I think Mr. Bush faces a singular problem best defined, I think, as the absence of effective conservative ideology — with the result that he ended up being very extravagant in domestic spending, extremely tolerant of excesses by Congress, and in respect of foreign policy, incapable of bringing together such forces as apparently were necessary to conclude the Iraq challenge. ~ William F. Buckley (2006)
Conservative Victories Under Bush
One of President Bush’s most significant achievements was the appointment of conservative jurists. Bush’s appointments of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito represent two major lasting victories for conservatives. Combined with Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, Bush’s appointments provide four reliably conservative votes on the nine-seat Supreme Court. He also appointed more than 300 conservative-leaning judges to federal district and circuit courts.
Another major victory was President Bush’s tax cuts. They reduced individual taxes, decreased the “marriage penalty,” temporarily eliminated the death tax, and lowered taxes on dividends and capital gains. Unfortunately, President Bush didn’t aggressively push to limit spending. A 23 percent increase in non-defense spending tainted the effectiveness and necessity of the tax cuts. American taxpayers are always happy when they can keep more of their hard-earned money, but the ballooning federal debt likely means that tax increases may happen in the years ahead.
Plus, President Bush championed the unborn. He signed several key pieces of legislation, including the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act and the Born Alive Infants Protection Act. He also created the Office of Faith Based Initiative, which allows faith-based groups to compete for public funds to provide social services to millions of people.
President Bush proved to be a conservative voice on energy policy, too. By rescinding a 19-year moratorium on offshore oil and gas exploration, he ushered in a new era of American energy policy and ended our self-imposed energy embargo.
The Bush administration will forever be defined by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, of course. The president acted decisively to protect our homeland. He led a successful military campaign that toppled the Taliban in Afghanistan, dismantling the government that harbored and trained the 9/11 hijackers. Bush’s strategy of attacking terrorists on their own turf has kept them from attacking America again. His administration implemented an armed pilots program, which means our nation’s airlines are protected by thousands of volunteer pilots who can help protect against another 9-11 style attack.
President Bush led another successful military campaign in Iraq. It’s an issue that causes heartburn for conservatives, though, because his initial success in toppling an unpopular dictator who threatened the United States has morphed into an elongated nation-building exercise that sets a dangerous precedent. The president also backed peaceful and successful revolutions in Ukraine and the Republic of Georgia. The expansion of worldwide freedom is yet another victory for conservatives.
… And Conservative Defeats
The Bush administration’s pseudo-conservative policy endeavors led to many defeats for conservatives. The president proposed and won an “Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), essentially a multi-billion dollar waste of taxpayer dollars. No Child Left Behind — derided by many conservatives as “No Tax Dollar Left Behind” — centralized education planning to bureaucrats in the District of Columbia. The Medicare prescription drug benefit was a massive expansion of an entitlement program that will reportedly cost the taxpayers over $1 trillion over 10 years.
In addition, Bush adopted the rhetoric of Al Gore, claiming that America was “addicted to oil.” His advocacy for global warming legislation, a 20 percent reduction in national oil consumption by 2022 through the use of miracle fuels, and higher fuel efficiency standards on an auto industry already on the verge of collapse caused by unions and government mandates, are conservative losses. President Bush also picked a fight with conservatives when he teamed up with Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) to propose a plan to grant illegal immigrants blanket amnesty and access to trillions in public benefits from the local, state and federal treasury.
When the proposed automaker bailout came up on “Meet the Press” last week, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said, “I don’t believe the $25 billion they’re talking about will make them survive. It’s just postponing the inevitable.” In a letter to President Bush, his Alabama partner in the Senate, Jeff Sessions (R) expressed concern regarding the ironically named Troubled Assets Relief Program: “This unfocused scheme provides a basis for almost any action, including direct government ownership of private corporations and sets a dangerous precedent.”
The irony is that Treasury has yet to buy up “troubled assets” and is opening the way to new, unnecessary and harmful intervention in all aspects of the economy. Government bailouts reward corporate failure. Conservatives want to see free markets reward innovation and successful business performance.