Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Two Halves of the Bush Presidency

Bush sure got turned on, didn't he? He went from that guy who did what the Rooskies couldn't in Afghanistan to the savior of Iraq to a complete and utter failure. Huh? Where did that last one come from? If you're going to do an honest evaluation of the Bush Presidency, you have to look at both foreign policy and domestic policy. The former was his strength as much or more than the latter was his weakness.

On foreign policy, Bush and his Republican Congress was unstoppable for about 4-5 years. Vote Republican or vote terrorist was a pitch that worked with the voters. But it worked so well, Republicans paid attention to nothing else. On the domestic front, Republicans utterly ignored the biggest chunk of their constituents. We got a tax break once, HRAs, and a few bouts of wealth distribution disguised as tax rebates. And that's about it. On top of that, Bush and his Republican Congress went and implemented a massive prescription drug program. Republican Congress with a Republican President and that's as far as the conservative agenda carried us?

And it's not like Bush didn't warn us himself. "Compassionate Conservatism?" In 2000, a lot of us thought Congress would strong-arm Bush to keep that "Compassionate" business to a minimum. Then the War on Terror happened. Bush went from a President with marginal popularity to a President with phenomenal popularity. From that point on, the Republican Congress followed the President's every whim. And Bush led them right off a domestic policy cliff.

But we still voted Bush in 2004, right? And that we did. Bush won resoundingly without making any promises on the domestic front, which is good because he sure didn't deliver anything. If Bush had lobbied for small government as much as he lobbied for Harriet Miers, the Republicans might've had something to hang their hat on when the voters stopped caring about foreign policy so much. But he didn't. And if you were paying attention you would know he wasn't going to. That wasn't really his thing. When it came to domestic policy, Bush was always more of a Nixon than a Reagan. And no Republican in Congress was going to butt heads with a popular President from their own party.

Then a lot of people turned on Bush when it came to foreign policy. I still have no qualms with Iraq personally but I do not pretend to be a majority. I have no qualms with the War on Terror. I have no problems with the foreign policy aspects of the Bush Presidency. But more often than not people get tired of war. It just happens. People who voted Bush and voted Republican purely for foreign policy reasons either grew apathetic or hostile towards the way we handled things overseas. And when that happened, there was nothing else for Republicans to lean on. Bush's strength was no longer a strength and all that was left was a "Compassionate Conservative."

1 comment:

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Bush probably wouldn't be considered such a failure if he had been President during some other, more boring time in our history. But he was the guy who got dealt an awful hand, and he followed that up by playing the hand badly.

There may not have been such a backlash if not for the reality-bending crazy talk from his Administration. When folks said "the emperor has no clothes" he didn't prove he was wearing any, he went out of his way to wave his wang in our faces. When we ordered ribeye and we got cheezy poofs, he didn't explain why - hell, he didn't even say we'd ordered the cheezy poofs - he pointed at the cheezy poofs and called it ribeye.

Almost every one of his policies, and his explanations, actions, and appointees infuriated me despite my attempts to understand them. They drove me so nuts, even early on, that I even had to cast a vote for John Kerry.