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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Saturday, 6 December 2003

Topic: Bush
"It's not just the left that's angry any longer..."
The Conservative Case Against George W. Bush

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan. In the December 1, 2003 issue of The American Conservative he has a few things to say. In fact, he gets the cover story.

A word about the magazine. The American Conservative was started last year by Pat Buchanan. These guys want their conservative movement back, and they want their Republican Party back. And they're angry too. Very angry.

As Buchanan said last year, "The conservative movement has been hijacked and turned into a globalist, interventionist, open borders ideology, which is not the conservative movement I grew up with." (The New York Times, September 8, 2002)

And now Doug Bandow has this, the centerpiece of the new issue: Righteous Anger: The Conservative Case Against George W. Bush

Doug Bandow concludes:"George W. Bush enjoys neither royal nor religious status that would place him beyond criticism. Whether or not he is a real conservative, he is no friend of limited, constitutional government. And for that the American people should be very, very angry."

You can read the whole thing at the link, but here are some interesting excerpts:
Some liberals admit that they hate President George W. Bush. Many conservatives say they are appalled at this phenomenon. Indeed, some of them believe any criticism of the president to be akin to treason. So much for the political tone in Washington.

American politics have never been for the faint-hearted.
And to prove that point he reviews some history: George Washington taking abuse, the vitriolic John Adams and Thomas Jefferson campaigns, the Republicans excoriating Truman, the Democrats Goldwater - all that stuff. And he comments on how many Republicans were eager to claim Bill Clinton was in fact a drug-dealing murderer whose wife killed family friend Vincent Foster. I have a friend who argues that position to me repeatedly. And Bandow, of course, reviews the current "hatred" of Bush - Jonathan Chait in the New Republic saying, "You decide Bush is a dullard lacking any moral constraints in his pursuit of partisan gain, loyal to no principle save the comfort of the very rich, unburdened by any thoughtful consideration of the national interest, and a man who, on those occasions when he actually does make a correct decision, does so almost by accident."

And Bandow comments on the response from the right - screams that Bush is wonderful, liberals are irrational, and the whole thing is bad for America. He says these are rather hilarious arguments coming from conservatives. For instance, New York Times columnist David Brooks calls the phenomenon of the Bush haters a "core threat to democracy." Yet, as Brooks acknowledges, the Clinton years were also well-populated with haters. Brooks now regrets having not spoken out more clearly against the latter. Better late than never, perhaps...

Bandow adds:
I never understood why conservatives invested so much emotion in Clinton. He was a charming and bright but enormously flawed, highly ambitious man of few principles. That warranted criticism, not hatred. ... Similarly, though George W. Bush is very different from Bill Clinton, hatred makes no sense. But anger is appropriate.

Much of the liberal case against President Bush is barely short of silly. His election was not illegitimate. Whether or not the candidate with the most votes should win, that's not what the U.S. Constitution says. Blame the Founders, not George W. Bush.

Complaints about Bush's fabled inarticulateness and privileged background are superficial. More worrisome are his partisan focus, demand for personal loyalty, and tendency to keep score, but these are hardly characteristics warranting hatred.

The charge that he's a crazy right-winger is beyond silly. Other than tax cuts--which have benefited the rich only because the rich paid, and still pay, most of the taxes--virtually nothing of conservative substance has happened. Government is more expansive and expensive than ever before.
Indeed. So just what is the problem, Doug?

Here he lays it out (my emphases):
First, George W. Bush, despite laudable personal and family characteristics, is remarkably incurious and ill read. Gut instincts can carry even a gifted politician only so far. And a lack of knowledge leaves him vulnerable to simplistic remedies to complex problems, especially when it comes to turning America into the globe's governess.

Second, despite occasional exceptions, the Bush administration, backed by the Republican-controlled Congress, has been promoting larger government at almost every turn. Its spending policies have been irresponsible, and its trade strategies have been destructive. The president has been quite willing to sell out the national interest for perceived political gain, whether the votes sought are from seniors or farmers. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 encouraged the administration to push into law civil-liberties restrictions that should worry anyone, whether they are wielded by a Bush or a Clinton administration.

The president and his aides have given imperiousness new meaning. Officials are apparently incapable of acknowledging that their pre-war assertions about Iraq's WMD capabilities were incorrect; indeed, they resent that the president is being questioned about his administration's claims before the war. They are unwilling to accept a role for Congress in deciding how much aid money to spend.

Some of Bush's supporters have been even worse, charging critics with a lack of patriotism. Not to genuflect at the president's every decision is treason. In two decades of criticizing liberal politicians and positions, I have rarely endured the vitriol that was routinely spewed by conservatives when I argued against war with Iraq over the last year. Conservative papers stopped running my column; conservative Web sites removed it from their archives. That was their right, of course, but they demonstrated that it was not just the Clintons who were fair-weather friends.

Third, President George W. Bush has made Woodrow Wilson the guiding spirit of Republican foreign policy. A candidate who criticized nation building is now pursuing global social engineering. The representative of a party that once criticized foreign aid is now pushing lavish U.S. social spending abroad, demanding that it be a gift rather than a loan.

And the administration has advanced a doctrine of pre-emption that encourages war for allegedly humanitarian ends. Attempting to justify the Iraqi war retrospectively by pointing to Saddam Hussein's manifold crimes, the president apparently believes he may attack any nation to advance human rights. Ironically, the Bush administration has adopted as its policy the question posed by then UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright to then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell: what's the use of having this fine military you keep talking about if we don't use it?

The negative practical consequences of this policy are all too evident. Ugly foreign governments from Iran to North Korea have an incentive to arm themselves, quickly, with WMD to deter a U.S. preventive assault. Iraq has become a magnet for terrorist attacks while becoming a long-term dependent under U.S. military occupation. Anger towards--indeed, hatred of--Washington is likely to continue growing, even in once friendly nations. It will be difficult to maintain an imperial foreign policy with a volunteer military.
And there's more. But you get the idea.

One more thing for Karl Rove to worry about...

Posted by Alan at 16:53 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 9 December 2003 13:28 PST home

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