Parting Thoughts on the Bush Presidency & the State of the Republican Party

Chris of Mason Conservative had a spirited discussion in his comment section with Loudon Insider of Too Conservative (and others) regarding the Bush Presidency.

Chris runs through some strong points of the Bush Presidency:

I would have voted for him again. Part of our weakness as a party grew from our willingness to join the Dems in bashing Bush. I’m proud to have voted for him, he stood up to terrorists, to the media, to Democrats, for life issues. Yeah he wasn’t great on the economy, we all know that. But the real reason Deomcrats took power was over Iraq, but it was (and is) the right war and he pressed forward to victory even in the face of defeat at home. I’m not saying George W. Bush didn’t make mistakes, far from it, but from where I stand politcally I thank god we had his eight years compared to what Al Gore or John Kerry would have done to us, and what Barack Obama is about to do to us.

while decrying that  “it[‘s] trendy to bash, it[‘s] also intellectually lazy to lay all the problems of the Republican Party at [Bush’s] feet.

Loudon Insider’s central criticism of Bush is that:

…he kept taxes “low” while running up HUGE deficits and nearly bankrupting future generations with BS like his Medicare plan enhancement.

Along with past problems in Iraq, Loudon Insider contends that defending Bush is a losing proposition for the future of the Republican Party.

Bush spent way too much (along with the Republican Congress).  One purported motivation for this was to maintain support for the Iraq war. Up until 2006, many commentators recounted that Bush could not openly disagree with Congress, on budget and spending items, because it would show weakness in the Party and undermine Republicans’ power.

How has this worked for Republicans?

Here is how:

  1. Bush went along with a Republican Congress and spent without recourse.
  2. The Republican Party’s base, for the better part of the last fifty years, has been based on fiscal responsibilty.
  3. Democrats seized opportunity by making Republican spending an issue; in short, they managed to co-opt fiscal responsibility.
  4. Combined with Republicans’ mishandling of Iraq (through 2006, and pre-surge), co-opting fiscal responsibility as an issue allowed Democrats to destroy Republicans’ overall credibility which culminated in the election results of 2008.

Politically, Republicans are now past Bush, and it is time to start drawing lessons from his Presidency.  The time for advocacy is over.  Now it is time to analyze the history and the first step is to argue over the metrics by which we will measure the Bush Presidency.  So far we have:

  1. Chris: Should the results of the Bush Presidency with respect to the promises of his 2000 and 2004 opponents?  His other success: tax cuts, two “conservative” Supreme Court appointments, no terrorist attacks since 9/11, etc.?
  2. Loudon Insider: Have Bush’s policies of deficit spending,  creating new social entitlements, and the mishandling of Iraq diminished the future prospects of the Republican Party?
  3. 10 kt: Could Bush (and Republicans whom he presumably led) have done anything to prevent Democrats from co-opting the issue of fiscal responasibility in their favor?

How do we answer these questions; what other questions are there; and what lessons do we need to draw in order to move forward?


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