Jefferson's democracy

Franklin Jefferson's thoughts on the world

Monday, March 20, 2006

George W. Bush is not a Conservative

It is a very simple fact, but nobody seems to have noticed it. George W. Bush is not a conservative.

When you ignore his talk, and looking at what he has actually done, you see that over and over again, George W. Bush has betrayed every ideal that the conservative movement has.

The heart and soul of the conservative thinking is fiscal conservatism: the government should be responsible for how it spends money. The conservative economic view has always been very simple: balance the budget, and quit deficit spending. That idea somehow went out the window when George W. Bush was elected (in fact, suddenly we are even hearing how deficit spending is somehow good for the nation.) What happened to the "lock box," where George Bush said he would put the budget surplus to save it for social security? The instant he got elected, he seems to have forgotten his promise.

The fact is, George W. Bush has run up a record budget deficit-- the largest deficit in history. And, before you say that terrorism and the response to the 9/11 atrocity is the source of the unexpected budget deficit-- look at the data. Only a small portion of the Bush deficit can be tagged to the 9/11 terrorists. Bragging about "cutting" taxes while actually increasing government spending at the same time isn't really a tax cut; it's just increasing the tax next year. America is about our children, and leaving our children and grandchildren in debt is not what we mean by "family values."

The heart of America is our business. Americans aren't afraid to work... but where are the jobs? A conservative president should be a pro-business president, but in fact rather than helping business, American businesses are going out of business; and the ones that are staying in business are shipping jobs oversees. No matter what Mr. Bush's advisors may think, ramping up the deficit is not helping the economy.

Mr. Bush says that education is his priority. This is excellent, but is the federal government really the right place to reform our schools? Education needs to be done at the local level-- right at the level of homes and families-- and not by big-government mandate. The "no child left behind" laws, stripped of rhetoric, consist of nothing except new government-mandated standardized tests-- another unfunded mandate from Washington that our states and cities have to pay for. Teaching children how to do well on standardized tests-- is what we want to teach our children? When did conservatism start believing that the government in Washington is the right place to run our schools?

The conservative world view is that the era of Big Government is over. Ronald Reagan knew that, and for that matter, so did President George H. W. Bush. But the younger Bush just hasn't gotten the message.

Iraq. It goes without saying that America needs to be strong, and that we should use every means of defending ourselves against those who detest our freedom and despise our way of life. Destroying the Taliban, the stronghold of the Al Qaida terrorists, was necessary and unavoidable; it was required for the defense of America. But invading Iraq? Long ago, John Quincy Adams wrote, "Wherever the standard of freedom shall be unfurled, there will [America's] heart, her benedictions, and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy." It doesn't matter how loathsome a dictator Saddam Hussein was; America should go to war only with great reluctance, and as a matter of last resort. America isn't in the business of nation building.

Once, even George W. Bush understood that. During a debate with then-Vice-President Al Gore in 2000, Mr. Bush said: "I don't think our troops ought to be used for what's called nation-building . . .. Maybe I'm missing something here. I mean, we're going to have a kind of nation-building corps from America? Absolutely not." Apparently to Mr. Bush, it depends on what the meaning of "absolutely not" is.

And fear of terrorism is no reason to erode our liberty.

Conservative leader Pat Buchanan said, "It is remarkable how complacent Americans seem to be, as our freedoms are gradually restricted, and more and more power and wealth flow to Big Government to protect us from terrorists." Do we really need the 342-page Patriot Act, to protect us from terrorism by giving the government more rights? Has we finally become a place where American citizens can be picked up and held without lawyer and without charges, indefinitely? It is worth quoting Benjamin Franklin: "They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security. " When did we decide that we prefer our security to our liberty?

Mr. Bush is that, quite frankly, he is not merely destroying the credibility of the Republican party, he is damaging the credibility of conservativm, period. Is Bush really the person who we want the world to view as the public image of conservatism? For the last twenty years, Ronald Reagan has been the image of conservatism in American. Do we want George W. Bush to be the intellect who will shape conservatism for the next twenty years? Conservatism could have survived a term of Mr. Kerry as president-- it may even have made us stronger and more focussed. But will conservatism survive another term of Mr. Bush?

Bush, a wolf in sheep's clothing, is eroding our economy, our liberty, and the very standing of our nation in the world. His words say that he is a conservative. His actions, on the other hand, say exactly the opposite.

Recommended reading:
Where the Right Went Wrong: How Neoconservatives Subverted the Reagan Revolution and Hijacked the Bush Presidency, by Pat Buchanan
War without end:
The Case against Empire:
The war party


Blogger Franklin Jefferson said...

Sometimes it feels like I'm the only one who's noticed that President Bush is not a conservative in any meaningful sense of the term, but occasionally somebody points it out:

From :

... the two major parties have staked out rough philosophical positions along these lines: the Republicans are, at least rhetorically, for a lean and limited government; the Democrats are unreconstructed advocates of state power, state spending and state solutions to every problem.

But the facts - the performance of the parties when they have the power - have never borne that out. We got such regulatory state measures as the Clean Air Act and wage and price controls under Nixon, and the Americans with Disabilities Act under the first George Bush. And it was under Democrat Bill Clinton that we got meaningful welfare reform that has knocked nearly 3 million families off the federal dole so far, even as child poverty rates shrink. But the most vivid example that Republicans can't be relied on as consistent defenders of smaller government is our current Republican president. Bush has increased domestic discretionary spending 25 percent in less than four years, compared to an increase under Clinton over his entire two terms of only 10 percent.

[In 2000] Bush's administration is spending over $20,000 per American household, the highest level, adjusted for inflation, since World War II. He can't blame it on war and post-9/11 security measures alone, either. Even with those taken out of the equation, according to an analysis by the usually GOP-leaning Heritage Foundation, discretionary spending under Bush has increased 16 percent, from $340 billion to $395 billion.

And then there's his Medicare expansion. Clinton had an opposition Congress to curb his health-care expansion enthusiasms; Bush, alas, had a GOP Congress mostly compliant to his wishes.

Bush has betrayed the humble, restrained small-government vision of the Republican Party in other ways as well, for example, by engaging in a spectacularly expensive nation-building project in Iraq, despite talking intelligently against that sort of big-government hubris while campaigning in 2000. He's shown no firm dedication to free-trade principles, hiking tariffs on steel and shrimp. He's supported restrictions on free political speech by signing the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill.

... It couldn't be clearer that the combination of Bush in the White House and a GOP-dominated Congress has been a disaster when it comes to curbing the growth of government spending and programs.... And if George Bush doesn't receive some electoral punishment for his profligate ways, the Republican Party's value as a vehicle for limiting government will plunge lower than a 10-year-old Ford Escort. Bush might earn some short-term electoral advantage through expensive schemes like his Medicare reform. But such schemes are sure to bankrupt the republic in the long run.

3/21/2006 2:30 PM  
Anonymous Jon said...

American Conservative:
"The libertarian writer Lew Rockwell has mischievously noted parallels between Bush and Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II: both gained office as a result of family connections, both initiated an unnecessary war that shattered their countries’ budgets. Lenin needed the calamitous reign of Nicholas II to create an opening for the Bolsheviks.

Bush has behaved like a caricature of what a right-wing president is supposed to be, and his continuation in office will discredit any sort of conservatism for generations. The launching of an invasion against a country that posed no threat to the U.S., the doling out of war profits and concessions to politically favored corporations, the financing of the war by ballooning the deficit to be passed on to the nation’s children, the ceaseless drive to cut taxes for those outside the middle class and working poor: it is as if Bush sought to resurrect every false 1960s-era left-wing cliché about predatory imperialism and turn it into administration policy.

...George W. Bush has come to embody a politics that is antithetical to almost any kind of thoughtful conservatism. His international policies have been based on the hopelessly naïve belief that foreign peoples are eager to be liberated by American armies—a notion more grounded in Leon Trotsky’s concept of global revolution than any sort of conservative statecraft."

3/22/2006 8:56 PM  
Blogger Franklin Jefferson said...

"Bush has behaved like a caricature of what a right-wing president is supposed to be, and his continuation in office will discredit any sort of conservatism for generations."

Right. Except that I would say that he doesn't behave like what a right-wing president is supposed to be-- in fact, in many ways he's completely antithetical to the right wing.

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