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January 14, 2009

Bush's Achievements

Seven or So Things The President Got Wrong



Fred Barnes posted an article the other day in his generally pro forma Rockefellerist shill style listing the “ten great achievements” of the Bush presidency.


In his piece, "Bush's Achievements: Ten things the president got right," Mr. Barnes claims the Bush Presidency “was far more successful than not”, particularly noting Bush’s courage as deserving of “special recognition”. Barnes went on to imply that Mr. Bush demonstrated this trait of courage even more than the great President Ronald Reagan, much, no doubt, to the consternation of conservatives. Then again, Barnes is a "post-Reagan" (really a pre-Reagan) RINO, so that is nothing new.


Now that Fred’s pitch has reached the utter height of what surely even he knows is hyperbole, let us take a look at each of these enumerated feats of greatness for which the RINOs believe they, like the liberals’ Franklin D. Roosevelt and the conservatives’ Ronald Reagan, finally have their man (after all, there was so much hope lost when Nixon fell flat).


Let’s begin where we should, which is where Fred began: The torpedoing of the Kyoto protocol. Fred is correct that this was a wise, common sense thing to do; it was not to be enforced with China or India – two of the world’s biggest polluters – and it would have hamstrung the American economy, as radical environmentalism not only does, but in fact is designed to do. Here, I agree.  However, Bush did not do it to stand against global warming hysteria; in fact, he did little to stand against it, choosing instead to come across as wishy-washy and willing to cede invalid premise after invalid premise much the same way John McCain did. While it is true that eventually the lie was put to any so-called consensus among scientists regarding anthropogenic global warming, Bush was not a key player in bringing this about. Sorry Fred, please don’t cry on your popsicle stick.


Now for Fred’s number two area of great goodness wrought by President Bush, I can agree with both Barnes and Krauthammer here; yet, for all of the terrorists Bush caught and interrogated, we still do not know how many have crossed into the U.S.  via the Mexican and Canadian borders, because President Bush was far more interested in helping his friends make money off of cheap slave labor rather than protecting the country from hostile foreign entities. In short, Bush was great with terrorists he caught and it’s just too bad he wasn’t as willing as he should to catch them.


Additionally, Fred’s reference to Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus is both specious and dangerous, the latter in two ways: First it is dangerous because it promotes a time in which countless members of the press and American civilians were arrested without cause for simply being political dissenters to Lincoln’s agenda. In fact, prior to Maryland’s vote on secession, Lincoln had countless Marylanders arrested without charge in order to prevent the state from following what at the time was considered by many a constitutionally protected right: that of dissolving union (in fact, in the 1840s, 50s, and earlier, many New England states had considered secession in order to mitigate the increasing economic influence it feared from the South). The second reason it is dangerous is that Barnes equates Bush’s treatment of illegal foreign combatants to that by Lincoln of U.S. citizens; in so doing, Barnes does the footwork of the left, which could then say that the rights of illegal foreign combatants and U.S. citizens are equal. Bad move, but then RINO logic usually doesn’t run too deep, anyway. While there are reasonable temporary actions which must be taken during national emergencies measured against the nature of the emergency, Bush’s actions in Gitmo are nothing other than standard operating military procedure undertaken against those captured on the battlefield without uniform and conforms to the international law of armed conflict, as agreed to by its signatories around the world. Bush’s policy at Gitmo, therefore, is not comparable to Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, which was an extreme and inappropriate power grab by a president who was fully aware the Confederacy had no intention of destroying Washington or the North.


“Bush's third achievement was the rebuilding of presidential authority, badly degraded in the era of Vietnam, Watergate, and Bill Clinton.” Bill Clinton was naturally a mixed bag, in that while his presidency was weakened significantly by his various scandals, it was also strengthened through his repeated use of executive orders and by some of the backroom deals made during his time in office to keep himself in the game. It is true, however, that Bush did succeed in strengthening the executive by defending the right of the office to make the decisions enumerated to it by the Constitution and keeping its own internal and confidential meetings and such private just the same way that congress does. As Barnes quotes Cheney as aptly saying of congressman Henry Waxman, he "doesn't call me up and tell me who he's meeting with."


“Achievement number four was Bush's unswerving support for Israel. Reagan was once deemed Israel's best friend in the White House. Now Bush can claim the title.” Really? I’ll give Bush credit for not being as anti-Israel  as the Clinton or Carter administrations, but as much a friend as Reagan? Perhaps Mr. Barnes should also take a look at the records of the two secretaries of State the president appointed. Indeed, Rice was better than Powell, but their constant pressure on Israel to forfeit land for “peace” and a policy of constant retreat has now cost countless Israeli lives and endangered millions more. Hamas and Hezbollah have been allowed to build up arms and further their training, aided by Iran, Syria, and Russia with very little if any real public criticism from the U.S. , while any real criticism of Arafat was muted by the legitimacy the State Department conferred on the known terrorist, whose arm patch to his death displayed the entire land of Israel as land claimed by his group (translation, Arafat to his death never wavered in his call for the total annihilation of Israel). Because Bush was criticized for his support of Israel does not mean he was a good champion of Israel; rather, it is simply par for the course for those who hate America and the left, who will continue to show displeasure with any policy short of outright hatred for Israel. Once again, RINO thought is a mile wide and an inch deep.


His fifth success was No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the education reform bill cosponsored by America's most prominent liberal Democratic senator Edward Kennedy. The teachers' unions, school boards, the education establishment, conservatives adamant about local control of schools--they all loathed the measure and still do. It requires two things they ardently oppose, mandatory testing and accountability.


 – As is the case with many RINO policies, this is long on assertions and short on proof of any success. In fact, in this case, Barnes offers no proof at all of NCLB success. While part of the policy is laudable in making teachers more accountable, it neither is the federal government’s place nor is it best done by the federal government to micromanage education, which is best handled on the local level. Bush does get some credit for supporting tuition tax credits for poor families to be able to send their children to private schools – after all, competition is what works – but he was somehow completely unable to get such a policy enacted even with bicameral Republican control of congress. Thus, Bush’s education score card gets a big “F”.  As for Fred Barnes’ ceding the argument of the left that conservatives do not know what’s best for education, we find again RINO thought both damaging to the Republican cause and ignorant of the facts; conservatives generally hold a far deeper sense of importance of education than many of those over-fed former frat boy RINOs.


“Sixth, Bush declared in his second inaugural address in 2005 that American foreign policy (at least his) would henceforth focus on promoting democracy around the world. This put him squarely in the Reagan camp…” This is both on the face and in fact untrue. What Bush promoted was at best, strategic democracy; that is to say, democracy in states otherwise deemed both an immediate threat to American interests by the Bush administration and comparatively easy to tackle. At the same time, Bush continued to see butterflies and fairies in Vladimir Putin’s soul and dollar signs in Hu Jintao’s even as those leaders not only continued to accelerate their abuse of fundamental human rights and liberties in their respective countries, but began exporting their misery abroad both militarily and through soft power. Bush, rather than coherently and realistically pushing for democracy in Russia and freedom among its “near abroad”, simply embarked on a policy course which simply followed Clinton’s lead on Russia with far too few improvements and acted as an irritating fly on a horse more so than a convincing defender of democracy.


Meanwhile, Africa continues to fall to the neo-imperial Sino slave machine, while Latin American does also and increasingly falls under the sway of Russia, China, and Iran. Bush’s answer in Africa was to offer aid to AIDS sufferers and some limited investment, which was noble and greatly lauded, but inadequate from a strategic standpoint. In Latin America, Bush mostly offered a hand to Colombia and called it good. Bush has also continued liberal trade with China, a declared hostile regime which has promised to nuke Los Angeles if hostilities erupt over Taiwan. Such trade makes the U.S. economically vulnerable to China and also allows China access to dual-use technology that could be directly used against us in war. Bush has meanwhile continued to wage war on the tactic of terrorism while not forthrightly dealing with the states which are sponsoring the states which sponsor the terrorism; again, Russia and China. Because of this, many in the Pentagon (and in Russia and China) believe we are on the verge of a new Cold War, this one far less to our advantage than the last. Democracy around the world (let alone protecting it here in America)? Fail.


The seventh achievement is the Medicare prescription drug benefit, enacted in 2003. It's not only wildly popular; it has cost less than expected by triggering competition among drug companies. Conservatives have deep reservations about the program. But they shouldn't have been surprised. Bush advocated the drug benefit in the 2000 campaign. And if he hadn't acted, Democrats would have, with a much less attractive result.


Wildly popular, Fred says, but then again Fred suddenly becomes ignorant of the most wildly popular issue with the public ever to hit Washington during the Bush administration: enforcing the borders and as such enforcing existing laws designed to protect Americans from unlawfully present foreign nationals who can carry disease, add cost to the penal, education, and healthcare systems, and introduce acts of terrorism. For that “wildly popular” notion, Fred calls its proponents ugly things like “hate-mongers” “restrictionists” “racists”. Finally, Fred’s notion that the Democrats would have done it if Bush had done nothing seems to make the point for me here: a lot of things Democrats wish to do that conservatives won’t: make abortion legal and often under every circumstance and for any age, pull us out of Iraq and Afghanistan, introduce socialized medicine… you get the point. If our goal here is to simply find what the Democrats want done and be the ones to do it first, then why don’t we just become Democrats? Oh, I know why: because the GOP is supposed to be a club for people who are just too stuffy to be Democrats, otherwise known as the “Democrats in Plaid Golf Pants Club”.


Then there were John Roberts and Sam Alito. In putting them on the Supreme Court and naming Roberts chief justice, Bush achieved what had eluded Richard Nixon, Reagan, and his own father. Roberts and Alito made the Court indisputably more conservative. And the good news is Roberts, 53, and Alito, 58, should be justices for decades to come.


Alas, Fred Barnes and I are mostly in agreement. It’s too bad, though, that Bush didn’t get there on his own; instead, the president merely careened down the appointment road, requiring significant intervention along the way in order to avoid the disaster that would have been the appointment of Harriet Miers. Meanwhile, his allies who controlled the Senate failed to get most of his other judicial appointments on track for those six years, leaving a horrible gap certain to be filled by an in-coming Obama administration.


“Bush's ninth achievement has been widely ignored. He strengthened relations with east Asian democracies (Japan, South Korea, Australia) without causing a rift with China.” Indeed, the second half of this sentence alone tells us something is seriously wrong: Beginning with the EP-3 reconnaisance aircraft incident in April of 2001, the Bush administration has gone out of its way to act as if the U.S. were a vassal of China, seeking the country’s approval for nearly every policy and apologizing ahead of time for any pro-human rights statements the President was obliged to make from time to time. This Nixonian appeasement policy is a proven failure in our history, which of course is why the RINOs love it so much. Incidentally, I don’t mean so much Nixon’s olive branch to China (although that was of questionable wisdom in many respects), but Nixon (as well as Ford’s and Carter’s) appeasement of our great enemy of their time, the Soviet Union. All three presidents pursued ever-opening trade of technology and goods with the Soviets and ignored the USSR’s increasing strategic threat until it was almost too late. One of Reagan’s first acts as president, by contrast, was to turn a deaf ear to the Chamber of Commerce where it conflicted with national security by significantly reducing or eliminating certain kinds of trade with the Soviets which could be harmful to the U.S. were war to break out.


“On top of that, he forged strong ties with India. An important factor was their common enemy, Islamic jihadists. After 9/11, Bush made the most of this, and Indian leaders were receptive. His state dinner for Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh in 2006 was a lovefest.”


Barnes is right on this fact, India is an important ally; however, allowing call centers to be moved to India also put the personal data of thousands and perhaps millions of Americans at risk; negative far bigger than the annoyance of poorly-understood English. For this reason, the U.S. government had a compelling interest to block such outsourcing.


Finally, a no-brainer: the surge. Bush prompted nearly unanimous disapproval in January 2007 when he announced he was sending more troops to Iraq and adopting a new counterinsurgency strategy. His opponents initially included the State Department, the Pentagon, most of Congress, the media, the foreign policy establishment, indeed the whole world. This makes his decision a profile in courage. Best of all, the surge worked. Iraq is now a fragile but functioning democracy.


Finally, a no-brainer, indeed. Mostly. Unfortunately, even Bush had to be sold on the idea of a surge; it was, after all, John McCain who was largely behind the idea. I am no fan of John McCain, but credit should go first to where credit is due.


I suppose that two or three out of ten isn’t bad, though. After all, Jimmy Carter or Barack Obama would have likely failed every one. But this is far removed from Reagan, and certainly not as courageous. Courage isn’t going along with establishment beltway insiders against the people; courage is standing up to that establishment for the people, which, as history has been our guide from the Kennedy and Reagan eras, sometimes gets you shot and 50% of the time gets you dead. Further, there is no courage in handing out pardons to convicted cocaine dealers with weapons violations or white collar criminals, while allowing two border agents you know full-well are nothing more than political prisoners who acted against an unspoken rule to be put away by the crooked U.S. Prosecutor Johnny Sutton for ten years of hard time. That unspoken rule of course is and always has been under the Bush administration: thou shalt not touch the in-bound Latin American slave, for he hath been bequeathed to the Big Business plantation owner. My sincere hope is that I am wrong about this, that President Bush knows something that we do not and that these two men,  Ramos and Campian, are evil, dangerous men who did something horrible but also classified so that the administration was forced to keep the real reason of their arrests under wraps. Otherwise, for this last lack of courage on Bush’s part he deserves neither praise nor the words “kind” or “Christian” attached to him in any way, which would be a truly sad thing to have to say, given his countless hours spent with the families of soldiers wounded and killed, which indeed was an honorable act. Of course, it would have been helpful for morale also for some Reaganesque investment in our military size and readiness.


“How does Bush rank as a president?” Barnes may be right that history may judge him better, once the sealed documents are finally opened, things have had a chance to slowly leak into the public domain and the policy decisions are judged on a broader historical scale. Will he succeed in being judged kindly? At present doubtful: despite his overtures to liberals, they will never like him because he wasn’t liberal enough. And unfortunately, Bush didn’t do much to reform education, so liberals for the most part still write the text books. However, a “fair and balanced” exploration into the Bush administration is likely not to churn up anything impressive, either. Certainly nothing on the order of Ronald Reagan or FDR. Indeed, the Rockefellerists will still likely be without their great leader. Understandably, unless you are simply to rank a great president by his ability to extend executive power alone, filling that spot is a bit harder for RINOs than for liberals or conservatives; after all, finding one who achieves greatness in mediocrity is in its very face a paradox.



Posted by Martin at January 14, 2009 02:46 PM