September 17, 2003


What Makes The Bush Haters So Mad?: First, it was how he got the job. Now it's how much he's doing with it (CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, Sep. 22, 2003, TIME)

Whence the anger? It begins of course with the "stolen" election of 2000 and the perception of Bush's illegitimacy. But that is only half the story. An illegitimate President winning a stolen election would be tolerable if he were just a figurehead, a placeholder, the kind of weak, moderate Republican that Democrats (and indeed many Republicans) thought George Bush would be, judging from his undistinguished record and tepid 2000 campaign. Bush's great crime is that he is the illegitimate President who became consequential -- revolutionizing American foreign policy, reshaping economic policy and dominating the political scene ever since his emergence as the post-9/11 war President.

Before that, Bush could be written off as an accident, a transitional figure, a kind of four-year Gerald Ford. And then came 9/11. Bush took charge, declared war, and sent the country into battle twice, each time bringing down enemy regimes with stunning swiftness. In Afghanistan, Bush rode a popular tide; Iraq, however, was a singular act of presidential will.

This is the necessary read of events as the neocons see it, frozen in amber by David Frum's insta-memoir: The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush
. However, it is complete nonsense. The bitter truth for neocons and liberals alike is that George W. Bush was a revolutionary prior to 9/11, that, in fact, 9/11 has basically been a distraction from the revolution.

Mr. Krauthammer does mention the tax cut, which we should recall it was widely assumed George Bush would not have the temerity top push for given the closeness of the election and the narrowness of his majority in the Senate (don't forget Jim Jeffords, in a truly bizarre manuever, voted for the cut then switched parties, or else it would have been killed). But he doesn't mention things like No Child Left Behind, which has has created a public school voucher program and put us on a course for eventual universal vouchers. He doesn't mention the ideology-driven recasting of the federal judiciary, which will bear conservative fruit for decades to come. He doesn't mention the Faith-Based Initiative, which has been implemented by executive order even as it flounders in Congress. He doesn't mention the privatizing of the civil service. He doesn't mention the stem-cell decision. He doiesn't mention killing Kyoto or building Missile Defense. Etc., etc., etc.

Perhaps the two best assessments of President Bush thus far are by Jonathan Rauch, The Accidental Radical, and Bill Keller, Reagan's Son--you'll notice that they share the thesis that George W. Bush is a revolutionary and that neither bases his case on the war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 17, 2003 9:40 PM

I don't disagree with your assessment of President Bush as a transformational president. But really, is Krauthammer so far off in suggesting that neither his record in Texas (a modest tax-cutting governor who wrangled what he could out of the state leg) nor his campaign (of compassionate conservatism) gave off the strongest of signals that this would be the third term of the Reagan Administration?

I recall persuading McCainiac friends here (in Texas, no less!) that Bush would govern as a conservative back when McCain was surging and some pundits were contending that only McCain was "electable" (bah!). But I also recall that it wasn't the easiest sell on my part, and my strongest argument was on foreign policy (that Bush would be restoring some of the old hands who manned the Reagan DoD policy shop, back when that shop mattered).

Granted, Krauthammer's column would have been stronger if he had pointed out, as you did, the conservative policy initiatives the President has pushed through, despite the conventional wisdom that they weren't popular, couldn't pass, were too conservative, blah blah blah. And, as you intimate, it's probably because Krauthammer is less excited about those sociocon initiatives. But they certainly do excite liberals, and he would have had a stronger argument if he mentioned them.

Posted by: kevin whited at September 17, 2003 10:22 PM


He ran on the tax cut, vouchers, FBI, and privatizing social security. Any way you slice it that is a radically conservative program in the domestic arena.

Posted by: OJ at September 17, 2003 10:30 PM

Mr. Judd;

Haven't the Democratic Party stalwarts in the Senate prevented any real reshaping of the judiciary?

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at September 18, 2003 11:14 AM


As with the Saddam mujahadeen, a few spectacular kills disguise a near capitulation:

Posted by: oj at September 18, 2003 12:02 PM