Quote of the Day

From an article by Stephen Dinan in today’s Washington Times:

The White House-congressional split highlights a problem that Mr. Bush is likely to face for the next two years: the increasing division between Mr. Bush and his party as he works to find common ground with Democrats and Republicans work to hold the line on tax cuts and other gains they made on the Republican agenda.

I don’t get this. Bush has nothing to lose by obstructing the Democrats’ tax-raising agenda, just as he has nothing to lose by continuing to try to win the war against the Islamists. Who cares about his “legacy,” at least as that term is interpreted by shallow thinkers in the media. Surely history will not look kindly on any tax-raising deals he makes with Congress, or on half-measures taken in fighting a war. Weren’t these the main lessons of his father’s presidency?

It’s as if Bush believes himself obligated to obey the spirit of the recent elections, in which Democrats gained majorities in Congress. But he isn’t so obligated. We have temporally staggered elections, and presidents have longer terms than do House members, in part to insulate presidents from the shortest-term political considerations that would impede the pursuit of long-term agenda. Bush has lost significant power since the election, because he cannot run for the presidency again and the new Congress will block most of his plans. But he also has two more years in office, veto power and nothing to lose. I hope that he will show more conviction.

Of course it is possible that he is showing conviction. Maybe he will do the right thing on the war, to the extent he is still able to with a hostile Congress, despite the political costs. And there are glimmers of hope in this regard. But if he is currently acting out of conviction, rather than mainly in a spirit of demoralized conciliation, then it looks as though he is not opposed in principle to raising taxes.

None of this is any surprise, given W’s big-spending record. I am grateful to him for his war leadership, and I think that he is a decent person, but I continue to think of him as the Republican Clinton — a flawed candidate selected by his party because of his ability to win elections and in spite of major ideological failings. After eight years of Clinton, the Republicans in 2000 wanted to win more than they wanted to uphold the principles of small government. Nothing that Bush has done since then has been inconsistent with what we knew about him in 1998, despite what many of his supporters have talked themselves into believing.

Does this mean it’s a bad idea to support candidates who are ideologically impure? I don’t know. Sometimes such candidates perform well when elected. Sometimes they perform well on one issue and poorly on others. (Tony Blair, who like Bush has been clear-headed about the war, but has been terrible in other ways, is another good example.) Often the alternative to the flawed candidate is plainly worse along the dimensions that matter most. That appears to have been the case in the Labour Party; and I think it’s unlikely that Al Gore would have had the sense of history, national self-confidence or decisiveness that Bush showed in responding to the 9/11 attacks.

In the meantime we — both supporters and critics — are stuck with Bush for another two years. Interesting times ahead.

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11 thoughts on “Quote of the Day”

  1. The following is from someone not as economically savvy as about anyone else on this blog. But here it goes:

    As someone with kids moving into the workforce, I would really like some kind of privatization of Social Security – it would be more likely to ensure, it seems to me, a growing middle class that was forced to build up some equity so that the next generation can buy a house or start a business. The general populace would be involved in the stock market & have a sense of the economy as a whole as they start taking a personal interest. This has worked for, what, 50% of the population now.

    If it takes raising taxes to get privatization, I would consider it a fair trade off. We baby boomers are about to reach retirement and there will be a long time when we are living off yours & the next generation’s earnings. If we live as long as people predict and the AARP continues to be the richly endowed lobbying organization it is, you all will not have much freedom. And we’ll be voting our interests, which will be a lot more short term the older we get. And there are a lot of us.

    Sure, this may be the government forcing people to act in their self-interest, but at least it would leave them freer to act than social security does.

    For professionals, none of this will be a big deal. They’ll have investment accounts, plus social security. For blue collar workers and various others, security will depend upon social security funds which are likely to not do it.

  2. I never thought of Bush as a guy who wanted to obstruct the other party so much as a guy who wanted to get things done. Politics is about give and take. Compromise. Sometimes you need to be willing trade something or work with political opponents to advance important legislation. This is what Bush did when he was governor of Texas. I am a strong supporter of efforts to reform Social Security because I think something needs to be done about it now or the whole system will go to hell. If fixing this problem means compromising to an extent on taxes than so be it. Obstruction is not what Bush has ever been about. Bush has always been about getting things accomplished and mindless obstruction will not accomplish anything important. With the Democrats in power now, Bush has no choice but to work with them. Lesser men would do what you mentioned above but a truly good leader works to make progress on truly important issues. This is something you should take into account before you forget about on the alter of idealogical purity

  3. Pelosi’s self policing Intelligence Committee policing Appropriations and Intelligence, not that that includes DOD now that CIA has moved over to DIA.

  4. It is not the , like most recent presidents, are keenly aware that they are a part of hsitory and worry how they may later appear.media that worries about the Bush legacy but rather Bush, who like other modern presidents, knows he will be judged in the future and he worries about his place in history.

    He may fight the Democrats but it is his own party that he should also consider in the next few years–he may retire but many of his fellow Republicans will want to be elected or re-elected.

  5. “What most of us liked about Bush was that he once acted tough against our enemies, without compromise.”

    After taking down enemy regimes, neutralizing a third, shooting Al Qaeda to shreds all while ensuring that not a single attack happened in the country, all over the course of six years, what more do you expect him to do? You think this thing can be won and everything accomplished over the course of terms in office? He hasn’t gone soft, its there are limits to what you can accomplish with one presidency. This war is going to take generations and multiple administrations to win. What more do you want from the man?

  6. “What more do you want from the man?”

    Jonathan wants him to go to war with a third country, Iran.

    “After eight years of Clinton, the Republicans in 2000 wanted to win more than they wanted to uphold the principles of small government.”

    Only one faction in the GOP held these principles as a primary interest. Bush was never part of that faction and he never said he was. He was always a “compassionate” = “big government” candidate and president. And, anyway, as we all know, it is very, very easy to say “less government”, but much harder to say, “this, and this, and this” get cut, or do not get to expand. Few presidents have the stones to stand firm. No one likes you for it. Classic Mancur Olson public goods scenario.

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