Jump to content
Washington Football Team Logo
Extremeskins

Is Bush A Conservative?


luckydevil

Recommended Posts

http://www.andrewsullivan.com/main_article.php?artnum=20030718

The Liberal Within

Is Bush A Conservative?

Is president Bush a conservative?

It may sound like a stupid question but the dizzying mix of policies that this president has pursued - domestically and in foreign affairs -is surprisingly immune to coherent ideological analysis. Where it does seem to make sense, it certainly doesn't look like the classical conservatism of the Regagan-Thatcher years, or the revolutionary conservatism of the Gingrich period. And in some critical ways, it's far less traditionally conservative than the administration of Bill Clinton.

Take a couple of obvious differences between this administration and the last. The Clinton years will rightly go down as a period of intense fiscal sobriety. The president wasn't solely responsible for this: he was backed into a balanced budget (and then surpluses) by a Republican Congress. But the spending record of the Clintonites was extremely tight. Compare that to the Bush record. In a mere two years, this administration has turned an annual surplus of $167 billion into an annual deficit of over $400 billion. In 2001, the projected fiscal future until 2008 was estimated at accumulating $2.9 trillion of surplus - room to tackle the baby-boomer retirement crunch. Last week's White House estimates of the same future period showed a projected increase in government debt at $1.9 trillion. In other words, the Bushies have added a projected extra $4.8 trillion in debt to the U.S. government. In two short years.

Some of this was hardly Bush's fault. The economic impact of 9/11, the sluggish world economy, and expensive wars in Afghanistan and now Iraq all took a bite out of government finances. You could even argue that the big tax cuts Bush has passed have also helped cushion the U.S. and therefore world economy from slipping into a recession. But that still doesn't explain the huge lurch into debt. Even on non-military, non-homeland defense matters, the Bush administration enacted a 6 percent increase in government spending in 2002 and almost 5 percent in 2003. Government is growing strongly as a sector in American life - and Bush is now proposing the biggest new entitlement since Nixon: free or subsidized prescription drugs for the elderly. When you add all this up, you come to an obvious conclusion: the Bush administration is actually a big government liberal administration on fiscal policy. It likes spending money; it takes on big projects; it's quite content to borrow till the fiscal cows come home. Perhaps you could argue that Bush's deficits are designed to restrain future spending growth: but then why add another huge entitlement to the mix? And why not restrain spending now, when you can?

You can see the difference even more vividly when you compare the Africa trips of president Clinton and his successor. Clinton was lionized and loved - but he did virtually nothing on HIV and AIDS in the developing world in eight long years. Clinton did little to stop the holocaust in Rwanda; and did less to ensure adequate treatment for millions of HIV-positive Africans. Bush, in contrast, has proposed the biggest single project for treating AIDS in Africa ever put forward, garnering gushing praise from the likes of Bob Geldof and Bono, but precious little credit in the American, let alone European, press. So who's the conservative?

In foreign policy, Bush's instinct for unilateralism or bilateralism over international bodies has won him a reputation for conservatism. But the scale of his ambitions is anything but conservative. For eight years, Bill Clinton played a conservative game with regard to Middle East terror and conflict: defensive pin-prick strikes against al Qaeda, missiles in the Sudan, a peace-process in Israel, containment of Saddam. Obviously, 9/11 changed the equation dramatically. But the way in which Bush has chosen a strategic and systemic response - deposing the Taliban, ridding the world of the Saddam regime, taking on the enormous task of nation-building in Iraq, isolating the murderous mullahs in Tehran - is the mark of a radical, not a conservative. Bush is far more Gladstone than Disraeli in his approach to the developing world.

On trade, Bush speaks the right words, but has often failed to live up to them. His most notorious decision - to slap high tariffs on imported steel - has been rightly found illegal by the WTO. But Bush is appealing the judgment, thereby weakening the entire apparatus of free trade. Again, he seems to see little benefit in global arrangements designed to treat all countries equally in order to maximize trade between them. Compared to Bill Clinton, who stared down his own party's left to embrace NAFTA and the GATT, Bush is an old-style one-sector-at-a-time protectionist.

On contentious domestic matters, Bush is also no hardline right-winger. In his term of office, there has been no attempt to restrict the number of abortions in America; and the Supreme Court has ratified affirmative action and constitutionalized gay privacy. Bush actually supported the Court's affirmative action ruling and has stayed mum on gay issues, for fear of alienating either the center or his religious right base. In both areas, his policies are very hard to distinguish from his predecessor's - who also supported modest affirmative action and only rhetorically backed gay equality. Sure, Bush has named some worrying fire-breathers to the lower courts. But my hunch is that his Supreme Court pick (if he ever makes one) will be firmly centrist. All in all: the record is socially moderate.

In some ways, Bush is the JFK to Clinton's Eisenhower. After eight long years of fiscal sobriety and foreign policy caution, a young aristocratic president, after a knife-edge victory, cuts taxes and throws American weight around in the world. He has a global vision and some wonderful wordsmiths to craft it. He seems to care less about balanced budgets than moving the economy forward; he's less concerned about the minutiae of intelligence estimates than the broad moral and strategic case for intervention abroad. His typical action is risk-taking - like the war in Iraq or the two big tax cuts. Perhaps his policy mix, like that of many others', is merely a blend of opportunism and gut instinct.

More likely, Bush's conservatism is of a type that is simply more comfortable with the power of government than conservatives usually are. He certainly has little hesitation in using it for conservative ends. That makes sense for Bush, a man who was used to walking around the White House corridors long before he ever won the presidency. To more small-government types and libertarians, it's distressing. To Bush, it's merely full speed ahead. Meanwhile, the government he hands off to his successor will be bigger, more expensive and far more powerful in its anti-terror powers than anything he inherited. Whatever else that is, it's hardly a conservative achievement.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bush, like his father, is a Nixonian Republican- tough on Foreign Policy, but to the left of most Dems on domestic issues. Like Nixon, he talks a hard line, but walks a left line. His positions on trade and domestic spending have been terrible and in the long wrong will be tremendously detrimental.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lucky thanks for the article. Now I know what happened to NAFTA and GATT. Why would Bush stop these two programs, especially when he is preaching "bringing democracy" to such places as Iraq and Afghanistan. I don't think you can have a demcracy without free trade. Why does he stop free trade with other countries?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Year56 -

Bush did not stop NAFTA nor GATT - we are still abiding by both. What he did do was take a step backwards in free trade by raising tariffs on steel imports, as opposed to what we ought to be doing which is extending the NAFTA region farther into South America to countries like Chile. Bush I believe won fast track authority from Congress, now he needs to use it!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Free Trade is a very vague term, in theory its a great idea, but you can't ask developing countries to open them selves up to free trade when the top industrial countries continue to protect their own interests. Absolute free trade like socialism is nice in theory but it ain't happening in reality and if you are looking for it to "grease the wheels for democracy" you are going to need a system that improves quality of life in poor countries and the idea of free trade being forced upon developing countries by the IMF is counter-productive.

As an aside I would add that trade policy has little to do with the form of government.

Finally Bush is not a conservative as far as I'm concerned.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yomar,

I'm not disagreeing with your post, but I would like to add that I believe opening our markets to goods from Japan, and later S. Korea and Taiwan did have a significant effect on those countries developing a modern economy, which in turn bred democracy. Likewise, I think trade agreements with Red China have loosened the State's grip on the economy, and have to at least some limited degree, improved personal freeedoms. For these same reasons, I believe the embargo on Cuba is completely counterproductive.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well its true that money talks and the US uses favorable trade status as a diplomatic tool to maybe direct a country in a particular direction, but a totalitarian government can open itself up to free trade a la Pinnochet

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...