Jonah Goldberg calls our attention to Ross Douthat’s meditation on "the lessons of Bushism," which he and I both enjoyed. While I’d love to be able to defend the misunderstood consistency of the Bush Administration, I can’t. Some of that is due to GWB’s admirable focus on the central challenge of our time, post-9/11. (Of course, I can’t claim that the response was consistently well-executed, though I’d love for someone to give me evidence of an American war that, by contrast, was.) But I think the failures of the Bush Administration’s domestic policy stem from at least three sources--its own distraction and incoherence (with different elements of the administration pulling in different ways--again, hardly unusual, however deplorable); its pragmatism, both in dealing with Democrats and dealing with big business; and third, its failure to persuade Congressional Republicans to follow its lead, either with respect to the faith-based initiative and, more importantly, I think, with respect to social security reform.
It’s fashionable to blame Bush and his supporter (hard to speak in the plural any more) for everything, but many of his failings are really failings of the Republican Party, which followed Tom DeLay’s lead in governing like a typical governing party--spreading out the pork and attempting to punish opponents--rather than consistently attempting to reconstruct itself and the federal government to meet the challenges of the new century. The other things with which conservatives like to find fault are as attributable to the business wing of the Republican Party as they are to Bush on his own. Anyone want to claim that the business wing isn’t enamored with comprehensive immigration reform, big government approaches to health care, the moderate embrace of affirmative action (how could we forget?), and No Child Left Behind? Anyone who wants to call out Bush and his supporter had better be willing to call out Wall Street as well.
If you care or need to read more, you can go here (for a misunderstanding, willful or otherwise, of the best case for compassionate conservatism) and here (for an articulation of what might have been said on behalf of compassionate conservatism, if it had continued to be fashionable to offer it).