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Conservative Bush: An Effective and Pioneering President ^

Posted on 08/29/2007 4:34:41 AM PDT by fabrizio

Conservatives have not been happy with George W. Bush. For each brand of conservatism, there is a different critique. Not so with Ronald Reagan, whom conservatives uniformly praise for various reasons. Seventy-nine percent of those in attendance at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference said they would prefer a candidate who is a Reagan Republican. Three percent would go for a G. W. Bush Republican. One gets the impression that Bush isn’t even considered a conservative.

I argue with Joseph Bottum in the most recent First Things over whether President Bush should be seen as a disaster for conservatism. I think not; Bottum thinks so. Chief among his criticisms is that, while Bush may be conservative in principle, in practice he has been simply incompetent. Bush may have wanted to advance the conservative cause, but instead has just made a mess.

Bottum’s criticism has been knocking around in my mind since I tried to respond to it, and I just don’t think it holds up. There are numerous accomplishments by Bush that belie Bottum’s claims. Yet Bush has also been a conservative in a more fundamental way, as he has changed the way in which government gets things done.


Some say that Bush’s budget deficits prove he is not a conservative. It is true that under his watch the federal government’s debt has grown, but the enormous expenses incurred after September 11 must be taken into account. That autumn, the whole U.S. economy took a powerful hit — airlines, restaurants, business meetings, banking, investments, jobs, monetary values. It took more than three years to restore the transportation, banking, and investment systems to pre-9/11 levels. Bush deserves at least some credit for leading the country from a severe trough to almost unprecedented prosperity.

Also, the war against jihadists in Afghanistan and Iraq required huge financial outlays. These war-expenses have been sound investments in the nation’s future, since the nation’s survival depended on them.

Nevertheless, a swollen federal budget is not a conservative practice. Admitted.

Yet perhaps there are better indicators of how conservative this president has been. There must be some reason why he maddens liberals to the frothing point.

Many call attention to the president’s eight substantive tax-cuts. I especially value the lower taxes on venture capital expended to establish new industries. These new capital funds have created millions of new jobs. That is the best bottom line when it comes to political economics: the number of new jobs created.

No president has ever been so strongly conservative on the pro-life front as President Bush. He has consistently labored to protect the human rights of the unborn, and has acted similarly when it comes to other important pro-life matters.

Bush signed the Partial Birth Abortion ban and the ban on funding abortions through UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund). He also restored and expanded the Mexico City agreement. He capped, by executive order, federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell research and vetoed legislation that would have violated this boundary. (He did not prohibit private embryonic stem-cell research, but, rather, he acted according to the Jeffersonian principle that it is odious to tax people for actions that they morally abhor.) He dedicated unprecedented funds to abstinence education through the Department of Health and Human Services. And on family legislation?

Bush endorsed the Federal Marriage Amendment, which defines marriage as a contract between one man and one woman. He repeatedly speaks of the family as the “unseen pillar of civilization.” He was the first president to sign a school-choice bill to give parents greater freedom in deciding where their children will be educated. He has committed his administration, through the Departments of Justice and State, to halting sex trafficking and modern forms of slavery throughout the world, and he has appointed an ambassador to oversee such reforms. He has dedicated funding to prepare prisoners for productive lives after they leave prison. And on big domestic issues?

He signed the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which will curb Medicare/Medicaid spending by $11 billion over the next five years. He braved the “third rail” of American politics in his attempt to reform Social Security. He implemented deregulation across all government agencies. He ordered every department of government to assess points of cooperation with faith-based initiatives. He signed into law prescription drug assistance for the elderly — the first and only health-care reform in modern history to win a nearly 90-percent approval rating and to come in substantially under budget. This prescription-drug reform also pioneered a new way to include the disciplines and incentives of market mechanisms in federal programs. This signal success should help pave the way for similar reforms throughout the health care, welfare, and Social Security systems. Such methods work to maximize personal responsibility and freedom of choice, while providing people with the support of a compassionate government. Some object that this “compassionate government” bit is not conservative, but it is in accordance with Ronald Reagan’s modified acceptance of the welfare state.

And with regards to the courts, in just six years President Bush has nominated and seen confirmed 30 percent of all sitting federal judges, as well as two very intelligent and solid conservative jurists on the Supreme Court, Justices Roberts and Alito.


President Bush has defined a new kind of conservatism. It is legitimate to criticize it, even to oppose it vigorously. But to do so honestly and accurately, one must note the change in method that President Bush has quietly and successfully been enacting. As often as possible, in as many ways as possible, he is using as the dynamo of personal choice and the methods of the market, not direct state-management, in order to make government programs more effective and more efficient. That is why Democrats, both of the old New Deal-type and of the new Clinton-type, oppose him so fiercely. They seem to see what he is up to better than many uneasy conservatives do.

Try to imagine the conservative future as Bush is trying to: Old-age assistance is mostly achieved by personal tax-exempt pension accounts. Medicare and other health expenses are paid for by means of personal, tax-exempt medical accounts (partly used for catastrophic insurance, mostly for ordinary health spending, and with a new incentive to watch over normal expenses carefully). Parental choice and market mechanisms help to weed out failing schools, replacing them with better ones.

Note that these new pension, medical, and school mechanisms deeply affect families, not simply individuals. This greater reliance on familial choice re-introduces a reliance on family, rather than on the state, as the chief agent of health, education, and welfare.

Bush has begun a major turn from the state toward the “little platoons” once celebrated by Burke, the “mediating institutions” that Peter Berger and Richard Neuhaus emphasized twenty years ago. This is a profoundly conservative impulse.

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: bush; bushlegacy; conservatism; dubya; michaelnovak; term2
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1 posted on 08/29/2007 4:34:43 AM PDT by fabrizio
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To: fabrizio

Pop some corn, this should be one interesting thread. :-)

2 posted on 08/29/2007 4:37:31 AM PDT by rhombus
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To: fabrizio

very little conservative about either president named Bush.

Better than the Dim choices...YOU BET. but conservative??? I think not.

3 posted on 08/29/2007 4:40:01 AM PDT by Vaquero (" an armed society is a polite society" Heinlein "MOLON LABE!" Leonidas of Sparta)
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To: rhombus

Why get into a super big argument anyway.

The tax cuts and Supreme Court appointments were good things.

The fruit of those court appointments may take time but if Roe Vs. Wade is somehow overturned with Alito and Roberts supporting it then Bush will be remembered for doing something good.

Of course, Bush signed Campaign Finance Reform after saying he opposed it in the 2000 campaign (trying to ‘make peace’ with McCain).

And there’s always the infamous Medicare Part D (prescription drugs). A budget buster that will cost untold billions in the years to come. And yes, George W. Bush signed it.

That’s my “fair and balanced” look at Bush on some issues although others should figure on the scales as well.

4 posted on 08/29/2007 4:45:01 AM PDT by Nextrush (Proudly uncommitted in the 2008 race for president for now)
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To: fabrizio

Two hallmarks of this administration that are at odds with my concept of conservatism are the unprecedented federal involvement in education and the refusal to uphold our nation’s sovereignty.

5 posted on 08/29/2007 4:49:31 AM PDT by freespirited (The mystery of government is not how Washington works but how to make it stop. -- P.J. O'Rourke)
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To: fabrizio

Oh, and by the way, he has kept our country from being directly attacked since 9-11.

He gets little credit for this and yet virtually no one would have guessed that this would be true. I was like almost 70% of Americans who expected another homeland attack within a year. It is almost six years and counting.

6 posted on 08/29/2007 4:51:54 AM PDT by NeilGus
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To: Nextrush

I agree that CFR was probably the result of a deal cut with McCain - he did campaign for Bush 9in 2004 instead of running against him (with or without Kerry). As for prescription drugs, I believe it was going to happen anyway. The AARP was pushing for it; the drug companies were pushing for it and the media was creating another faux-crisis over it. What Bush did accomplish is to steer it toward a private sector approach much the same way Romney handled the march toward socialized health care in Massachusetts. Like it or not, being President means you pick priorities and cut deals to make things happen.

7 posted on 08/29/2007 4:52:37 AM PDT by rhombus
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To: Vaquero

Fine. W may not be the uber-conservative dream you want, but he is conservative, not a spineless “moderate”. If he was running for reelection against Hillary, would he have your vote?

8 posted on 08/29/2007 4:54:25 AM PDT by wny
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To: fabrizio

About the only things Conservative:
W’s willing to fight a war most want to ignore.
W’s trying to keep a tax cut on the books.

Border defense? Faaahhgedddabaahtit!

9 posted on 08/29/2007 5:00:41 AM PDT by Flintlock (-)
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To: wny
If he was running for reelection against Hillary, would he have your vote?

no question....I would have to vote for him....

but I didn't like voting for him in 2000 or 2004....and in 2000 he was not my pick in the primaries by any stretch....

and his record on illegals and his North American nation/globalism, is nearly treasonous

10 posted on 08/29/2007 5:01:06 AM PDT by Vaquero (" an armed society is a polite society" Heinlein "MOLON LABE!" Leonidas of Sparta)
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To: rhombus

It seems to me that Reagan had huge and mounting deficits from his Dem Congress. Bush has consistently cut deficits that appeared early, and they will soon disappear. Spending increases come largley from entitlements that have escalators that make them grow on their own.

11 posted on 08/29/2007 5:03:02 AM PDT by ClaireSolt (Have you have gotten mixed up in a mish-masher?)
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To: rhombus
I am trying real hard to see "consevatism" in a president who has not once vetoed a increased spending bill.

Has not, in his first six years of office, stood in the bully pulpit and fought for deficit reduction through reduction of spending.

Has implented the greatest increase in federal control over education. Not to mention (okay I will) the fact that the Dept. of Ed. has doubled its budget in his first five years as president.

You already mentioned CFR and "drugs for seniors".

Is tacitly advocating for open borders and WILL NOT close our southern border to the daily invasion of illegals.

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

12 posted on 08/29/2007 5:03:16 AM PDT by raybbr (You think it's bad now - wait till the anchor babies start to vote.)
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To: freespirited

Agreed that public education is pretty un-conservative. I think Bush was cutting deals with education money and to his credit he did try and insert some standards for the money. However, considering that Laura is a librarian (or is it a teacher?), they both probably have a pretty un-conservative attitude about public eduction. Nonetheless, the majority of Americans love money thrown at education.

As for the immigration issue he inherited an almost recession and the financial crisis that resulted from 9/11. People needed and wanted jobs during the first term. Jobs usually come from small and mid-sized businesses as Bush constantly reminded us during the first term. Unfortunately small and mid-sized businesses also use an awful lot of illegal labor. An immediate crack down would have pressured these same businesses who also hire the most legal workers. So it was a matter of priorities. The “guest worker program” was an attempt to deal with the problem legally without putting these businesses out of business. You may have noted there are more immigration crack downs now that the economy is better. Surely it’s because of conservative pressure but I think the economy is a big factor too.

13 posted on 08/29/2007 5:06:34 AM PDT by rhombus
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To: ClaireSolt
Spending increases come largely from entitlements that have escalators that make them grow on their own.

No doubt and it's just going to get worse. How many of you folk out there collecting Social Security will give up you your next couple of increase for the "good of the nation"? Bush did try to address the SS issue with private accounts but Republicans and Democrats alike ran away from the issue. And young people were too mired in Bush-hatred to realize what was being offered.

14 posted on 08/29/2007 5:10:28 AM PDT by rhombus
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To: fabrizio

(Tangent to the topic) What we fail to understand about elections and the people for whom we vote, is that we are employers hiring those who will represent us at the local, state and federal level. Too many times I read that it is perfectly acceptable to elect “the lesser of the two eveils”.

Think about that. Someone comes into your office looking for a job and their resume lists them as the “lesser of the two evils”. Is that really someone you want to hire to work for you? Is that really that caliber of employee you are seeking?

This government was famously described by Abraham Lincoln as being one “of the people, by the people and for the people”. The president, Congress, et al, serve at OUR pleasure and are OUR employees.

When we go into the voting booth in the primaries and in the general election next year, it is incumbent upon each of us to remember that we are hiring the people who will represent us. “Lesser of the two evils” simply doesn’t cut it.

15 posted on 08/29/2007 5:11:39 AM PDT by DustyMoment (FloriDUH - proud inventors of pregnant/hanging chads and judicide!!)
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To: fabrizio

Bash Away FR DBS!

Pray for W and Our Troops

16 posted on 08/29/2007 5:13:21 AM PDT by bray (Member of the FR President Bush underground fighting FR BDS)
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To: raybbr

Not vetoed a spending bill: He supposedly had a Republican Congress which were supposed to be his “friends”. You don’t make enemies of people who you need to fight a war on terror.

Education: Pure deal-making with a supposedly Republican Congress and liberals demanding compensation for losing a close election. To his credit, Bush did try and institute some standards for getting the money.

Immigration: I believe it was a matter of timing as I noted in another response. In the first term, the economy would have suffered from such a crack down. In the second term, we see more of it. Surely the result of conservative pressure but also made more palatable by an improved economy.

etc, etc... Don’t it always seem to go, That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone

17 posted on 08/29/2007 5:16:51 AM PDT by rhombus
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To: Vaquero
Agreed. No one is perfect. I don't like his stance on immigration either. I don't like that he won't play hardball with the demholes. I don't like that he didn't put the Clinton's in jail after taking office. I didn't like the prescription drug plan, No Child Left Behind, Campaign Finance reform.

But I love his tax-cuts, his unwavering commitment to national security. Roberts and Alito anyone? I love that he has the demholes and MSM foaming at the mouth. He must be doing something right.

But Fred, Rudy, Romney, Newt or whoever won't be perfect either. There may never be another Reagan. So all those here on FR that opine, pontificate and whine about any of these guys not being perfect, and insist they'll stay home and not vote-well-- I hope they'll be happy sitting home with their principles watching Hillary's inauguration.

By all means, support your guy-Hunter, Paul, Tancredo whoever, but when it comes to Hillary vs. Rudy, Mitt, Fred or whoever, if you stay home, you're a fool.

18 posted on 08/29/2007 5:19:53 AM PDT by wny
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To: rhombus

I am disappointed in some things Bush’s administration has done, and I have disagreed with some policies. But still I admire the man tremendously for his character. In the face of a vicious personal and political attacks perhaps worse than any political figure in modern times has had to endure, he stands by his principles. Thanks to a biased media and a populace that seems unwilling to face reality, Mr Bush’s approval ratings are very low. That he does not seem to care and continues to do what he thinks is right makes me admire him all the more. If you ask me, he is truly a profile in courage. Some day the world will come to realize this (and probably find it hard to admit!) but sadly I think it will not happen in our lifetimes.

19 posted on 08/29/2007 5:20:49 AM PDT by TNCMAXQ
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To: DustyMoment
When we go into the voting booth in the primaries and in the general election next year, it is incumbent upon each of us to remember that we are hiring the people who will represent us. “Lesser of the two evils” simply doesn’t cut it.

Disagree. This is my 9th presidential election coming up and it's always the lesser of two evils...or weevils if you're in the British Navy :-) People must make hard choices. There isn't an endless flow of candidates and no one exactly matches each one of us. Republican democracy is always about compromise so you make the best choice you can given the circumstances. You also must choose a candidate who can win. Otherwise it's just self-indulgent political masturbation.

20 posted on 08/29/2007 5:22:16 AM PDT by rhombus
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