The GOP and the Bush Legacy: Part Two
Published on: April 16, 2013
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  • Anthony

    “The word objective is sometimes taken to be synonymous with quantitative, but it isn’t. Instead it means seeing beyond our personal biases and prejudices and toward the truth of the problem.” Partisanship may hamper the wisdom in seeing the world from a different viewpoint – getting lost in the narrative.
    A young statistican wrote an informative book: “the signal and the noise….” I think WRM your entreaty has been to not confuse noise for signal or rather not utterly divorce ourselves from reality – distinguish our rooting interest from our analysis and be mindful that context remains integral as we go forward.

  • Lorenz Gude

    I think you go a Bush too far with your acceptance of the idea that Jeb wouldn’t kill any chance of a GOP win in 2016. Right now my ouija board says Hillary versus Jeb, with Hillary for the win. Big government, blue model candidates are what both parties have to offer and that ain’t going to cut it. How much can the GOP go purple and still win? Christie is about in the right spot on the spectrum and has the kind of presentation that could win, but needs a lot of forgiveness from Republicans before he could get the nomination. Rubio is the other guy who speaks well, but I’m not sure that the country is going to go a second time for a well spoken senator with little experience. Jindal is probably qualified, but is a soporific speaker. I don’t think Rand Paul or other non purple candidate can win either. New candidates could emerge in both parties, and I hope they do, but I think you are absolutely right that defending the Bush legacy is political suicide.

  • Jim Luebke

    Honestly, the best path forward is not to mention Bush at all, and establish the current crop of GOP candidates on their own merits.

    Change the subject to something more relevant.

  • Bruno_Behrend

    A recent poll from “The Hill” showed that Republican economic policies are more popular than Democratic polices until they are called “Republican Policies.”

    This shows that the GOP has bigger problems than whether W was or wasn’t a good president. He won two elections pretty much doing what he said he was going to do.

    The GOP doesn’t need a newer, better, candidate. It needs a new party. Rehabilitating a brand that has been undermined by both GOP leaders and a relentlessly negative media will be nearly impossible.

    Jesus could come down, walk on water, and run as a Republican, and it wouldn’t stop other Republicans from running negative ads, and it wouldn’t stop the Dems and the media from labeling him a “tea party nut job.”

    W isn’t the problem. The brand is the problem, though to the extent that W is the brand, the two are entwined.

  • WigWag

    Wehner is filled with rightout anger at Mead but he forgets that President Bush was responsible not only for the substantive policies enacted during his administration (most of which were far less successful than Wehner suggests), but also for political strategy. Bush was not only the leader of his nation, he was the leader of his Party; and his Party’s “brand” was dramatically damaged because Bush was a poor steward of that brand.

    We should not forget that Bush annointed as his chief political advisor Karl Rove, a man who believed with an almost religious fervor in playing to the Republiclan Party’s political base. The strategy worked to get Bush elected twice (the first time by the skin of his teeth and with an assist from the Supreme Court), but the cost was high; vast swaths of the electorate were alienated from the GOP.

    The Bush/Rove strategy (or was it the Rove/Bush strategy) was a version of Richard Nixon’s southern strategy; it relied overwhelmingly on the alienation of white voters (especially white men) primarily in the southern and mountain states. The problem was that the Republican base was (and is) in a state of terminal decline; by the time Bush left office, it was in-extremis. Until the Republican Party comes to grips with the fact that appealing to white male voters in the South is no longer a viable strategy, the party’s electoral prospects are doomed.

    Think about the number of once reliably “red” states that are trending “blue.” Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Virginia and maybe North Carolina all come to mind. Think about the reliably “red” states that elected Democratic Senators last November; Missouri and North Dakota should have elected Republicans but didn’t. Conversely, I can think of only two once reliably “blue” states that are now tinted red; West Virginia and Louisiana (a whopping 13 electoral votes between them).

    It is also astounding that Republican leaders can delude themselves into thinking that being dragged reluctantly into an immigration reform bill that most Republicans don’t support will be enough to solve their problems with the growing Hispanic and Asian American electorate.

    The nativist orientation of the Republican Party is deeply ingrained in the Party’s DNA. Jewish voters and Irish voters still eschew the Republican Party generations after early 20th century Republicans wailed about the unwashed hordes arriving from Europe. Should we really believe that the GOP’s problem with Asians and Hispanics will be over merely because a handful of Republican Senators and House members join an overwhelming number of Democrats to pass an immigration reform bill? Ground Zero for Republican conservatism is Texas; how long will it be before the growing Hispanic population of Texas moves that State in a “blue” direction?

    To make matters worse, Republicans are deluding themselves when they fall into the trap of thinking that Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal or Paul Ryan will be saviors for the Party. Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate would do to that trio what her husband did to Bob Dole; make them look like pathetic clowns; even Joe Biden could probably accomplish the same feat.

    Mitt Romney, a credible candidate and highly intelligent and competent politician was done in by the need to pander to the Republican base; he couldn’t do it while still maintaining his credibility with the wider electorate. More conservative candidates like Rubio, Jindal or Ryan won’t have any more success than Romney did. The one Republican star who may “get it” is Chris Christie, but the conservative branch of the party is doing everything it can to run him out of town.
    Mead is right. Wehner can stick his head in the sand if he wants to, but his ostrich-like posture won’t do anything to fix the GOP. The Party is in terrible straits; Dubya is, in large part, to blame.

    • Anthony

      Hedgehogs and Foxes aptly describe your point and as always well said – again, welcome back to the exchange.

      • WigWag

        Thanks, Anthony for the kind words. Unfortunately for those of us who believe that America is better off with two viable mainstream political parties, the problems faced by the GOP are even more dire than Professor Mead suggests in his two posts about the Bush Presidency. As for Wehner, he’s gearing up for a race down the information super highway by polishing up his Model T.

        As Professor Mead informs his readers with almost obsessive consistency, what he calls the “blue” model is aging rapidly and reaching the end of its useful life. I’m not sure whether Mead understands this phenomonon as well as he thinks he does, but what is really happening is that the same forces of disintermediation (cutting out the middle man) which have revolutionized the private sector (e.g. long distance telephony, the travel industry, publishing, retailing, music, etc.) are beginning to hit the service sector especially services provided mostly by Government. Elementary, secondary and higher education are the first sectors to be devastated by the same forces of disintermediation that the private sector has been grappling with since the 1970s. Health care will almost certainly be next. (Paranthetically, even religion is being ravaged by the forces of disintermediation; it’s why Americans are as religious as ever but church membership is plummeting. Think of it as the reformation on steroids; in the 16th century the pious Christians no longer needed priests to mediate their relationship with the deity. In 21st century America the pious increasingly no longer need a church or even an established religion to mediate their relationship with the deity).

        The political party that figures out how to come to grips with the massive wave of disintermediation likely to revolutionize government services in the next few decades is the political party most likely to become dominant. The early indications are that the Democrats get this while the Republicans don’t (though it’s still early days and things could change).

        Professor Mead has made a habit (and it’s a bad habit) of fixating on the war coming in the Democratic Party between the purveyers of government services and their unions and the recipients of government services-the taxpaying, service-receiving public. Mead has pointed out how Democratic stalwarts like Rahm Emanuel, Corey Booker, Gerry Brown and others are increasingly infuriating supporters in public employee unions who helped them get elected.

        What Mead seems to miss is that the process he rightly points out is becoming more and more common is a healthy process that will make the Democratic Party more viable in the long run, not less viable. The fact that Democratic Mayors and Governors are proceding in an incremental way is a major strength; given the choice between evolutionary change and revoultionary change, Americans take evolution almost every time.

        As Democrats adjust to changing realities what are Republicans doing? For the most part they are relying on the same recipe that they have touted for a generation; cut taxes and spending and villify government and everything will work out just fine. The Democrats are the Iron Chef while the Republicans are Fanny Farmer.

        The Democrats are willing to challenge their base albeit in as gentle a manner as they can get away with. Republicans are still trying to figure out how to placate their base while broadening their appeal. It won’t work. The creative destruction taking place in the Democratic Party is, contrary to Professor Mead, a strength not a weakness. Unless Republican leaders come to understand that low taxes and austerity aren’t the solutions to every problem under the sun, their goose is cooked.

        • Anthony

          My pleasure WigWag. In his old format, WRM attempted to identify what we now call disintermediation (I know you recall). Such being the case I think, outside of public policy spheres, seriousness of creative destruction wrought by disintermediation is less understood by general populace but palpable nevertheless. And as you intimate, it is certainly better to be in front of a big change than to be behind it (since hindsight makes us all Einsteins). Going forward, the ability to understand where the action is may well reveal itself in our political party outcomes (Booker, Christie, Emamuel et al understand government’s role in era of disintermediation and acknowledge it has active role to play despite furor). Finally, your reply brings to mind that we know less about the world than we think we do yet our personal and professional incentives preclude such recognition.

        • Marty Keller

          “The creative destruction taking place in the Democratic Party is, contrary to Professor Mead, a strength not a weakness.”

          Well, perhaps halcyon days are coming for the Democrats, and their civil war will make them a better party–and therefore us a better country. Perhaps actual creative destruction is happening, rather than the appearance of it.

          Living in the one-party state of California, however, has taught me to be very leery of such cheery assertions. The devastating policies that the Rahms, Villaraigosas, and others (not Jerry Brown, though; he’s still a blue social model adherent whose just stingier than most) are now grappling with are the very ones they enthusiastically supported when there was plenty of other people’s money to finance them. When the collapse comes as the examples of Detroit, Stockton, and San Bernardino (not to mention Rhode Island’s and Illinois’ pension messes) foretell, it remains to be seen whether voters who will be stuck with all the bills will be as happy to retain the architects as Mr. Wag seems to think. Because to be honest, their only current solution is high taxes, more debt, and austerity.

          So, yes, “low taxes and austerity aren’t the solutions to every problem under the sun,” but why on earth anyone other than Paul Krugman believes that higher taxes, debt, and austerity, and somehow trump those is mystifying.

          Until we devise social and tax policies to reward innovation and production over rent-seeking and an ever more regulated economy, we will stay stuck in the grand civil war cynically labeled “gridlock.”

          Perhaps the GOP will figure this out first. They at least have fewer constituencies to pay off.

          • Dan

            While I respect this discussion, in regard to the parties it ignores the biggest reason why the GOP is in a tailspin. That reason is because Bush’s war in Iraq it has thrown away the GOP historic advantage on security.

            Security, combined with one issue voters scraped together from the lowest common denominator of God, Guns, Gays and above all Race was able to offset the Dem advantage on economic issues.

            The question that will need to be asked is that as the Dem party becomes dominant over the next several years as I predict it will, are those with ambition held out of its power circles and disaffected by its policies going to form a new party or try and rejuvenate the GOP.

            As I wrote elsewhere, to any common observer Bush was a predictable disaster that the GOP for short term greed hung with after it shown himself unfit to be president. But not only did Bush discredit the GOP, he discredited their policies and political arguments of cutting taxes as the answer to all economic problems and government is bad in all cases.

            How the Dems who will likely be the dominant power for the next several years deal with the problems of America will determine how dominant the Dems become. But it will likely take a major screw-up to displace the Dems as the dominant power regardless of how well it deals with the challenges spoken of in this chain. That is, it was a Dem screw-up, the Vietnam War that gave the GOP its chance to become the dominant power after Hoover and FDR.

            So while the ability of the Dems to deal with the challenges ahead will help determine how dominant it becomes, if history is any teacher it will take a major screw-up like Bush, the Vietnam War or the great depression to for it to lose its dominance.

          • “The question that will need to be asked is that as the Dem party becomes
            dominant over the next several years as I predict it will, are those
            with ambition held out of its power circles and disaffected by its
            policies going to form a new party or try and rejuvenate the GOP.”

            You already see this. Increasingly, social criticism of the upper middle class that liberals used to make is being made by conservatives. It’s very weird for us; we’re certainly not used to filling this role. But someone has to do it.

        • Democrats are willing to buck their base? The activist base, perhaps, but their wider voter base is decidedly moderate to begin with.

          By the way, low taxes and austerity are not the solution to everything; about the only thing the different factions in the GOP can agree on is their love of tax cuts.

          BTW, I’m surprised to see you making the “the civil war makes the party stronger” argument; I’ve used that in the GOP’s favor, myself.

        • James Bean

          Wig we missed you! Though you may need to curtail the verboseness a bit w/ the new format…

          Anyway, I agree that Mead’s near clinical obsession with the Blue Model is accurate and necessary, but you are QUITE correct that he misses the right conclusion.

          That is, marginal changes in blue states will not create the real change needed. The GOP will FOREVER be blamed for any economic woes and unfortunately for them, the bitter medicine of cutting pensions or higher health out-of pockets, doesn’t play well with the electorate and takes a decade for the positive effects to be felt.

  • ‘We said that “more went right under Bush than most of his critics understood,” . . .’

    Remind us, what went right under the Bush administration? No Child Left Behind? His tax cuts? Medicare drug prescription plan? Letting Osama escape Afghanistan? The way he administered the Justice Department?

    Seriously, what did go right?

    • Jim Luebke

      Of course, Obama has been noticeably different.

      He does not walk like a cowboy.

    • James Bean

      Well, No Child was well intentioned and the first step to of a long road to Ed. reform.

      Afghanistan is a mixed bag; the same strategy that forced the Taliban out in a shocking 6 weeks also enabled AQ to flee Tora Bora (Really that’s on Rumsfeld though…I never quite understood why Bush didn’t insist on dropping the 5k troops necessary to block their exit)

      I’d argue that executing the War on Terror would have had the same results (re; int’l opposition) no matter the steward. Iraq was the undeserving stage, but blowback was inevitable to occur somewhere.

  • I think Mead is conflating and confusing what GOP politicians and strategists must do to advance their party and themselves with what online pundits and bloggers say in debating each other. I doubt any Republican candidate is going to race to Texas for Bush’s endorsement anytime soon (and remember that Dem candidates still don’t regard Jimmy Carter’s support as helpful). But that’s not to say that someone like Wehner needs to stand silent when Mead beats W up.

    • I would just add that Republicans hardly need Mead’s advice since they have been avoiding Bush like the plague ever since John McCain nearly ran through the White House in 2008 for his obligatory appearance with Bush and later was relieved to cancel Cheney’s appearance at the GOP national convention. For that reason, Mead’s broadside at Bush looks a lot more like piling on than offering helpful advice.

      Besides, at this point, Republicans would be better advised to examine what went wrong in the 2012 election, how to avoid allowing their right wing to dominate the primary process, how to promote Republican candidates in the northeast and upper midwest, how to resuscitate the party in California, and not least, how to win control of the Senate in 2014.

      • David O’Connell

        How did we get Mitt Romney as a nominee if republicans allowed “the right wing to dominate the primary process”?

        • bigfoot9p6

          Because the right was divided among the assorted nuts.

        • It is not clearly apparent yet but the Christian Right is a spent force in American politics.

  • Kavanna

    There’s no doubt that Bush damaged the “brand,” seriously, even leaving aside his wildly uneven foreign policy legacy.

    But let me suggest that the argument doesn’t really get to the heart of the issue, because it’s framed in partisan terms, where one party supposedly wins and the other looses.

    What the Clinton-Bush-Obama era illustrates is the truth of the old adage that one party is evil and the other stupid. (I’ll let you figure out which is which.) The policies that led to the 2007-9 crisis and post-crisis Great Recession were firmly and unequivocally a legacy of Clinton, Congresscritters of both parties (although more one than the other), and the Greenspan-Bernanke Fed. (Both Greenspan and Bernanke are Republicans.) While there were important Republican (and even, very occasionally, Democratic) critics of the bubble-finance insanity that has ruled the American economy since the mid-90s, the Republican establishment in Washington stopped its flirting with real change or reform before Bush became president. They decided to be “with the program,” instead of casting a cold eye on it.

    Instead, that establishment embraced the “ownership society” and the newly minted entitlements crystallizing under Clinton: college for all (with a lot of debt), houses for all (with a lot of debt), greatly expanded federal intervention in lower education (with swollen municipal governments implementing it), and a major expansion of Medicare. Even now — put aside the Tea Party distraction — that establishment in Washington still fully embraces the “businessman’s Keynesianism” of asset and credit bubbles.

    When the collapse started in 2007, these same establishment Republicans had nowhere to hide. Apart from some perceptive gold-bug, laissez-faire, and marginal critics, all of them were busy praising Greenspan and Bernanke for making this insanity possible.

    Obama takes us back to the evil party: the same FOBs who engineered this disaster at its origins (Geithner, Corzine, their flunkies and protoges, like Jack Lew, and so on) are back to escort us through the ruins. What’s puzzling is that, while many Americans do get what’s happening to us — dependency and decline in place of recovery — even now large numbers don’t. It’s especially disconcerting to watch GenY young’uns being bound to unprecedented individual and collective debt fetters and poor prospects, still mesmerized by the phony empty suit in the White House, even as he presides over the biggest labor market disaster since the 1930s.

    • Loader2000

      That’s all fine and good. However, the whole point of WRM’s essay was that the reality doesn’t matter, only the perception by the public. The public sees it as a partisen issue. The public mostly thinks Bush was a terrible president. It doesn’t matter what you think or I think or what the reality is, it only matters what they think.

  • Marty Keller

    Prof. Meade, a self-confessed Democrat (!), has nonetheless been grappling with the transitional dynamics that the world political economy has been experiencing since the fall of communism several decades ago. His analysis of the collapse of the blue social model points the way, but much, much more thought needs to be put into it before we have a valid model to better help us get to where we might be going.

    There are no politicians with any significant constituency in the US or Europe (Poland or the Czech Republic possibly excepted) that don’t have their eyes planted firmly in the rearview mirror. This is, unfortunately, mostly because their constituencies are likewise oriented.

    The Professor’s advice to the GOP to confront the real and perceived Bush failures is actually a backhanded compliment, for it implies truthfully that such an campaign is foreclosed to the Democrats, stuck as they are in their failed blue social model. The Republicans have the freedom to take his advice as a springboard towards future-oriented leadership. If they could figure this one out–if they were willing to step on some mighty big toes on Wall Street and K Street–they could actually clean the Democrats’ clock.

    This would have international repercussions as well. The nascent anti-Euro political movements in Germany, Italy, and Great Britain might offer something more powerful than mere opposition to the Establishment. It could even offer a much smarter way of dealing with China and India.

    But until the GOP confronts its own complicity in keeping the blue social model alive–something about which the Tea Party makes them squirm–voters will continue to think of it as an unserious party driven mostly by jealousy of Obama and by implication disagreement with the majority of voters who twice put him in office.

    I agree with Prof. Meade: let historians deal with the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Bush administration. Mr. Wehner and others should of course provide their points of view to contribute to this longterm project, but practical GOP politicians should heed the Professor’s advice. Deep systemic change is coming; it would be a tragedy if the GOP’s fecklessness enabled the Democrats to push America in the precisely wrong direction.

  • Dan

    What galls me is the very question being asked and debated by the GOP in regard to Iraq, Gay Rights, Immigration, and everything else, is “how after lying America into wars, turning brother against brother over god, guns and gays, trashing the economy, can we get back into power.” In fact the GOP is not even asking about what is good policy which an improvement is still not the proper question for the GOP. What the GOP needs to be asking, or begging for, after Bush is FOREGIVENESS.

    But here is the real problem for the GOP. The Iraq war has cost the GOP the advantage it held since the Vietnam War on security. Already having a big disadvantage on the economy, the social issues of God, Guns, Gays, Race and Abortion are just not enough to offset representing 1% of the nation at the expense of the other 99% on economic issues.

    As to Bush and the GOP on the economy over the last 30 years:

    “Let me write $300,000,000,000.00 of hot checks a year and I too could give you an illusion of prosperity.” Lloyd Benson, 1988. But even more to the point, unlike Reagan, Bush Jr. was clearly unfit to be president to any casual observer. I mean the fact that the GOP hung with Bush after his “bring um on” comment showing he had no care or clue to the common man affected by his policies, the GOP united for the sole reason of hanging on to power at the expense of America and using all manner subterfuge got through the 2004 election.

    The truth is GOP economic policy, or as another Bush called it, “VOODOO Economics”, never worked. Cutting taxes for the very rich including big tax breaks for plant and equipment built and used offshore only increased the unemployment rate resulting in deep recessions. Both Reagan and the Jr. Bush responded to recession their policies caused by going on big spending increases to create Benson’s “illusion of prosperity”. In Reagan’s case he managed to leave office before the storm woke the American people. Bush Jr. was not so lucky.

    That was because aided on by a GOP congress and Federal Reserve Chairman who was “the biggest political hack in Washington”; Bush did not have the same constraints of a strong opposition or competence if not of himself than his advisers.

    I mean anyone who in even a nominal objective way compares 2001 when Bush came into office with 2009 when Bush left office can only conclude that Bush was a disaster. Furthermore, when looking at Bush’s career this was not only predictable, but predicted by anyone observing Bush prior to his election as president. It was not even hard. Had Bush not have been born a Bush he would doubtless be in jail for swindling little old ladies.

    On incident stands out in my mind, at a GOP debate in 2000; Bush was asked about denying commuting or even reviewing death penalties of defendants where tape of the trials showed their lawyers asleep for most of the proceedings. The practice of lawyers sleeping at death penalty trials during Bush’s term as Texas governor was so common there was even a term for it.

    After answering a question about it while the topic was still being discussed, twice when Bush though he was off camera he was openly laughing and mocking. Now my wife happens to be a member of the Capital Bar in my state, which means she in an elite group of lawyers deemed qualified to represent defendants in death penalty cases. Not only does my wife at trial, she does not sleep the entire time a trial is ongoing, and trials are often on going for several weeks, giving all to the defense of her clients regardless of their situation.

    This is the very basis for our legal system. That Bush took this as a joke without regard to foundation of American society, our legal system, or an average person who is caught up in that system, made clear to me that he was unfit to be president. It also made his performance as president and the disasters that followed for America predictable to any casual observer.

    After 4 years in office, 911 nine months into his term, historical record surplus turned to historical record deficit, prosperity turned to recession, torture and above all the war in Iraq, that the GOP without decent unified behind this guy so it could hold onto power shows that not only is Bush evil but that the GOP itself as evil. And to now ask how to get back into power instead of begging America and God for forgiveness, if Bush or many of his supporters really believe in God or just view religion like all else as a confidence game, tells me that we must root out the GOP from our society and hope that a new party forms on its ashes because America does need two parties.

    • Wow, that was a long post. Hrm, forgiveness? I suppose the Democrat’s exclusive representation of the upper middle class is far superior to the GOP’s perverse coalition of working-class white males and rich 1%ers?

      It is the height of absurdity to suggest that a minuscule percentage of the population, many of them liberal, are hurting the poor. The upper middle class are the ones hurting the poor: by protecting their own skilled jobs from competition while crushing the wages of unskilled workers with imported labor; restricting housing in blue cities; requiring everyone attend college; the list goes on, and on, and on, and *on*.

  • On foreign policy, Bush’s failures were his own; but on domestic policy, his failures were those of his party. On social and economic isses, Bush did not become unpopular because he failed to accurately reflect the Republican platform. He became unpopular because, like Mitt Romney, he reflected his party’s platform all too well.
    It’s been a generation or more since the GOP’s tireless pursuit of privatization, deregulation, and tax cuts for the wealthy have yielded any tangible benefits for average Americans. Even the “good” statistics from the Bush Era conceal the truth that, for ordinary families, the Golden Age of Republican governance in the early 2000s is not remembered as a happy and prosperous time.

    • I’ve always wondered about that claim. To put it bluntly, I think it’s completely false. It’s the sort of thing upper-middle-class liberals tell themselves because their identity demands that poor people must always and everywhere be oppressed (it’s part of their over-developed feudal instinct)

      The lives of everyone I know, from poor people to the rich (and I’m acquainted with the whole spectrum) has *definitely* improved over the past decade.

  • ppp

    Very well said. I am a conservative with a solid record of voting for Republican candidates (in fact I have never voted for a Democratic candidate; if in a election my only choice was to vote for a Republican that I didn’t like or a Democrat whom I might like on some issues, I left that part of the ballot blank).

    It is about time that the GOP elites understand that the Bush legacy is not popular even with conservatives. We might like the man’s humor, some of the decisions he made (particularly on the matter of national security after 9/11) but surely we despise his incompetence on many more matters that ended up costing the Republicans the Congress, then the White House. Even giving Bush the merit that going to Iraq was a good idea, why did Bush wait 4 years to do the so called “surge”? Why was he so utterly incompetent with Katrina? And lets not forget that he made the utter fool of himself with the nomination of Harriet Miers. I no doubt for a second that Miers was a loyal ally, but she was no Robert Bork, so please do not take me there. You add the number of dubious characters that populated his cabinet (particularly AGs like Ashcroft and Gonzalez) and you get an idea of why the GW administration is so despised all around the place. In fact, it’s G W Bush incompetence, more than any other factor, that gave us Obama. Before GW Bush the country was so right wing that Bill Clinton had to adopt both conservative economic (end of welfare) and social (DOMA) positions to get reelected. Voters gave the GOP a second chance in 2004 but GW Bush made them detest the GOP even further. Simply put, demographic changes alone do not explain the 2006, 2008 and 2012 election results with respect to the results of 2004, 2002, 2000 and before. I did not forget about 2010. The GOP had a real chance recapturing voters imaginations again, but as it usually happens, their Karl Rove led elites screwed up. And that’s where we are now.

  • ppp

    Boy, and how could I forget, what about that Dubai ports deal? In fact, there are so many things forgettable from that second Bush term that it’s very difficult to understand how is that conservatives in their right minds are defending it.

  • Andrew Allison

    Disappointing, given that there was apparently a Part II planned before the Wehner knee-jerk. As you wrote in Part I, the issue is not whether or not Bush was a good president, but how his presidency is viewed by a majority of voters. I think the problem is that by conflating conservatism and moralism the national GOP has lost contact with its constituency. “We know what’s good for you” is the hallmark of the progressive, not the conservative platform.

  • ClaudeinSocal

    Where are those WMD’S at??

  • The more I think about this, the more I think that while Mead makes a good point — that Bush left office very unpopular and that unpopularity was an important factor in Obama’s 2008 victory — it is way, way overdone. Bush, after all, was elected twice. He was, after all, a fairly conventional establishment Republican, not all that different ideologically from his brother or father. He was, after all, a popular, successful two-term governor. He carried Congress with him until 2006 when the Iraq war seemed lost and war weary Americans voted accordingly. He had a long agenda of proposals any one of which would have made a 2012 GOP contender a “RINO.” He appealed to and won a substantial 40% of Hispanic voters.

    Yes, Bush fatigue contributed to the current problems with the GOP “brand,” but so have a lot of other factors not least of which are John McCain’s fateful mistake in choosing Sarah Palin for VP; the looney characters drawn to the painfully drawn out GOP 2012 primaries; the even loonier characters thrown up by the so-called tea party in a half dozen high-profile Senate races in 2010 and 2012; and the massive ineptness, insensitivity and political tin ear of Mitt Romney as a Presidential candidate (47 percent, indeed).

    Underlying all this is the growing strength within the party of its right wing — which not incidentally does not care for Bush either.

  • Bush’s greatest failure was continuing the drug war. Afghanistan is a direct result of prohibition. It is how the Taliban finances itself. And we were guarding their poppy fields in the ‘stan while fighting opiates in America. Don’t make no sense.

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