It normally takes a lot to get TBogg angry. Bill Kristol managed to do it with nothing more than his usual PNAC outlook and his self-serving drivel.
Kristol is the latest in the group of movement conservatives to take a shot at their once infallible hero for not following, precisely, the program they perceived as the right course for them, whether it was good for the country or not.
The Globe and Mail's John Ibbitson entered the fray with the now familiar line that George W Bush is and always has been a liberal. (subscription required)
Few would accept it, he would deny it himself. But could George W. Bush be a liberal?Without eviscerating Ibbitson he gets credit for seeking out another point of view.Today, the Senate begins a critical week of debate on landmark immigration legislation. And the President is at war with his own party.The bill "deserves widespread support, and I strongly back it," Mr. Bush said in a recent speech. And as for the fierce opposition coming from Republican senators and conservative pundits and bloggers, who say the bill would grant amnesty to 12 million illegal immigrants, Mr. Bush insisted they were simply "trying to rile up people's emotions."Ironic. A Republican president campaigns for a bill co-authored by Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy, the personification of the East Coast liberal, against the conservative core of his own party.Most people outside the United States - maybe even most people in it - believe the Bush administration has been dominated by neo-conservative hawks bent on tax cuts and supply-side economics at home and an aggressive, unilateral approach to challenges abroad.But that agenda, and the albatross of the Iraq war, have obscured another agenda, one that Mr. Bush once referred to as "compassionate conservatism," but that in many respects resembles a conventional progressive approach to social challenges inside the United States."They are certainly policies that resemble traditional liberal policies," observes Michael Tanner, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute, a conservative think tank.
"On most important domestic issues, he's the farthest thing from a liberal," insists Ross Eisenbrey, policy director at the liberal Economic Policy Institute.Ibbitson goes on to suggest that liberals view Bush as overly conservative and, now, movement conservatives view Bush as liberal. He takes a particular pot-shot at the "liberal" media for being unable to acknowlege Bush's liberal agenda.For every progressive step on health care or education, he maintains, there have been at least two regressive steps (increased privatization of Medicare delivery, school vouchers). And on labour and environment issues, Mr. Eisenbrey characterizes the President's record as execrable.
Which makes Ibbitson as hopelessly deluded as the American conservative pundits, right-wing religious groups, sheet-draped bloggers and the right-wing media organs who are now calling Bush a liberal.
Cathie From Canada has a round-up of those prominent progressive writers who called the movement conservatives on their sudden shift in loyalty. Glenn Greenwald correctly labels it a fraud and all of them touch on two things: The movement conservative pundits, writers and media-organs are lying to their audience; and, Bush is exactly what the movement conservatives wanted.
The truth is, Bush is not a liberal. He's not a conservative either.
George W Bush is an empty suit; a common sociopath who has never had to suffer the consequences of his reckless, selfish behaviour. He is unthinking, incurious and shallow. Incapable of independent thought, he was surrounded by whatever hack offered to make him feel good and look presidential.
And he didn't pick them. The movement conservatives did.
And they picked Bush for all the attributes they found desirable. His lack of academic ambition, his lazy sense of logic and his affable appearance. He was no cowboy, but he looked and sounded like one. His world view was simplistic and unsophisticated. His mind was empty and his accomplishments were glaringly unspectacular. He had a recognizable name but not the dangerous intelligence and independence that went with it.
He was near perfect. As a former governor of Texas he presented the appearance of having governed. Most voters would not be aware that his role was one of the weakest and least onerous executive government seats in the country. He could simply continue what he was doing in Austin by moving his persona and his low energy to Washington, expanding his reach without expanding his involvement.
George W. Bush was selected by the movement conservatives to sit in a chair, sign whatever paper was placed in front of him, speak whatever words were written for him and not deviate from the program. He would lend his name to an administration run by others. Decisions would be made by others. He would not make them - he would simply enunciate them. Policy would come from the variety of think-tanks which comprised the American conservative movement and news would be thoroughly filtered. Instead of weighing advice and seeking consent to make informed decisions, the oval office would become the stage from which the actor would perform, final decisions being delivered to his desk for ceremonial approval from the West Wing, the Old Executive Office Building and the Pentagon. Bush had simply to function in the manner dictated by others, enjoy the adoration, try not to smirk when something serious was happening, ride his bike, watch TV and avoid choking on pretzels.
The movement conservatives had come close to this nirvana once before in the form of Ronald Reagan. Bush was a recycled idea with an added edge - he appealed to the least curious and least energetic of voters. Others wrote the script; the actor read the lines. The only problem would be when he had to ad lib and it meant those situations had to be kept to an absolute minimum. By selecting the likes of George W. Bush to put a face on their movement, conservatives had created a titular leader with an obvious flaw: He was unable to think on his feet and unable hide the vacancy in his mind. Under pressure, without a script, he couldn't even get his job title right.
And now, the movement conservatives want off the hook for what they've created. Except that they can't do it.
While they whine and kye-eye like a bunch of gut-shot coyotes over their creation's position on a bill many of them don't like, they fail to recognize one thing. George W. Bush isn't and never was running the program. They can't suddenly dismiss Bush as not being one of them.
They are George W. Bush. They didn't create a president; they created a visual image of a president from of a hollow form. The pundits, the writers, the think-tank fellows, the media barons and the remainder of the Bush cargo-culture are unable to understand that Bush didn't decide to get happy with Kennedy's immigration bill; it was one of their own telling Bush it was a good idea. If Bush is putting his mind to work at all, it's over the opposition which he cannot stand.
Ideas, decisions and mistakes are the province of others. What is making Bush so abrupt in dealing with the current criticism is that it's a part of the role which he didn't sign on for. The deal was that none of it would be on him. He could proclaim to be the "Decider" or the "Commander Guy", but when it came down to finger-pointing, there would always be someone else to take a fall.
Someone else is telling Bush that a pardon for Scooter Libby would be dangerous. Bush doesn't really know why, but he'll go along with whatever he's being told. And what he's being told is that an early pardon for Libby will set off a shit-storm of protest and directly involve his office and him personally. And that was never a part of the deal.
So, a message for the movement conservatives... all of you: You don't get to shed yourself of Bush. It would be easy to suggest that Bush is a monster of your own making. But that's not the case. It was all of you who pissed all over your country's constitution, who endorsed torture, who created secret prisons, who suspended habeus corpus, who started illegal wars, who pillaged the country's treasury, who endangered the food supply, who diminished the importance of science, who created a theocracy and who enriched yourselves at the expense of those who could least afford it. You are responsible for the body-count.
You can't blame anything on George W. Bush. You are George W. Bush. The lies, the criminality, the deception and unbelievable disaster that is US foreign policy all belong to you. You did it. Bush simply signed the bills and executive orders you placed before him.
When Bush is gone from office, unless someone writes it for him, he will probably be unable to produce an analysis of his term in office. He won't be able to interpret the consequences of the decisions you made for him.
You will have to do that for yourselves. Good luck finding anyone competent enough to carry it off.
H/T ImJohnGalt for the Ibbitson link