Posted on June 26, 2011
GOP should reclaim GWB
In a June 21st piece at National Review Online, Rich Lowry suggests that Republicans are becoming increasingly disdainful of former president George W. Bush. He's probably right about that, and it's a shame.
Conservatives have always had our differences with Bush, which is why we were unenthusiastic about him during the 2000 primaries, despite his being opposed by a fairly weak field of candidates. Bush was liberal on illegal immigration. He was already promising massive new federal spending on education. He insulted his own voting base by declaring himself to be a "compassionate conservative," a term seemingly derived from his father's "kinder, gentler" drivel. He foresaw a more active role for government than any Republican presidential nominee ever should.
Still, we knew all this about him before he even won the nomination. It's not as if he, in liberal parlance, "grew" in office, like Richard Nixon did. The Dubya who was inaugurated in 2001 was the same Dubya who left office in 2009. It's not logical for mainstream conservatives who supported him during his reelection campaign to now denounce him as if he'd been their enemy all along. Unless they've been listening to the pollsters, that is.If they hadn't been instructed to treat Bush as a political leper, the GOP candidates at the New Hampshire debate would have never let CNN moderator John King get away with rewriting the ex-president's economic record. "After the tax cuts during the Bush years, where were the jobs?" he clucked. No one responded.
How hard would it have been for at least one of the candidates to point out that the cuts triggered a six-year economic boom, during which the unemployment rate plummeted to levels which, during a Democrat presidency, would be euphemistically characterized as "full employment"? This was an opportunity for them to explain to prospective voters the effectiveness of conservative tax policy. That would have required a rhetorical tip of the cap to President Bush, however, so they wasted it.
We're told that the Tea Party movement should view Bush as part of the opposition, and on some issues that's true. Remember, though, that before the Constitution was cool, it was Bush who made strict constructionism a prerequisite for judicial nominees, and zealously defended that standard (i.e., "litmus test") against the hostile media.
What's more, he kept his word, his misplaced confidence in Harriet Miers notwithstanding. Not only did President Bush appoint two solid pro-constitutional Supreme Court justices in John Roberts and Samuel Alito, but he stocked the appellate courts with other "Neanderthals" -- as Ted Kennedy called them -- from which future conservative presidents may choose their Supreme Court nominees. If liberal outrage is any indication, there's not a single Souter or O'Connor among them.
Never before had any president launched such a concentrated attack against that Death Star of liberalism, the activist judiciary. If liberals ever lose their power to legislate from the bench, it will be because Bush handed conservatives a blueprint for defeating them. For them to roll it up and swat him on the nose with it is a misapplication of resources, to put it mildly.
Fiscal watchdogs have some valid reasons for taking a chomp out of the former president, but they might have also barked a little louder in support of his ill-fated proposal to reform Social Security. Ditto that for his many attempts to hold Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac accountable for their risk assessments. Anyone can spout platitudes about eliminating earmarks, but Bush took far more politically dangerous, and therefore lonelier, stands for conservative principles.
His loneliest stand, of course, was on the surge in Iraq. Although he had little support from a demoralized population at home, Bush defied expectations by pressing on instead of pulling back. With his leadership, our military defeated the second of two reputedly invincible enemies in that country in just over five years. Instead of expressing gratitude, or even relief, the defeatists have fallen back on the pathetic talking point that the war, though successful, "didn't go well."
There are plenty of Republicans who are far less conservative than George W. Bush, and some of them are running for president right now. That he should be singled out for revilement is the result not of principled opposition, but of political cowardice.
Republicans are now blurring the distinctions between Bush's record and that of the Marxist subversive who currently resides in the White House. Not only is that factually and morally wrong, but as a strategery, it stinks.
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