Frankly, the institutions that made this country great have lost too much blood from Bush's misguided thinking that he could fall on his sword alone. The Presidency does not work that way. The nation will suffer from this blood letting, which is largely Bush's responsibility, and his legacy will ultimately reflect that. Sadly.