By Dignan Posted in The White House — Comments (24) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
I mentioned in a comment yesterday that I regretted voting for George Bush and someone replied by asking me about that and if I thought John Kerry would have been a better choice.
I did vote for George W. Bush in both 2000 and in 2004. In 2000, Bush seemed like a pretty down to earth guy, pragmatically conservative when compared to other prominent Republicans, and appeared to have good business and management sense. I was of course in the majority in that opinion. (stolen elections, hanging chads, and the Illuminati aside)
So what happened? Why the disallusionment?
Actual policy initiatives under Bush have been a mixed bag (and I'm probably generous in saying that). Contrary to his supposed fiscal conservativism, domestic spending increased under Bush, highlighted by the Prescription Drug Bill that will end up costing far more than the administration claimed. Many fiscal conservatives will point to the Bush tax cuts as a victory, but tax cuts without corresponding spending cuts are completely irresponsible.
Many Republicans will point to positive economic indicators as proof of Bush's sucess while Democrats will point to negative economic indicators to say otherwise. The truth though is that positive economic growth probably benefits more from government inaction and gridlock than anything else. The Clinton era is proof of that.
Even more disturbing that any actual policies have been Bush's decision-making process and the insular nature of his administration. It is one thing to have confidence and belief in one's own values. It is quite another thing to be unable to take a critical view of one's positions and be willing to understand one's opponents. Bush has shown neither the ability nor the inclination. Combine this with the blind loyalty that Bush shows to those around him (and yes I do mean blind) and you have the recipe for P.R. blunders like Harriet Myers and the recent U.S. Attorneys scandal.
Of course by now the idea of Bush as someone with great business and management sense should be readily apparent as an illusion. How well did the Bush administration manage the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina? While I don't view our federal government as messiah, the performance of the Bush administration and especially "Brownie" should disuade those who think of Bush as a master manager.
And then there is the War on Terror.
In the weeks after 9/11, Bush appeared to many to be just the right person for the times. So much promise.
Yet so much heartache.
Like many right-leaning people, I believed that we were doing the right thing when we invaded Iraq. I was wrong.
Not that there weren't some valid and legitimate reasons for doing so. Contrary to many on the Left, there were legitimate and legal grounds for invading Iraq and Bush wasn't the first to think so. However, the planning (or lack thereof) of the invasion and occupation of Iraq will be a textbook example for decades to come of how NOT to do it. Any Republican or conservative who believes that everything has gone according to plan is blinded by partisanship.
Unfortunately we are to the point where most rhetoric on Iraq is juvenile and unhelpful. "Those who would have us pull out of Iraq are unwittingly encouraging our enemies" is simply a slur. "We must pull out of Iraq now!" ignores our responsibility for the mess we have been largely responsible for.
I certainly don't have the answers to the problems in Iraq and the Middle East. They are very complicated. Much of my frustration with Bush has been his unwillingness to recognize how complicated the Middle East and that there are no easy answers. In both word and posture, Bush has taken a very cavalier approach.
Beyond the direct engagement in Iraq, the manner in which the Bush administration has viewed legal rights in the War on Terror should be disturbing to all. Should we not fear a government that can "disappear" people without any due process or accountability? Is there any limit to government surveillance on American citizens in the name of fighting terrorism?
I have also become frustrated with the positioning of Bush as a great Christian leader. I cannot and do not pass any judgement upon Bush's heart and his motives. God knows that mine are often suspect. But it seems as if Bush's support of "Christian" political positions have often been only symbolic and intended to get out the vote. And it seems as if Christians have been encouraged to blindly support all of Bush's positions simply because he is a Christian. I know too many conservative Christians who blindly support Bush and "family values" without actually considering the substance of his policies.
Nor does it seem that Bush has shown much compassion during his term in office. I actually don't believe that government is capable or tasked with "showing compassion". But I do believe that leaders can show compassion and understanding to their political opponents. Most politicians are equally guilty of this but there is probably a greater responsibility placed on one who ran as a "compassionate conservative".
I am sure that there will be many questions about what I have written here and many who will disagree with me from one side or the other. Please feel free to engage me in the comments.
As to whether I think John Kerry would have made a better president: I don't know. I doubt it. I don't tend to view Kerry as a serious leader. But then again, neither is Bush. If I could do it over again, I would have abstained from voting in 2004. Some will view that as a cop-out. But all of our choices can send a message. Even the choice to abstain.