Monday, November 28, 2005

Bush: a classic liberal

redhurt and I largely agree that, however you judge the actions of George W. Bush in the end, he's not a traditional conservative. We've even tossed around the idea that he's the second coming of LBJ--a hawkish, affable, big government Texan. Now, I've got Jonah Goldberg backing me up on this, even mentioning one of LBJ's programs in a column:

"President Bush's compassionate conservatism was never intended to be radical, it was meant to be the Republican version of feel-your-pain Clintonism. If Bush's domestic spending were a Broadway musical, reviewers would call it "Lavish!" and "Spectacular!" His big first-term domestic initiatives — aside from tax cuts — were an education bill cosponsored by Ted Kennedy, campaign finance "reform" favored by the sensible-shoes types and the biggest expansion in entitlements (prescription drug benefits) since the Great Society."

What's worst about GWB is that, for progressives, he's the worst of conservatism and liberalism put together. (I've said parts of this before in posts where I've had to clarify both what I believe and what I think liberalism should be: I'm not usually for "greater federal involvement" in things, I don't believe we should solve problems by "throwing money at them," I think affirmative action is ridiculous, I think a president's judicial nominees should, most of the time, be accepted and ratified, etc.) But GWB wields the twin powers of big government and big business recklessly: he starts wars, he creates new departments, he cuts taxes. It doesn't add up, and I'd like to hear if any of the conservatives in the room are disappointed. I was crushed last year when Kerry lost, after I voted for him before I voted against him; not because I believed in the shifty weasel, but because Bush damages everything he touches.


At 3:35 PM, Blogger Barnabas18 said...

Disappointed? Heck yes. Bush is not a conservative. You said he wasn't a "traditional conservative," but I'm offended if you put conservative anywhere near his name.

That said, he's way better than Kerry. But that's another discussion.

I'm disappointed in GWB, and think that he's done a lot of harm to the Republican party, and to the country, mainly through Medicare, NCLB, and other big spending programs like that.

I disagree with the Iraq war stuff, and your disdain for tax cuts, but I don't think that was your point, so I'll leave them alone.

At 3:42 PM, Blogger CharlesPeirce said...

I thought about toning down the polemical nature of the post a little, specifically to avoid getting into a discussion of the Iraq war, etc., but after I wrote it I thought it flowed well, so I left it alone. With that said, let me gloss it: tax cuts are sometimes good and sometimes bad and I didn't mean to disdain them; I think the Iraq war was a really bad idea that could have really positive results and don't want to discuss it here. Thanks for commenting on the part of the post I wanted comments on, and let me ask you: what could Bush have done for you to be less disappointed in him?

At 5:40 PM, Blogger StandingOutInTheCold said...

I'm not really disappointed by Bush, but maybe that's because I didn't have any real expectations for him. He was first elected when I was 16, so I didn't have any say in it. And at that point I was happy to see him elected to get away from the Clinton party, which I had been taught to detest (I probably would anyway, but its impossible to say now). In the last election I voted for Bush, and he has mostly done what I voted for him to do -- he is standing firm on Iraq, continuing to make national security a major issue in politics (whether he is actually changing anything or not), he has appointed great Justices to the SCOTUS (in my opinion), and he has not pressured congress to pass hyper-conservative measures like the no-gay-marriage amendment. He has done things that I would not do in his position. But every president does. Lately I've been asking myself, if Hillary gets to be the next president, are things really going to be the horror that conservatives dream? And I think probably not. And that leads me to think, does most of what the president do actually change a single thing in my life? Not really. Most of my life is dictated by lower orders of the government which, ironically, I pay far less attention to. Most of the federal stuff, besides war, obviously, is more idealogical than anything else. I take Bush's pro-life stance as an example. Conservatives are afraid of what will happen if we have a pro-choice president, as though that will drive us into the realm of drive-through abortions. However, we've had 5 years of a pro-life president and very little has changed in concern to abortion. Bush's stance on abortion has had zero effect on my life, and only a marginal effect on other's. Local government's view, on the other hand, has had a lot more effect on a lot more people.

Anyway, this is getting to be a ramble. The main point is that any president's actions only effect my life in a realy way when some huge, exceptional action is taken. Has Bush done some things that I don't especially like? Yeah. Is he more idealogically in line with me than the alternative? Yes. Has he acted the way I hoped he would on all the issues I consider major? Yes. So, am I disappointed in him? No. I'm getting what I voted for. You can't get a Reagan every time.

At 6:48 PM, Blogger Barnabas18 said...

First I'd like to answer Charles, and then what StandingOutIntheCold talked about...

Charles, the main thing Bush could have done differently to not disappoint me would be to stop putting the weight of his office behind bad policy, just to get reelected. Medicare is a great example. His plan was very different (and more conservative, though not entirely) than the one that got passed. But he wanted to get the drug issue out of the way, because if he didn't do something, he'd lose a lot of seniors and lose in 04. No Child Left Behind is similar - he needed to support it because he promised he'd bring accountability to education... in order to do so, he unconstitutionally made it accountable to the wrong institution (the federal government). If he doesn't support these measures, they both get voted against in Congress.

StandingOutIntheCold, I think you are missing how important the President is to the legislative process... you picked out abortion, which not even the legislature can change because of judicial activism, but rest assured, the President's position would be very important if (when!) Roe is overturned.

At 7:19 PM, Blogger StandingOutInTheCold said...

Barnabas, I'm not saying that the position of the President is not very important. What I am saying is that on a day-to-day basis, what the President does has no affect on me. My life today is virtually the same as it was under Clinton. American policy, the world in general, the military, and countless other things are different. But my life is not. And so looking at a President for me becomes more about ideaology than anything, because over time the overarching ideaology of our country will eventually touch my life. I vote for the person most idealogically like me in case something important does happen. I don't vote for someone because I think they will always do things I like. I don't even have the illusion that most of the things the President does will ever touch me -- odds are many of them will be reversed by the next President, or at least the next President of the opposite party. I guess the bottom line is that politics in America during my life time have been such that every minor decision is a pendulum that changes direction every time the other party gets power and the pendulum never swings so far that my life is actually changed. Maybe times are changing and that era of American politics is over, but its all I've ever known and its hard for me to look at things any other way.

At 8:47 PM, Blogger Barnabas18 said...

Well, I agree and disagree. You'll be paying much higher taxes because of Medicare. If a President pushes through universal healthcare (read: Hilarycare), then you will be the one to wait months for medical treatment, and when you are 80 and have cancer, we won't have a cure because of the lack of innovation in healthcare.

I think we think that politics don't matter as much as they do sometimes. Even if it takes 5-10 years or more for some of the effects to happen, subtle changes in national politics affect our lives.

At 9:09 PM, Blogger StandingOutInTheCold said...

Barnabas, I feel like we are way off the topic that Charles wanted, but I agree with you. You said it exactly -- it often takes 5 or 10 years for us to see the changes in the government. So, we have to base our vote now on what we think is going to last for 5 to 10 years and not be blinded by short term issues (i.e. the President's stand on abortion, since legislation is going to go back and forth. More important are the SCOTUS nominees the President will appoint, because they will be able to make a real difference. Etc.) So, my point, in short, is that its hard for me to care about a lot of the small stuff because I don't believe that it will last. It's only the big stuff that won't get turned over later by.

At 9:53 AM, Blogger J. Morgan Caler said...

I guess I don’t even feel like he is a liberal (or anti-conservative); I think he is a dangerous, short-sighted, hawkish radical. I think he is peerless (with the exception of maybe Goldwater) in his completely un-American governing ideology, completely without morals, and the end logic of Neo-Con ideology.

He is more dangerous than LBJ, Nixon, Carter, and Reagan combined (and it is worth noting that they round out the list of the five worst administrations in American history. Worst. President. Ever.

At 10:26 AM, Blogger Barnabas18 said...

Oh, J.Morgan, that last comment doesn't make sense to me.

In terms of foreign policy, I don't think you can call him short-sighted. He knew Iraq would be long and difficult, and knew it would be unpopular in the short-term, but stuck with it for the long-term benefits. But I don't really want to argue Iraq, I want to argue your characterization of conservatives in your comment.

Un-American ideology? You'll have to explain that one. Comparison to Goldwater... in what way? Any proof that Goldwater's governing ideology was un-American?

Top President in American history? Ronald Reagan.

At 10:31 AM, Blogger RedHurt said...

well, leave it to j. morgan to make it ridiculously polemical. Reagan was absolutely and without a doubt NOT one of the worst 5 presidents. That's entirely untenable and manifestly not the case. And neither is Bush. I don't think.

I'm disappointed in Bush. I'm not upset that I voted for him and still think Kerry was a terrible canidate, but I'm disappointed that he hasn't furnished better justification for the war in Iraq, hasn't furnished a good plan for getting it stable and getting us out, hasn't furnished an Osama Bin Laden, and has really done great damage to our reputation on the world stage. I don't really want France's approval on everything we do and I think the UN is broken and useless, but the bottom line is that a lot of people hate us right now, and our faithful allies in Britain particularly feel betrayed. I think coming clean on why we went to Iraq would do a world of good to clear that up, unless we went there for dubious and dishonest reasons, which makes that fear seem much more like a reality.

I think Bush garnered most of his support by portraying himself as a conservative focused on family values and religious issues. I don't think he really cares about either. I think he's done a world of good for Iraq in the long run, a world of pain for them in the short run, and largely left America unbenefitted or unhindered. I think Kerry would have caused domestic disaster while possibly improving our impression abroad, and as I see domestic stability as more valuable that our reputation world wide, I'll take Bush as the lesser of two imbiciles.

At 11:31 AM, Blogger CharlesPeirce said...

What domestic disaster would Kerry have caused? That seems to indicate that a Kerry administration would not have just done things you might not like that would have had both positive and negative effects, like start new government programs or raise taxes slightly, but that he would actually have wrecked the economy. Do you really think that's the case?

At 1:50 PM, Blogger J. Morgan Caler said...

I wasn’t trying to be polemical; I waited a while for people to voice their honest opinions and then I voiced mine. That really is what I think on the subject; sorry if it came across as argumentative or inciting.

The reason I think Bush (and Reagan, LBJ, and Goldwater) are/were dangerous radicals is that I don’t the United States should have a standing, professional military. The underlying assumption behind the 2nd amendment is that it would not. Jefferson wrote at length that a standing military force was fundamentally at odds with Democratic Republic. Washington extolled the citizen soldier who returns to his farm when the battles are done in direct contrast to England’s professional military. Any politician who enthusiastically spends on the military / Pentagon / defense completely ignores that principle. It is, in my opinion, fundamentally un-American.

At 3:51 PM, Blogger StandingOutInTheCold said...

J. Morgan, I'm sure you've heard this argument before, but I feel the need to voice it. It seems historically evident that your version of America would not exist today. If we had no standing military then we surely would have fallen to the Soviets. The only reason we beat the British military during the Revolution is because we had help from France's professional military as well as militias trained by the British military. Furthermore, military tactics and technology were such at the time that the average citizen could at least match a professional soldier in firepower, if not in skill or discipline. That is no longer the case. A professional military will almost always beat citizen soldiers (see Iraq today). The Soviet army would have crushed us. I'm not really sure that we could have gotten started in WWII (or WWI) without a professional military, although it wasn't long before most of our troops were not military personnel by career due to the breadth of the war and the immensity its casualties.

Without a standing militray we cannot be involved in any foreign wars. The founders lived at a time when some type of combat in the average person's life was much more common than today (in America). Without professional officers, especially strategic leaders and training personnel, we would not be able to muster a force capable of standing against a professional army. Can you imagine trying to lead a modern military operation without professional training? Do you know the best way to use close air support? Or when and where to drop bombs? Or how to best utilize mechanized infantry and special forces? I have no idea, that's what I trust our Generals to know. Furthermore, we would not be able to create the strategic plans or military equipment necessary for modern combat. How would we create our complex weapons and vehicles without a military? Are you suggesting that some civillians ought to own nuclear submarines while others own an aircraft carrier, the neighbors have a few Abrams and the family down the street owns an A-10? Maybe we could create such a force for domestic defense (national guard style, although that's still kind of a standing military). But it would be difficult to have the strategic prowess or military capability to be involved in foreign wars. Maybe you think that preventing Hitler from taking over Europe was a bad idea. If so I'll have to agree to disagree with you. Otherwise I don't think that you can deny the need for some involvement in foreign wars. You may not like the way its been done in the last 60 years, but we still need that capability, and we can't have it without a standing military. The founders lived in a different time when a lack of a standing military didn't necessarily mean that you were helpless to fight off agressors, and I don't think they seriously considered that we would ever want to send troops back to Europe (or else where, I guess). In today's world an America with no standing military would not exist. I just can't imagine a solely-civillian force successfully combating the Soviets. Or the Nazis.

At 5:29 PM, Blogger Jackscolon said...

First, I'd like to see this thread not get sidetracked by the whole military issue, although I'm not saying I wouldn't like to discuss it. If neither Charles or Standingout wants it, I'd be happy to give up space on my blog for it J. Morgan.

That said, I'll get back to the original topic.

1) I also am fairly disappointed. I think Bush had a great opportunity to "spend political capital" in his second term to take on things like our pork filled budget and Social security. I supported the Iraq war at the time, and still do because I think cutting and running is the absolute WORST thing we could do. If America's image is as damaged as people say, then success in Iraq is all the more necessary. Iraq aside, I think G-Dub wasn't bad in the time immediately after 9/11, especially compared to Gore. I think having a strong leader was crucial in preventing economic depression (stock market wise) especially after the tech bubble burst in 2000.

2) I feel a lot like Standingout when it comes to the effect of elected officials on my life. I don't really care if abortion/gay marriage/marijuana/spanking is legal or not- I'll vote, sure, but only because I want to believe that something I do matters. The only real reason I'm dogmatic in relation to politics is because of the economic equation. Bradley Whitford (the weasel antagonist in Billy Madison) said it best on Real Time one night, he was trying to slam conservatives by saying "Capitalism is their God" and, well, he is right (for me). Do I think democrats will do serious economic harm to America? Yes, and more yes. Regardless of what you say about the corrupt links of government and big business, I'd rather have a little good ol boy's networking behind the scenes than short sighted, economically INCOMPETENT legislation like fixed gas/drug rates, higher taxes on the rich (luxury tax on yachts is a great example here), universal health care, quasi socialistic European style welfare state-isms, and the like. Every single one of those are indefensible when measured against a realistic view of society. There is a lot more behind Wall Street's love of Republican candidates than the occasional back scratching.

At 10:06 AM, Blogger J. Morgan Caler said...

So, it seems like everyone is pretty unhappy with our current administration, though to varying degrees. Now, we have heard a bit of what most people think could have been done differently, but I want to know what the ideal Republican candidate in 2008 would look like to y’all. Specific policy positions are fine, but I am more curious about what fundamental, underlying governing ideology everyone would want to see from a Republican in 2008.

At 10:09 AM, Blogger J. Morgan Caler said...


“The founders lived in a different time when a lack of a standing military didn't necessarily mean that you were helpless to fight off agressors, and I don't think they seriously considered that we would ever want to send troops back to Europe (or else where, I guess). In today's world an America with no standing military would not exist. I just can't imagine a solely-civillian force successfully combating the Soviets. Or the Nazis.”

I agree with Jackscolon that we shouldn’t sidetrack this conversation with a discussion of the military, but I did want to quickly clarify my point. In short, I absolutely agree. My point was not that we should return to regional militias, but that, in general, American ideology has been very resistant to empowering the military beyond what is absolutely necessary, even to our own detriment. So, while I think that a professional, permanent military is essential and good in 2005, zealous investment in or expansion of the military is completely wrong to me. I think that the best soldier is the most reluctant one, and I think the same goes for the Commander-in-Chief (and by reluctant I do not mean weak or waffley in any way). Having a powerful military is advantageous in many ways, but is in fundamental opposition to our national principles.


“The only real reason I'm dogmatic in relation to politics is because of the economic equation. Bradley Whitford (the weasel antagonist in Billy Madison) said it best on Real Time one night, he was trying to slam conservatives by saying "Capitalism is their God" and, well, he is right (for me).”

This might get at how you would respond to my question. Why is the economic so important (both to you and to America)?

At 10:33 AM, Blogger CharlesPeirce said...

Unfortunately for standingout, j. morgan already wonthe discussion.

At 1:32 PM, Blogger Barnabas18 said...

Ideal candidate in 2008...


1. Will push for a ridiculously scaled back budget. No President has even tried, yet the budget battle is one that the President seems to have the political upper-hand

2. Resist social upheaval. Gay marriage, universal pre-school, and other things that come to mind are seemingly little social policy changes that have gigantic consequences.

3. Stay the course in foreign policy. Does what needs to be done, especially with a growing Iranian threat.

4. Somebody who knows how to veto!!! Bush hasn't vetoed anything in his two terms.

There's more I'm sure, but those are the most important things to me.

At 8:51 PM, Blogger Jackscolon said...

"Why is the economic so important (both to you and to America)?"

The reason I believe the economic is so important has to do with what I view as the role of government. I believe the government exists to-
1) provide national defense
2) build and maintain infrastructure
3) national parks
4) limited economic regulation (anti-trusts and the like)
5) unemployment benefits
6) crime prevention
7) and maybe a few others that I

Basically, the government only exists to protect the citizenship from threats domestic and abroad, and to safeguard the American way of life- in our case, capitalism.

I want to be left alone to live my life, pursue my happiness, and make my money (I'm not willing to concede that I can't find fulfillment through moderninity). As I said before, the government really doesn't affect my day to day life with the exception of taxes, the market, etc... so suprise! that's my most important issue!

If this comment has some huge obvious gaps or mistakes- I'm watching Mr. and Mrs. Smith so I'm only half paying attention...

At 8:52 AM, Blogger J. Morgan Caler said...

Barnabas, thanks for your answers. I don’t know too much about the universal pre-school thing, although I see you have a post about it on your blog. I guess I just don’t know what you mean by “conservative philosophically.” What sort of commitments and orientations would that entail?

Jackscolon, I don’t think there are any gaps in your response. At the same time, I just wonder why you identify “the American way of life” so closely with capitalism (or at least the sort of capitalism that exists in the world today).


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