Conservatives should look back before attempting to move forward
Matthew Yglesias raises a good point here, that conservatives need to reflect on past errors before condeming Obama’s future errors — let alone offering America new solutions:
Part of the effort to pull the wagon of conservatism out of the ditch into which Bush piloted the country is going to be an effort to deny that George W. Bush was a real conservative. In reality, Bushism should be understood as the highest form of conservatism. In particular, the High Bushist years of 2001-2006 represent the only time that the post-war conservative movement has had total control over the federal government. If the practical consequences of pre-Bush conservatism were less disastrous, that’s largely because conservative political power was more constrained in those earlier eras.
Meanwhile, it’s worth recalling that at the peak of his political power, when Bush was making his most disastrous decisions, conservatives not only thought he was a good president, but a great one. There was practically a line around the block to write paens to his genius.
The dates should be 2003 – 2006 (not 2001-2006), but the concept seems valid. As an example Yglesias cites David Gelertner’s “Bush’s Greatness” from the 13 September 2004 Weekly Standard:
IT’S OBVIOUS not only that George W. Bush has already earned his Great President badge (which might even outrank the Silver Star) but that much of the opposition to Bush has a remarkable and very special quality; one might be tempted to call it “lunacy.” But that’s too easy. The “special quality” of anti-Bush opposition tells a more significant, stranger story than that.
Bush’s greatness is often misunderstood. He is great not because he showed America how to react to 9/11 but because he showed us how to deal with a still bigger event–the end of the Cold War. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 left us facing two related problems, one moral and one practical. Neither President Clinton nor the first Bush found solutions–but it’s not surprising that the right answers took time to discover, and an event like 9/11 to bring them into focus.
In a later post he quotes from Chapter One of John Podhoretz’s book, Bush Country: How Dubya Became a Great President While Driving Liberals Insane (published February 2004):
One might conclude, from his conduct over the past three years, that George W. Bush was put on this earth to do two things:
- First, to lead the United States into the third millennium, with all its terrifying challenges and wondrous opportunities.
- And second, to drive liberals insane.
He’s succeeding brilliantly at both. … This would be an astonishing list of accomplishments for a president who had served all eight years in office. Bush has done it all in just three.
Other discussions of President Bush’s greatness
(1) “Bronze for Bush as Greatest President“, ABC News, 17 February 2002
(2) The following is perhaps the most-often quoted example paen to Bush’s greatness, but not in fact a good example IMO: “A Stroke of Genius?“, John Hinderaker, Powerline, 25 July 2005:
It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can’t get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.
… Update: The tone of the post is obviously tongue in cheek, but liberals never seem to notice.
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A look at American politics:
The USA *after* this financial crisis – part I, about politics, 13 October 2008
What happens to the Republican Party after the election?, 2 November 2008
America’s elites reluctantly impose a client-patron system, 5 November 2008
Immigration as a reverse election: our leaders get a new people, 6 November 2008
R.I.P., G.O.P. – a well-deserved end, 7 November 2008
America gets ready for new leadership (or is it back to the future?), 14 November 2008
Lilliput or America – who has a better way to choose its leaders?, 19 November 2008