Outgoing White House political guru Karl Rove’s protests to the contrary notwithstanding, I fear that George W. Bush’s performance in office over the last seven years may well have relegated the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan to minority status for the foreseeable future.
During the first six years after the so-called Republican Revolution, the GOP Congress held spending to a mere avalanche. They reformed welfare and balanced the federal budget. And even though it was Bill Clinton who got the credit, it was Congress which held the purse strings.
Then came George W. Bush. As president, the self-proclaimed compassionate conservative led his party down a path of spending and expansion of government that would have made FDR envious. He and his GOP Congress deserve credit for cutting taxes at a crucial time, and for saving the country from what could have been a severe downturn in the economy, post-9/11. But the alienation of the GOP base that followed six years of George Bush working with a Republican Congress has been depressing to watch.
Beginning almost immediately after taking office in 2001, it was as if the president saw his role as one of trying to outdo the Democrats at the one thing at which they always excel: growing the federal government.
He handed the creation of his education bill, “No Child Left Behind,” over to Ted Kennedy. Today, almost everyone hates the legislation, and Bush, not Kennedy, gets the blame for it.
He split hairs over stem cell research by allowing federal funds to be used to play God with cell lines already in existence, but disallowed the use of those funds for the creation of new lines, thereby ensuring that he pleased no one.
He created a massive new Medicare prescription drug plan, then twisted the arms of every Republican in Congress to vote for it. The result was an entitlement program which likely will be unsustainable in just one generation.
He declared a “war on terror,” but has left our own porous borders wide open. He wanted to turn the security for our ports over to the United Arab Emirates, and then dragged his own party into a fight over so-called comprehensive immigration reform. When conservatives refused to go along with what amounted to amnesty, he accused us of using “scare tactics.”
So far, his two appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court seem to be solid conservatives. But one has to ask oneself, if left to his own instincts, would the president have appointed Harriett Meyers and Alberto Gonzales instead of John Roberts and Samuel Alito?
Speaking of Gonzales, could he possibly have screwed up his testimony before Congress concerning the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys any worse than he did? The president should have simply sent Gonzales up to Capital Hill with a single note card on which were written the following words, which he could repeat over and over to every question: “U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president. Next question.”
Now we learn that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, a cabinet lightning rod if ever there was one, handed the president his resignation before the 2006 election, but Bush chose to announce it the day after. One U.S. Senate seat falling in the other direction that day would have given the president a shot at another Supreme Court appointment, which could have affected the direction of the country for the next fifty years. Today, with Democrats in charge of the Senate Judiciary Committee, we can kiss that possibility goodbye.
Rush Limbaugh once opined that when the history of the late twentieth century is written, it won’t be Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush who will be lumped together, as in “the Reagan-Bush era.” Rather, Bush 41 would be paired with his successor, as in “the Bush-Clinton era.”
Many of us had high hopes that George W. Bush would be more like the Gipper than like his father. We were wrong, and I am now convinced that our great-grandchildren may well be reading about the “Bush-Clinton-Bush era” of big, expansive, bloated government and lost American sovereignty, and about how President George W. Bush turned his majority party into a minority for a generation.