The Sins of Bush and the Republicans


President Bush is condemned for many things. And, while, much of the censure comes in the form of predictable rants from the Left, it is perhaps conservatives who have been most searing in their rebuke for what many see as an abandonment of conservative principles. No less a figure than William F. Buckley, Jr., the paterfamilias of American conservatism, accused Bush of being “extravagant in …spending …tolerant of [Congressional] excesses …incapable of [concluding] the Iraq challenge” and lacking an “effective Conservative ideology.”

Conservative critics will acknowledge two Bush accomplishments: tax cuts made early in his first term, widely credited for ending the recession and driving the economy since and Supreme Court picks, John Roberts and Sam Alito, both considered excellent conservative jurists.

His missteps, however, are legion.

“No Child Left Behind,” Bush's much ballyhooed educational program, saw Bush team up with Senator Ted Kennedy to implicate the Federal government in the inner workings of local schools, hardly a conservative goal.

The Medicare Prescription program is an unfunded entitlement that represents the largest expansion of the Federal government since Great Society. Indeed, Bush and fellow Republicans in Congress have been the most profligate spenders in our nation's history. Nor has Bush even once wielded his veto pen to curb Congressional lavishness.

He supported McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform, which is an infringement on first amendment rights. He paid lip service to Tort and Malpractice Reform but did nothing about it. When an opportunity arose for Bush to bring the Affirmative Action policy to an end, he sent mixed signals, leading to the confused Supreme Court decision to uphold the University of Michigan's race based admissions, which will perpetuate this divisive program for another generation.

Bush spoke courageously of creating an “ownership” society beginning with private Social Security accounts, but was ineffective in moving the legislative process forward; this, coupled with Democrat intransigence, killed off efforts to reform Social Security, a program headed for fiscal meltdown as baby boomers come of age.

Bush's pandering to Hispanics and Big Business has put him completely out of step with most Americans on the issue of Immigration Reform. His insistence on a guest worker program and amnesty before the border is protected is seen by many as a slow form of national-cultural suicide and a major security breach.

As if to accentuate his tendencies towards prolific spending and expansive government, Katrina rolled around. To blunt criticism of the delayed federal response, Bush threw money he did not have at New Orleans. While the Federal government should involve itself in saving lives and assisting in the rebuilding of basic infrastructure, it does not have a mandate for reconstituting an entire city, but here, too, a precedent has been set that may some day bankrupt the country.

The one area generally acceded to Bush as a strength - national security - is now seen as perhaps his greatest failure. To his credit, Bush passed the Patriot Act, initiated NSA telephone surveillance, the Swift program, and signed into law the interrogation bill. But after 9/11, Bush missed a strategic opportunity to correct the reckless Defense cuts made after the demise of the Soviet Union. While the defense budget for 2006 of $528 billion represents an increase of 40% since 2001, it was equivalent to only 4% of GDP, which, as the Wall Street Journal points out, is historically more in line with peacetime spending and a mere percentage point above the 3% of GDP at the end of the Clinton Presidency. While Bush has spoken as a hawk, he has fought with a dove's budget.

By failing to commit adequate resources to consummate the war in Iraq, he has discredited the entirely noble enterprise of bringing democracy to the Middle East; he has also damaged our reputation internationally, weakened our hand against other threats, and emboldened our enemies, including the terrorist mice and other more conventional adversaries such as Iran, North Korea, and, more obliquely, Russia and China.

None of this is to say that the Democrats would do any better. A return to power by Democrats would undo the good that Bush has accomplished and accentuate his errors. They would raise taxes, appoint activist judges, provide blanket amnesty for illegals, and expand an already bloated federal government.

Furthermore, the Democrats have made clear that they would regard the “war on terror” as a legal matter and not a war at all. They have opposed surveillance, defended the rights of terrorists, and thwarted the war effort at every turn for partisan advantage. Democrat duplicity and fecklessness, in fact, is the best reason for keeping Republicans in power.

Perhaps, in the course of a tough election, Bush and Republicans will awaken to the conservative principles that made them the majority party in the first place.


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