Monday, January 19, 2009


President Bush: An Assessment. Discuss.


jeff b said...

I will withhold my ultimate judgement on Bush for several years. However, the blog claims Bush won reelection "rather easily"? Did he watch the 2004 election? Generally, incumbents presidents either win convincingly or they lose. 2nd Bush did not act like a conservative? Many conservatives may not like how Bush governed--but he is a conservative. The argument that he was not a conservative is intellectually bankrupt. Trying to claim, after the fact, that Bush wasn't really one of you, misses the point. Liberalism is what liberalism does--the same goes for conservatives. The argument that Bush did what he thought was best for the country--is exactly what many liberals said and continue to say about Jimmy Carter.

Sometimes, we elect presidents who (for whatever reason) don't suceed (I will go that far in my assessment of Bush). Partisans can serve themselves best by facing the truth squarely and honestly--intellectual acrobatics which try to argue otherwise only set any movement backwards. This ain't rocket science. As someone who studies post 1968 liberals, once I admitted (to myself) that Carter and a whole generation of liberals had gotten off-track--understanding what happened became a whole lot easier. From a partisan perspective I hope conservatives continue to delude themselves, as liberals did for a generation,--it is painful to watch, however.

Tom said...

I think the Powerline summary is very good overall, and is probably a lot closer to what the history will eventually drift to than the 'worst president ever' stuff.

Jeff, while it is true that actions are essential (and too often overlooked) in defining an ideology, it is simply not true that liberalism and conservatism are only defined by what liberal or conservative politicians do. They are also ideas, and they have an intellectual component that matters at least as much, if not more, than the actions.

I suppose we could get into a philosphical debate that no idea has any meaning unless it is tied to an action, but that is only an argument about the ways ideas matter. Here, in overly simple terms, is one way: self-professed conservatives in the United States saw George W. Bush's excessive spending as going against conservative principles (ideas), which played a major role in declining support (actions) for him and other Republicans after 2004. Ideas guiding actions, actions challenging and supporting ideas.

In that sense, I do not think anyone is deluding themselves at all here. You would be hard-pressed to find a conservative in America today who didn't think that conservative politicians have gotten off track. Positing explanations of why they are off track--'doing what he thought was best for the country', beholden to lobbyists, the ideal won't work for actual governing, etc.--may be important to figuring out how to get back on track.


Stephen said...

This is a can of worms and I don't have time to address this issue now, but this little bit of the discussion is interesting: "Liberalism is what liberalism does." That is true. The same does not hold true for conservatism. The idea that it should is one of the major sources of misunderstanding between liberals and conservatives. I think many liberals cheered at the line in Obama's inaugural about how it didn't matter if government was big or small, but whether it worked. We can get into this more. Gotta run back to work.

Robert C. said...

I'm not sure that I believe that liberals have less of an intellectual or philosophical basis for their policies than conservatives.

However, when people vote for conservatives in this country, they're not voting for Burke; they're voting for people who are best assessed not on the basis of an intellectual tradition, but by the actual policies they support. Those policies, over the past eight years, have defined the Republican party and conservatism in the eyes of Americans, as well they should.