Thursday, June 17, 2004

on whether Bush is conservative

Andrew Sullivan posts the following screed against Bush. Now, anyone who reads my blog knows I'm not a Bush fan. I didn't vote for him, and if the Democrats had put up any kind of reasonable candidate, I would likely have voted against him this year. But really, this list of complaints is so off-the-wall that someone has to respond to them:
Could it be that Bush has not governed as a conservative in critical ways - and hasn't even governed competently in others? Let's list a few: the WMD intelligence debacle - the worst blow to the credibility of the U.S. in a generation;
How is the WMD intelligence debacle an instance of Bush's poor governance? He inherited the intelligence services from former administrations. The intelligence he received was common to most intelligence services in the world. Is he supposed to be omniscient?
Abu Ghraib - a devastating wound to to America's moral standing in the world;
First, George Bush bears no responsibility for what happened there. Sullivan once again is demanding god-like powers from the president. Second, to the extent that this has wounded America's moral standing in the world, you can blame the American press for working so hard and so deliberately to ensure that it did so. Third, it really didn't wound America's moral standing very much. Many will pretend it did, but almost no one who didn't already despise America thinks anything of it.
the post-war chaos and incompetence in Iraq;
It never ceases to amaze me that people are surprised to find chaos and violence in a country that has just been defeated in a war, just had its government largely replaced, has a history of violence, and has several wealthy neighbors who have a strong interest in seeing chaos there. If at the beginning of the war, Bush had told everyone the occupation would be as easy as it has been, everyone would have laughed at him. Yes, Bush could have done a better job by being more forceful, but he was working against two enemies, the terrorists and the Democrats, and he felt (wrongly, I believe) that he had to make compromises in his war against the terrorists in order to keep from being destroyed by the Democrats.
to an explosion in federal spending with no end in sight; no entitlement reform; a huge addition to fiscal insolvency with the Medicare drug entitlement;
OK, Sullivan finally mentions some actual problems with the Bush administration.
support for a constitutional amendment,
How is that supposed to be non-conservative? Surely Sullivan isn't going to go along with that old idea that conservatives are characterized by a resistance to change. That hasn't been true of American conservatives for half a century at least.
shredding states' rights;
Sullivan has argued that the marriage amendment is counter to a states-rights view, but very few conservatives find the argument at all persuasive, so again, that's not an anti-conservative point.
These last two points are really "I hate Bush because he hates gays." Sullivan is entitled to this perspective, but it is dishonest to try to slip it in among a list of things Bush has done that are supposed to be anti-conservative or incompetent. Especially since it is one of the most conservative parts of Bush's philosophy.
crusades against victimless crimes, like smoking pot and watching porn;
Sullivan seems to be confusing conservatives with libertarians.
the creeping fusion of religion and politics;
This isn't a consequence of anything Bush has done, it is a consequence of the fact that more and more religious people are allying to fight against the anti-religious movement in this country.
the erosion of some critical civil liberties in the Patriot Act.
This might be more convincing if Sullivan could say how the Patriot Act is doing this.

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