Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Misunderestimated

While I certainly recognize the swearing in of our first African-American president as an historic event, I must also confess that I find the hagiographic nature of the Obama inauguration coverage somewhat stifling. Thus, as a personal remedy, I offer a brief retrospective on the departing Bush Administration.

On the positive side, Bush 43 pushed hard for tax cuts to stimulate the economy (and contrary to what many would have you believe, they actually worked – and in a big way), the appointments of solid Supreme Court Justices like Roberts and Alito (in my world, constitutional concepts like “strict constructionist” and “originalist” are good things), and for the US to alter its strategy by switching over to the offensive in the war on terror (fighting the bad guys over there being much preferable to trying to arrest them over here, after the fact no less).

On the negative side, I have a real problem with “compassionate conservatism.” Not because the two concepts are oxymorons (they emphatically are not), but because even under this approach, dollars had to be routed through the Washington bureaucracy. Also, the accountability inherent in NCLB is a laudable goal, but the practice is to ostensibly increase student achievement by throwing money into a failed educational system. Unfortunately, these spendthrift attitudes carried over into other areas; the GOP under Bush forgot all about “movement conservative” basics like limited government and fiscal responsibility. And, of course, there were the missteps common to all presidencies, such as the Harriet Miers nomination.

All things considered, though, I think that W turned out to be a pretty good president. On balance, I think that Bush was demonstrably better than would have been either Al Gore or John Kerry. Needless to say, reasonable people will disagree over that assertion, not to mention the Bush Administration’s specific policies and tactics. That is not a problem. However, I found the personal invective heaped on Bush, who by all but the most stridently partisan accounts is a decent and honorable man, boorish and intellectually indefensible.

Yes, I know that such an opinion may put me in the minority right now, especially here in the Classic City, where Bush Derangement Syndrome set in years ago. However, I fully expect the general attitude to shift somewhat over time and in that I am not alone. Consider these commentators:

History Will Vindicate George Bush” by Bruce Anderson in the UK’s The Independent

The Bush Economy” by the editors of the Wall Street Journal

History Will Remember Bush Well” by Marc Thiessen in the Wall Street Journal

Bush’s Achievements” by Fred Barnes in The Weekly Standard

Thank You, Mr. President” by Heinrich Maetzke in the Jerusalem Post

Court Affirms Wiretapping Without Warrants” by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau in the New York Times (whodathunkit?)

"Exit Bush, Shoes Flying" by Charles Krauthamer in the Washington Post

I am under no illusion that my little diatribe will sway anyone’s opinion, but it makes me feel better nonetheless.

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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

"they actually worked – and in a big way"... really? The tax cuts worked? Really?

Last I checked we were in a horrible economic meltdown... so cut taxes and draining any sort of surplus we had worked to stimulate the economy? What stimulated the economy was an overheated housing market, which as we all know has been a disaster.

james said...

Yes, the tax cuts worked in a big way. Money poured into state and federal treasuries because the economy was expanding. Don't take my word for it, consult the numbers from the Bureau of Labor Stastics, the Department of Labor, the Department of Commerce, etc.

Unfortunately, all of that new revenue resulted in new spending (for which I have castigated the GOP at length).

I will agree that government is in large part to blame for the mortage mess, but because of the insane policies it forced on lenders with the promise of buying up the resulting bad debt.