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Bush backers are crumbling away in dismay
by Tim Jones
07 December 2003 23:52 UTC
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I'm probably over-sharing a bit here. I hope you'll forgive me wrapping up the "hate" thread with a conservative columnist's
conclusions. You'll have to read through Doug Bandow, a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan, reaffirming his anti-Clinton right wing credentials to get to his objections to Bush policy and his own camp's hypocrisy.


From: t r u t h o u t <messenger@truthout.org>
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Editor's Note | There are a large number of arguments presented in the editorial below that we do not agree with - one being that the Clinton impeachment was justified, another being that the Bush administration is not as far-right as it seems - but it is profoundly important to take note of the schism that is appearing between supporters of Bush and mainstream conservatives. This week's edition of Newsweek carried a 'Last Word' column by noted conservative pundit George Will. The sum and substance of his comments are a close copy to what is captioned below. - wrp

From "The American Conservative"
"the conservative movement has been highjacked and turned into a globalist, interventionist, open borders ideology, which is not the the conservative movement I grew up with"

-Pat Buchanan, NYTimes. September 8, 2002

The Conservative Case Against George W. Bush
By Doug Bandow
The American Conservative

Monday 01 December 2003

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. Even George Washington suffered some public abuse, and presidential campaigns involving revolutionary luminaries John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were vitriolic. After the Civil War, Republican candidates routinely waved the ìbloody shirtî; one GOP stalwart denounced the Democrats as the party of ìRum, Romanism and Rebellion.î

The GOP did not treat Harry Truman with kid gloves, and Democrats never let fairness impede their attacks on Barry Goldwater in 1964. Richard Nixon was widely reviled on the Left. Some fringe partisans expressed sorrow that John Hinckley failed in his assassination attempt against Ronald Reagan. And then there was Bill Clinton. Some Republicans saw him as a drug-dealing murderer whose wife killed family friend Vincent Foster.

Now Jonathan Chait of the New Republic says simply, ìI hate President George W. Bush.î Not one to hold back, he explains, ìYou 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.î More concisely, charges James Traub in the New York Times Magazine, ìGeorge Bush is a craven, lazy, hypocritical nitwit.î

Chaitís recent essay has triggered a spate of conservative responses. Bush is wonderful, liberals are irrational, and the whole thing is bad for America. These are rather hilarious arguments coming from conservatives. For instance, New York Times columnist David Brooks calls the phenomenon of the Bush haters a ìcore threat to democracy.î 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, but his conversion looks awfully convenient, as does that of other conservative Bush defenders. Hatred of Bill Clinton never made sense. In contrast, anger was fully justified.

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. But I joined in early and often. During his first summer of discontent I urged Clintonís critics to ìpile onî as opposition mounted to his policies. Over the years there was a moral imperative to take aim in the target-rich environment: the attempted government takeover of the health-care system, the pork-barrel stimulus package, the use of jackboot tactics against critics of federal policies, the endless claims of victimization, the unjustified Kosovo war, the sale of administration access for campaign contributions, the special-interest Whitewater and cattle-futures pay-offs, the sustained efforts to cover up such abuses, and the presidential perjury in federal court proceedings.

Clinton was properly impeached. He should have been removed from office. The rule of law demanded no less.

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, thatís not what the U.S. Constitution says. Blame the Founders, not George W. Bush.

Complaints about Bushís 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 heís a crazy right-winger is beyond silly. Other than tax cutsówhich have benefited the rich only because the rich paid, and still pay, most of the taxesóvirtually nothing of conservative substance has happened. Government is more expansive and expensive than ever before.

Jonathan Chait must have been smoking funny cigarettes when he wrote, ì[I]tís not much of an exaggeration to say that Bush would like to roll back the federal government to something resembling its pre-New Deal state.î Sad to say, inaugurating limited private retirement accounts is not the same as eliminating Social Security, let alone dismantling the Leviathan that has grown up in Washington.

James Traub contends, ìTodayís Republican Party is arguably the most extremeóthe furthest from the centeróof any governing majority in the nationís history.î This is the Republican Party that has embraced as its own every liberal initiative, from Lyndon Johnsonís Medicare to Jimmy Carterís Department of Education to Bill Clintonís AmeriCorps. This is the Republican Party preparing to enact a Medicare drug benefit that would represent the largest expansion of the welfare state in 40 years. This is the Republican Party that is increasing federal education spending as if doing so had something to do with the quality of local schools. This is the Republican Party that is increasing spending faster than during the Clinton years. Right-wing extremists? For the Left, liberal means centrist, and moderate conservative approaches fascist. Really conservative is off the spectrum.

But this president deserves to be criticized. Sharply. By anyone who believes in limited, constitutional government.

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 globeís 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 Iraqís WMD capabilities were incorrect; indeed, they resent that the president is being questioned about his administrationís claims before the war. They are unwilling to accept a role for Congress in deciding how much aid money to spend.

Some of Bushís supporters have been even worse, charging critics with a lack of patriotism. Not to genuflect at the presidentís 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 Husseinís 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: whatís the use of having this fine military you keep talking about if we donít 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 towardsóindeed, hatred ofóWashington is likely to continue growing, even in once friendly nations. It will be difficult to maintain an imperial foreign policy with a volunteer military.

Liberals should identify with the Bush record. He is increasing the size and power of the U.S. government both at home and abroad. He has expanded social engineering from the American nation to the entire globe. He is lavish with dollars on both domestic and foreign programs. For this the Left hates him?

The tendency to hate, really hate, opposing politicians surely is not good for American democracy. It is not rational to hate George W. Bush, just as it was not rational to hate Bill Clinton. But after spending eight years hating Clinton, conservatives who complain about the Bush-haters appear to be hypocrites.

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.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan.

© Copyright 2003 by TruthOut.org


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