Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bush's Legacy

Jonah Goldberg's latest article is about President Bush and President Clinton. And it's not that positive an assessment of our 43rd President.
. . . that desire for change is also a product of ideological confusion on the left and the right. Clinton left office insisting that he'd restored liberalism in America, but in reality he bequeathed a confused mishmash of ill-formed ideas, slogans and hatreds. President Bush is winding down his presidency much the same way, talking about limited government, personal liberty and spending restraint, but he's left his party's troops scattered across the battlefield, with no overarching strategy and an awful lot of friendly fire.

Rush Limbaugh, for example, promises that if either John McCain or Mike Huckabee gets the nomination, it will "destroy the Republican Party." The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan replies that, "This is absurd. George W. Bush destroyed the Republican Party, by which I mean he sundered it, broke its constituent pieces apart and set them against each other. He did this on spending, the size of government, war, the ability to prosecute war, immigration and other issues."

I'm sympathetic to both positions. Limbaugh is right that Huckabee and McCain might lead the party further from its limited-government roots. Noonan is right that Bush let the horse out of the barn long ago. But both complaints overlook a simple fact: We were warned. Bush and Clinton promised to be different kinds of leaders. And they delivered.
He's not wrong on either point. Both Clinton and Bush, by aiming towards the middle, sort of, weakened their respective parties.

On the other hand, Goldberg does kind of look over Bush's biggest strength and biggest problem - he had nothing to govern over except the war on terror. And if the war on terror isn't the central theme of the election, Republicans are more antagonistic towards each other than supportive.

No comments: