We were arguing about the bailouts on my class email list, and a liberal classmate noted that George W. Bush started them. Bush was a conservative, he argues, so bailouts are conservative.
My classmate writes:
If Bush is actually a conservative, why did he go along with the bailout?
And if you now say, he isn’t or wasn’t, how can you be so rigid in your identifications of political categories, like “liberal” or “conservative.” Bush sounds like a quantum experiment, he’s a conservative until he isn’t? Is that your Schrodinger cat experiment? Your polemics are so absolute, but the reality is less so.
Reality is less consistent than my politics. George W. Bush ran as a Republican. I think he had some conservative views, but do remember he was always a “compassionate conservative,” the kind of politician striving to be a “uniter not a divider.” GWB’s record is very mixed from a conservative point of view. He was most conservative with respect to siding with ordinary Americans in the culture wars against the leftwing coastal elite. He seems to have had a visceral antipathy to the same elite from which he traces his own roots, and I find that basically the most lovable thing about George W. Bush.
He had ambitions to reduce taxes and to fix Social Security and health care, but Republicans in Name Only rendered his Congressional majority meaningless. Bush got temporary tax cuts (which will soon be expiring, God help the economy!), and got neither of the others.
9/11 turned Bush into a Big Government president. He created the preposterous Department of Heimat Sekuritat. He allowed political correctness to reign in airline security, confiscating nail clippers and searching blue-haired grannies from Nebraska, while continuing to allow Muslims on US flights. He waged two wars, which he conducted in a politically correct, Wilsonian manner, losing the support of the public at home and failing to rebuke domestic treason. He never explained their goals and objectives well enough, and he was too slow. The US public gets tired of wars that take too long. He kept the country safe after 9/11. No second successful mass attack ever occurred, but he also never caught bin Laden, and I do not think he actually did democratize the Middle East.
His panicky bailouts were a terrible departure from Republican principle. And, in the final analysis, we are obliged to conclude that George W. Bush received the support of a comfortable American majority in favor of lower taxes, smaller government, less political correctness, a balanced budget and a strong national defense. He accomplished little, and he managed to throw away that majority and lose Congress and the White House to a radical democrat party rump, so scary left that a lot of people believed the GOP needed only to point to them and it could enjoy an electoral majority in perpetuity.
The framers in Valhalla are doubtless distressed to see a radical community organizer and representative of the corrupt Daley machine sitting in the White House apologizing to Muslims and trying to make America into a socialist welfare state. George W. Bush will have a lot of explaining to do when he sees them