Bushism Bringing Down the GOP

US News has helped publicize Russ Douthat’s warnings in the current issue of The Atlantic that “Bushism” is bringing down the GOP and could serioiusly hurt the party’s candidates in the 2008 elections. Douthat defines Bushism as “social conservatism and an accommodation with big government at home, and a moralistic interventionism abroad.” While these views are unpopular with a majority of voters, they are being embraced by the major 2008 candidates for the GOP nomination:

The various ingredients of “Bushism,” it’s been argued, have alienated fiscal hawks and foreign-policy realists, Catholics and libertarians—in short, everyone but the party’s evangelical base.

But someone must have forgotten to tell the GOP presidential field. If you consider how the nation’s most ambitious Republicans are positioning themselves for 2008, Bushism looks like it could have surprising staying power.

All of the prominent candidates, for instance, champion fiscal restraint, but none are likely to revive the small-government conservatism that Bush deliberately abandoned. John McCain may be a vehement foe of pork, but on issues ranging from campaign finance to education, he has shown little aversion to expanding the scope of federal power. Mitt Romney is best known for having delivered universal health care to Massachusetts, the bluest state in the union. And Sam Brownback has supported nearly every one of Bush’s big-government gambits, from the faith-based initiative to the costly prescription-drug entitlement. Newt Gingrich might seem a plausible advocate for small government—except that his recent manifesto, Winning the Future, includes more spending proposals than specific budget cuts.

The Bush-imitating pattern also holds in foreign policy. McCain talks tougher than Bush about Iran; Gingrich waxes eloquent about a third world war; Rudy Giuliani takes a maximalist view of the war on terrorism, casting it as a decades-long struggle that dates to Munich in 1972. Save for Brownback, all of the major contenders backed Bush’s call for a “surge” of troops into Iraq—and Brownback has been more aggressive and moralistic than Bush on humanitarian issues like Darfur.

And although Brownback is the only candidate in the field so far with Bush’s personal connection to the party’s religious conservatives, everyone—even McCain, even Giuliani—is actively courting them. This is partly because without evangelical Christians, there would essentially be no Republican Party anymore: Evangelicals provided more votes to the Republicans in last year’s midterms than African Americans and union members combined gave to the Democrats. Their influence within the party more or less requires that primary candidates endorse Bush-style moralism, not only on gay marriage and abortion but in foreign policy as well—which means continued support for Israel, a continued drift toward confrontation with Iran, and further ventures in conservative humanitarianism, along the lines of Bush’s AIDS-in-Africa initiative.

But the Republican candidates have another reason for giving Bushism a second act: It has more potential to appeal to the broad electorate than other visions of where the GOP should go from here. The enduring popularity of the welfare state makes big-government conservatism far more palatable to voters than the government-cutting purism that Bush’s right-wing critics hope to revive. (In the long run, the country may be forced to choose between keeping spending high and keeping taxes low; in the short term, though, the deficits Bush has run up are not the public’s first priority.) Similarly, although the Iraq War is likely to be an albatross for the Republican Party for years to come, the rest of Bush’s national-security vision—from opposing Iran to pushing domestic measures like the patriot Act—could still command widespread support.

Even Conservatives Tire of Multiple Choice Romney

Mitt Romeny of 1994 sounded so much different (and from my perspective, better) than the current Mitt Romney, as seen in this video. Don’t just take my word for it. Even many Republicans are realizing that Mitt Romney is the true flip flopper from Massachusetts. Redstate writes “I’m Giving Up on Multiple Choice Mitt.” They note his “explanations” and his “dodges” on abortion, stem cell research, campaign finance reform, taxes, homosexuality, and most recently his statements on having voted for Paul Tsongas.

Not all conservatives oppose Romney, who at this point has an excellent chance of contesting McCain and Giuliani for the nomination. Jeb Bush is reportedly steering his advisors towards Romney.

Amanda Marcotte Tells Her Story

Amanda Marcotte provides her side of the story at Salon. She goes into the events in great detail and I won’t attempt to review all of this here. Beyond the specific details, the affair could be summed up by this description of the right wing noise machine:

The right-wing noise machine’s favorite trick, possibly its only trick, is to select a target and start making a fuss, hoping that by creating the appearance of smoke, just enough people will be fooled into thinking there’s a fire. Unfortunately, it works. It was the method used to railroad Bill Clinton (Whitewater, Vince Foster, state troopers) and the method that ushered the nation into war with Iraq (WMDs and so on). This time they were only attacking a lowly rookie staffer on a Democratic campaign, but the M.O. was the same.

After discussing the specifics which led to her resignation from the Edwards campaign, Marcotte looks at the impact on the blogosphere:

I think the left blogosphere has a lot more substance to it. First of all, the liberal blogs are slowly but surely building a fundraising structure that is already beginning to have substantial influence on elections. They helped Jim Webb become a senator and Joe Lieberman become an Independent. Blogs also provide a method of disseminating progressive ideas to people, while the mainstream cable news channels carry on for weeks at a time on topics such as Anna Nicole Smith’s untimely demise. Liberal blogs are issue-oriented and good at parsing out complex ideas that don’t fit well into the sound-bite-driven mainstream discourse. They are a good fit for wonky Democrats. It’s therefore unsurprising that conservatives might want to dissuade Democrats from hiring them.

Does all this mean that it’s open season on bloggers who accept jobs as Democratic campaign staffers? It’s quite possible. As a general rule, blogs are raucous and common, as would be expected in any political environment that is truly democratic, where you don’t have to brandish a pedigree to get in the door. What this means is that even the more even-keeled bloggers are likely to have something in their archives that could be taken out of context and bandied about on the cable news networks. And even if the blogger herself never says a word that could be misconstrued, members of the right-wing noise machine are perfectly willing to dig through comment threads to find quotes that fit their purposes, as the bloggers at Feministing found out when Wendy McElroy was on Fox News quoting comments left by readers and implying that those statements had been made by the bloggers.

In response to what happened to Melissa and me, Garance Franke-Ruta has written a post on the American Prospect’s Tapped blog wagging her finger at liberal bloggers and warning us that unless we are willing to ape the language and habits of the D.C. insider crowd, we can expect never to be allowed through the gates. She probably has a point that bloggers can expect this sort of pushback from the establishment. Blogs are popular because they provide space for everyday citizens to engage in politics, in the language and manner that is comfortable for us, if not for the establishment. To my mind, however, it would be a terrible thing if bloggers did heed the advice to mind our manners and ape our betters if we want in, since this is supposed to be a democratic system that respects the right of everyday, common people to participate in politics. While there’s a chance that the crusade to separate McEwan and me from the Edwards campaign was just a singular happening, the possibility lingers that this was just the first sign that the established media and political circles will not be letting the blog-writing rabble into the circle without a fight.

USA Today Founder: Bush Worst President Ever

Al Neuharth, founder of USA Today, admits he was wrong about George Bush. Last year he” criticized Hillary Clinton for saying ‘this (Bush) administration will go down in history as one of the worst.'” At the time Neuharth picked Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan, Ulysses Grant, Hoover and Richard Nixon and the five worst Presidents and wrote, “It’s very unlikely Bush can crack that list.”

Neuharth admits he was wrong in today’s column. He writes, “I was wrong. This is my mea culpa. Not only has Bush cracked that list, but he is planted firmly at the top.”

Neuharth admits he was wrong. Bush’s failure to ever do this is one reason he tops the list of worst Presidents:

Another term historians may weigh critically is “Decider.”

Is he just a self-touted decider doing what he thinks right? Or is he an arrogant ruler who doesn’t care or consider what the public or Congress believes best for the country?

Despite his play on words and slogans, Bush didn’t learn the value or meaning of mea culpa (acknowledgement of an error) during his years at Yale.

Bush admitting his many mistakes on Iraq and ending that fiasco might make many of us forgive, even though we can never forget the terrible toll in lives and dollars.

Related Stories:

Worst President Ever
Worst President Ever Contest Continues

Fifth Worst President Ever