It's still freezing in much of country, but it's springtime for Republican intellectuals.
With the Romney debacle behind them, a number of analysts have gone public with accounts of the party's failures and ambitious proposals for its reform. Over the last few weeks, Ross Douthat, Michael ****** and Pete Wehner, Yuval Levin, Ramesh Ponnuru, Jim Pethothoukis, David Frum, and Tod Lindberg have all weighed in on where the GOP should go.
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The proposals include promising ideas, such as emphasizing tax and regulatory simplification over income tax cuts, or moving away from hardline positions on abortion and gay marriage. Nevertheless, these plans are a misleading point of departure for GOP renewal. That's because their authors remain in denial about the cause of Republicans' unpopularity: the catastrophic failure of the Bush presidency.
Start with foreign policy. From the 1960s until the 21st century, Republicans reliably enjoyed the trust of the public to manage America's foreign affairs and protect its national security. The attacks of September 11 gave George W. Bush the opportunity to build on that reputation. Instead, he squandered it by mismanaging the war in Afghanistan and plunging the nation into a disaster in Iraq.
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Not every setback was Bush's fault. Nevertheless, the president bears more personal responsibility for foreign policy than any other issue. In most Americans' minds, then, Afghanistan and Iraq were Bush's wars. By the conventional logic of politics, that means that they are Republican wars, too.
Yet Republicans reformers are reluctant to admit the obstacle that Bush's legacy poses to public confidence on foreign affairs. Although they acknowledge that the wars have been unpopular and expensive, they present these facts in the passive voice, as if the deaths of nearly 7,000 Americans were the result of weather or other uncontrollable forces. Here is how ****** and Wehner describe the loss of the GOP's foreign policy advantage: "Nor has the decidedly mixed legacy of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade worked to bolster the Republicans' electoral advantage in the conduct of foreign policy; if anything, the opposite is the case." Who do they think they're fooling?
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Then there's the economy. The reformers write eloquently, and correctly, of the need for Republican responses to long-term problems of unemployment, wage stagnation, and rising health-care and education costs. As with foreign policy, however, they are reluctant to acknowledge that the Bush administration did little to reverse these trends, and in some ways exacerbated them. In an otherwise compelling critique of Republicans' fixation on marginal income tax rates, Ponnuru manages not to mention that the Bush administration regarded tax cuts as a signature achievement. Ordinary citizens have longer memories.
I emphasize foreign policy and the economy because these are areas of Bush's most dramatic failures. But Bush's record as an administrative centralizer and critic of Social Security also overshadows Republican efforts in education and entitlement reform. It's not good enough for Republicans to pledge that things will be different next time. To convince Americans that they're serious, reformers need to name names about the cause of the public's justifiable mistrust.
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To be fair, the reformers are in a difficult position. They won't attract converts within the party if they mount a frontal assault on its idols. And they know that Bush and his policies remain popular both with Republicans in office and with many base voters.
What's more, several of the reformers have professional ties with the Bush administration. Frum, ******, and Wehner all worked as speechwriters in the White House. For them, rejection of the Bush legacy amounts to rejection of their own work. That's not easy for even the most rigorous thinker.
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But the reformers' connections to the Bush administration reflect the GOP's larger problem: an institutional and intellectual elite dominated by alumni or associates of the Bush administration. As Robert Draper reported in The New York Times Magazine, the RNC committee established late last year to investigate the party's failings was staffed with the likes of Ari Fleischer, Bush's press secretary. Such a team is not very likely to ask tough questions — or to recognize unflattering answers. In addition to new policies, Republicans desperately need new personnel.
It takes a long time for political parties to recover from defeat. Since winning suggests that they're doing something right, it takes even longer to recover from victory. Because it reassured Republicans that aggressive war, fiscal policies that favor the rich, and the ideologically-inspired transformation of beloved domestic programs were fundamentally popular, the re-election of George W. Bush in 2004 was like a drug that relieves symptoms without treating the underlying disease. Conservative intellectuals must help the GOP break its dependence on these dangerous nostrums — and its continuing allegiance to the doctor who prescribed them.
Yes thank you for posting the left's obsession with Bush.
Endless wars...sorry you take terrorism as just an inconvenience to you but it is a real problem in the real world.
Economic collapse...did you know that the housing tanked because of policy put into place during the Clinton years? Did you know that Bush had no control over the stock market?
New level of fear...1st what are you talking about? 2nd didn't Obama just a week ago tell everyone who we should be afraid of all the cuts that were going to take place? Is the liberals not attacking gun rights and creating fear? Did the libs not create the phony war on women that was just fear based?
Endless wars, including the one we are still in. How did this article mention Bush and say that he could have "built on the reputation" of the GOP stand of the 60's? Did we forget to mention a few democrat Presidents in the 30 something years?
Oh brother..... Yeah, it was Bush. Bush is responsible for everything since the 60's...
Speaking of Cheney, how bout since Obama recently admitted how much he likes shooting skeet then Cheney should take Obama out hunting pheasant, kind of bury the hatchet sort of thing don't ya think????
I, personally, think articles like this continue to perpetuate the strong divide in this country. Just look at the reaction, here, and imagine it on every street corner.
I don't think there's a single one of us that haven't already acknowledged that Bush was a horrible President. In all fairness, I think that, like every President before him, and now, with President Obama, Bush did what he thought was right, at the time.
There isn't a single President who hasn't made mistakes and/or left a lasting impression on certain factions in this country.
Bush is no longer a factor in American politics; continually blaming him and grinding him into the ground is pointless. What's done is done; now it's time to move on and try to overcome the damage. Historically during bad times, the American people have worked together to reunite and get the country back on track, but not this time. Articles like this do nothing to help the country move forward; they do keep the situation in a stalemate and keep the people divided.
I agree with the article and I agree that it is not helful to dwell on the issue. It is time for people to move forward.
I just don't get what is wrong with this Government (I do blame Congress but that does not mean I am happy with the President at this point )
They are playing chicken with our lives, that is how it feels to me and I am utterly disgusted.
" (I do blame Congress but that does not mean I am happy with the President at this point )
They are playing chicken with our lives, that is how it feels to me and I am utterly disgusted. "
That's a good point Rivll, They do seem to be playing chicken, chess, Russian roulette, or whatever with America, but to me it seems more of a power grab then whats the right direction for our country.
nygirl thanks but no thanks for that visual I can't get out of my head now of Cheney in b ball shorts...
1. How do I come out the loser
2. Please educate me on the war on women that republicans have done (pssss did you know women were paid less in the Obama white house?)
3. To think Cheany was President really shows me the level of biased you have.
Is it the lefts obsession with Bush or is it the rights obsession with bush? A little bit of both maybe? Regardless, it seems they are in the news again these days. Dad wrote a book and I hear cheney has a documentary coming up in the next week or so. I saw an interview with him on cnn. Said, regarding the Iraq war that if he had to do it all over again, he would do it the same way. Gee, I think about all those who died and wonder if that is real smart or just arrogant.
If you were to print & release this article in 10 years, it'll still be true.
Fine... Bush was a failure and a horrible president. Can we move on? Everyone has acknowledged the fact that Bush didn't do such a great job.
As Barb said, Bush did what he thought was right at the time.
I think that Obama is going to be accused of the same thing, in years to come, when we all look back and look at what he's doing right & wrong, at present.
Anyone can "Monday morning quarterback", it's not that difficult to do. EVERYTHING is more clear, in hindsight.
At present, Obama thinks he's doing what's best for the country and his administration. But I'll bet you dollars to donuts, that in 4 or 5 years, we'll all look back and question some of the decisions he's made, and want to play the blame game.
Can we please move on, and stop blaming Bush for everything?
This "obsession with Bush", is like the African-American(s) fixation on slavery, and STILL blaming all white people, and holding it over their heads.
How many people were saved by Saddam losing power?
I don't think anyone on the right is trying to pump up Pres. Bush, VP Cheaney or Gov Jeb Bush. Hell you have not heard much from Pres Bush since he left office and that is how Presidents operate when someone else comes in.
Barb I stand against your statement of President Bush being a horrible President. He was not. What he did on 9/11 and the days after was the best leadership this country has seen in many years.
Voice from the crowd, "We can't hear you.", President Bush standing on a pile of rubble, "Well I can hear you and the people who knocked down these buildings will hear all of us soon." That is what the country needed to hear and it was not scripted or read from a teleprompter.
Many things Bush did I disagree with when you look at it as a whole you see a War Time President who made the tough decisions, the unpopular decisions but did what was best for not just America but for freedom.
Vance - I'm not downplaying how former President Bush reacted after 9/11, or anything else he did that benefited the country; just that overall, he made a lot of mistakes and as we see, goes down in history as one of the worst President's in American history.
"Is it the lefts obsession with Bush or is it the rights obsession with bush? A little bit of both maybe?" Yes, both. The left has made such a point of portraying Bush as some horrible monster, that it's left some of us (even ones who didn't particularly like him) in a quandry. I didn't particularly like him, I didn't think he did a good job, but I find myself wondering where all this hate came from. As I said before, he's not the first President who made mistakes, but he'd the first I can remember bringing out such venom.
Once a person you don't like is gone from office, let them go. They can't do anymore harm and the only thing accomplished by the constant derision is a total division of the country as a whole. Unless, we, the people can come together, we'll never be able to convince the politicians to do the same. We have to stop the hate and be willing to move on.
I saw on jon Stewart the man who made the Cheney documentary - he didn't say one thing pro him or con. He did say however this is a man who will not acknowledge he did anything wrong and he does think he is still VP of the US.
He scares me. Crazy old dude. At least Bush meant well it seems to me, even though he did a horrible job. Cheney...I dont know that is the person out of all of them I trust the least.
Im hearing the grumblings of a Jeb Bush Run in 2016. Wouldnt that be something, another Bush/Clinton campaign. Im not sure the country as a whole would be up for more of that at this time. Even tho, Jeb is very popular here in florida.
I'm not downplaying how former President Bush reacted after 9/11, or anything else he did that benefited the country; just that overall, he made a lot of mistakes and as we see, goes down in history as one of the worst President's in American history.
I couldn't have said it better myself. Definitely one of the worst, and I also think that he was the puppet with Cheney as the one pulling the strings.
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