Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Bush’s Legacy and Reagan’s

The Cannons, pere et fils, write that in some respects GWB’s domestic legacy rivals (and perhaps even exceeds) RWR’s. Compare, for example, Bush’s Supreme Court appointees to Reagan’s. Reagan gave us Scalia, but also O’Connor and Kennedy. While it’s too soon to tell whether Roberts and Alito will "evolve," they’re surely better than the current versions of the latter two RWR appointees.

While cautioning that presidencies look quite a bit different long after they’re over, the Cannons’ conclusion is harsh:

Bush’s approval rating is now in Carter territory, less than 30 percent of Americans hold a positive view of the Republican Party, and Democratic presidential candidates have overtaken the Republicans in campaign money, votes and crowds. The Republicans’ chances of taking Congress back from the Democrats are slim. So we can indeed reach a short-term political judgment of George W. Bush: He is a disaster -- if not the worst president of all time, then at least the worst since Carter, Hoover or any other recent failure. But who knows how the story will end?

To be sure, they note that Congressional Republicans had a hand in their own political fate and that of their party and that the end of the Cold War complicated the relationship of the GOP to the voters. President Bush is arguably responsible for two causes of the GOP’s slide: Iraq and the closely related perception of administrative incompetence, manifested in other ways as well. But if you consider the execution of the Iraq policy, the two people most closely associated with it are...(drum roll please)...Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, both old Republican hands whose "orthodoxy" is hard to question. Yes, GWB is ultimately responsible (at least in part) for the short-term fate of his party, but the men who urged him on are GOP stalwarts. The current state of the GOP is as much the result of what it did to itself as the result of what Bush did to it.

Discussions - 5 Comments

I myself am more and more ill-disposed toward Cheney and Rumsfeld. Bush's problems were almost all more excution than intention, and he was not served well by his key advisors on the challenge of what to do in Iraq after the actual invasion is over. Certainly he held on to Rumsfeld way too long, and Cheney did too much to stifle voices of doubt, caution, and planning. So I guess I agree: Bush's biggest failures were not caused by deviation from orthodox Republican policies, but by his over-reliance on fairly orthodox Republicans. And it's hard to deny--despite the Harriet thing--that he took the problem of judicial activism more seriously than any of his predecessors.

It's appallingly inaccurate to attribute those Supreme Court appointments to a Bush, who tested the waters for Gonzales, and tried to ram through Meirs. It was the base that got the nation Roberts and Alito.

As for his domestic "achievements," he has none, his major domestic accomplishment was that tax cut, which is sunsetted, and is due to expire unless Congress extends it, and in as much as Bush made sure we have a Democrat controlled Congress, through his serial incompetence, those tax cuts won't last very long.

He tried to sell out America in his attempt to "reform" immigration policy. He tried to sell America's ports to America's enemies.

Bush could be the first President who somehow thought that availing himself of his veto power was somehow dirty pool. Where did he ever get such a bizarre, ahistorical notion. Where did that ever come from? Just more of the strange, the inexplicable, that's THEMATIC throughout this administration. Bush could be the first President who thought that it was his job just to sign whatever spending bill hit his desk. His behavior regarding earmarks, pork, runaway spending, his expansion of agri-subsidies for instance, ---------------------------- just bizarre. BIZARRE!

It's as David Frum said, he couldn't think of a single presidency where there existed so vast a chasm between the statements of the President, and his actual policies. That topic alone deserves a book.

Another subject that deserves its own book would have to be how Bush refused, absolutely refused to get control of HIS Executive branch. Middle management in places like State, CIA, Pentagon, rewrote his policies, eviscerated them, and he didn't do spit about it.

The NIE for instance. Either he and Condi made sure they got the findings they wanted, or they allowed their own branch to make it damned difficult for him to pursue his agenda regarding Iran. Whichever one of those two damnable, utterly damnable situations it is, it still demonstrates a White House that's wholly incompetent.

And Peter, what's with the "he was not served well...." Cast your mind back to GW campaigning in 2000, hitting the campaign trail, and stressing in his stump speech that "I'm from the business world, and if you're not getting the job done, ------------------ I'll find someone who can!" Don't you remember that. Every time he said there was a resounding applause. For he always said it with a certain Pattonesque swagger.

He's the guy with the Harvard MBA, THE FIRST MBA in The White House.

No. NO EXCUSES. The staff he has is the staff he wanted. He wanted the aging relics from the Ford administration. And as for Rumsfeld, he seemed more keen on the "transformation" of the Pentagon, than actually winning the war in Iraq. BUT AGAIN, let's not put that on Rumsfeld, he was responding to a White House that was very comfortable with how the situation was unfolding. It's as David Frum said, there was NO urgency. If there had been, Rumsfeld would have lit some fires under some butts in Iraq, and gotten results much faster. Sure, Rumsfeld allowed the ticket punching to continue, and no general officer was ever tasked with ULTIMATE responsibility, but policy on Iraq was in The White House, not the Pentagon.

As for Cheney, HE ALLOWED KAREN HUGHES TO REWRITE HIS ENERGY PROPOSALS. That's UNREBUTTABLE incompetence. He could have told Bush then and there, "she doesn't edit, she doesn't rewrite, she doesn't even review my proposals to you, and if she does, I'm gone." That's what he could have done, but no, corpulence, complacency, incompetence, those were the order of the day.

And what of Powell, what of his selections for State, Armitage, Haas, Wilkerson. What of them?

What of Condi? Remember all of those fools going on about how she should head the GOP ticket for '08, remember them, ----------- don't hear too much about Condi in '08 anymore, now do you? What of her? What of her elevating Nicholas Burns?

Whose idea was it to go to Langley after 9/11, and instead of telling them they failed the American people, tell them "you're doing a good job, and America needs you." Almost the very words that he said to that incompetent "Brownie" after Katrina.

Don't defend Bush.

Excoriate him.

Don't defend this administration.

Rip it apart.

Dan, As usual I have some sympathy for what you say...Maybe I'm just an easier grader...I read the last chapter of Cannon and Cannon at Barnes and Noble, it seems very fair and makes a lot of astute judgments.

This isn't the time for grade inflation Peter.

He volunteered for the job, he knew the demands prior to more than most, having had occasion to closely observe his father.

He ran for re-election, when he knew the whole drama with Iran was yet to play out. And he knew that Iran presented some grim policy choices.

If he resigned and simply told the people the truth, that he lost whatever appetite he ever had to grapple with these momentous issues, if he had done that during the summer of '06, a Republican House would have placed a rock solid Conservative as the replacement for Cheney. It would have been that Republican who would likely be our candidate now. Or Cheney would have run on his own. The election of '06 would have played out differently as well.

Few would have criticized Bush. Many would have said that's it's healthy for a man to acknowledge his limitations, face up to them, and come clean with the American people. There would have been something refreshing to his resignation.

To be perfectly blunt, he put his hand on a Bible, sworn himself by a most high and holy oath, ---------------- and instead of fulfilling that oath before God, before history and before the American people, --------------------- he's mailed it in. And he's been mailing it in for years now.

In his own idiom, he's "kicking the can down the road."

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