October 31, 2005


The Pledge: A pragmatist president attempts to fulfill his promise to appoint non-pragmatic Supreme Court justices. (Paul Mirengoff, 10/31/2005, Weekly Standard)

Much of the president's domestic policy suggests that he is a pragmatist who, though possessing some conservative instincts, tends to put results ahead of conservative principles: Rarely are conservative principles absent from the president's domestic policy, but often they take a back-seat to short-term problem-solving. [...]

This tendency to synthesize a central tenet of liberalism--that the federal government should expand in an effort to solve problems--with certain core conservative values suggests that Bush is a proponent not of liberalism or of conservatism, but of a "third way." This label was often used during the early 1990s to describe the politics of those who supposedly eschewed both the traditional big government dogma of the left and the anti-big government dogma of conservatives. In these discussions, it was typically liberal politicians such as Tony Blair and Bill Clinton who were going the third way. In reality, though, the only synthesis they produced was between their big government dreams and the limits on their ability to achieve them.

BY CONTRAST, Bush seems genuinely to be striving for something new, and many observers (including Daniel Casse, Jonathan Rauch, and George Will) believe he has found it. They have suggested that Bush is a conservative, but of a different kind--a compassionate conservative, a big-government conservative, a strong-government conservative, an activist-conservative, or a demand-side conservative. However it might more appropriately labeled "domestic policy centrism," "pragmatism," or "third wayism," because (a) it's so different from traditional conservatism; and (b) when push comes to shove, Bush's desire to solve the problem at hand tends to take precedence over the desire to uphold conservative principles.

Note that the two "conservative" gripes with President Bush's Third Wayism are that it solves problems, rather than adhering to utopian ideology, and that Bill Clinton (successful two term president) and Tony Blair (most successful British PM since the 19th century) share it. Of course, it's precisely because it works that two other conservative leaders--John Howard (most successful Australian PM ever) and Junichiro Koizumi (most successful Japanese PM ever)--are likewise Third Wayers and it's no coincidence that the bitterest foes of Mr. Blair and Mr. Clinton are/were on the Left while Mr. Koizumi had to beat down a rebellion on his Right. Just because the Third Way works brilliantly doesn't mean anyone will appreciate you for governing according to it--well, except for the voters that is, who obviously love it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 31, 2005 9:00 AM

You really are too smart to mistake the marketing for the product.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 31, 2005 10:04 AM

How is Tony Blair more 'successful' than Baroness Thatcher?

And exactly who were (are) Bill Clinton's bitterest foes on the Left? Ralph Nader?

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 31, 2005 10:06 AM

Well, ultra-liberals (like Nader) do hate Clinton just as much as the ultra-rights do. Remember that dude "lonbud" who used to troll here? Hated Clinton's guts. Clinton wasn't ideologically pure.

Posted by: Bryan at October 31, 2005 10:14 AM

You have to have power first before you can initiate any of your ideology. So a pure ideology that does not allow you to get political power is what?

Methinks it is the thing that drives bitter people to barstools, but that's just me.

No, get power then get enacted as much of your program as the electorate can stomach. Keep arguing for it and add on over time. It does take patience but so few ideologues are patient people.

Posted by: Mikey at October 31, 2005 10:32 AM


He is Barroness Thatcher.

Posted by: oj at October 31, 2005 10:56 AM

Clinton's foes were his party and the media who opposed free trade, balanced budgets, and welfare Reform.

Posted by: oj at October 31, 2005 10:57 AM


The only difference between us is you're scared to accept that you're a liberal.

Posted by: oj at October 31, 2005 10:58 AM

When the Tornados are flying over Iran, I'll agree with you about Mr. Blair. But he is way too squishy on domestic matters for any real conservative to cheer.

Clinton's "enemies" somehow always find their way back to their knees before him/her - Susan Estrich, Katrina van den Heuval, Chris Matthews, Lanny Davis, Leon Panetta, and so on. We know that the hard left doesn't like him, but most of the time, THEY don't feel it, and certainly aren't going to do anything about it. If they were, the media would be trumpeting Cindy Sheehan's feeble attacks on Hillary as the bright spirit of a new Democratic party. Fat chance of that.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 31, 2005 11:23 AM
Note that the two "conservative" gripes with President Bush's Third Wayism are that it solves problems, rather than adhering to utopian ideology
Ah, Mr. Judd adopts another of the standard Leftist tactics, that of eliding key phrases to tar his opponents with a straw man. The key phrase missing here is "short-term". I thought it was precisely the message of conservatism that resorting to principleless, ad-hoc "solutions" lead to failure and even greater problems in the future, that avoiding this kind of thing was the very purpose in having principles, representing as they do the distilled wisdom of the ages. Is OJ's position now that of the rationalist, that we should just do whatever seems to "solve" the problem this moment because we're so much smarter than our forebears?

Those of use who pay attention to history note that early success and later failure is the classic pattern of bad liberal policies. Should conservatives now follow that same system?

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at October 31, 2005 11:35 AM

"Clinton's foes were his party and the media ???"

Is this sarcasm?

The media adore Clinton and forgave him everything. He may have had secret foes in his party, but in public, they all lined up wherever they were told to and repeated by rote whatever they were told to say and they still do.

Dick Morris you say? He still works for them, but now he doens't get paid.

Posted by: erp [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 31, 2005 12:01 PM

I must agree with the Judded one here, the media and party purists went after Clinton pretty good, while he was in office. The basic principle of triangulation is that you shaft your own party for your own ends. Just look at how reduced the Democrats are now, compared to when he came into office (no pun intended). Now that Clinton (and Carter) are out of office, they are considered "rehabilitated".

Ideology is always the terminal state of a party, a kind of rigor mortis before the final decomposition.

Posted by: anon at October 31, 2005 12:17 PM


they understood that it was important to keep control of the appointmen t process and the like to thwart the GOP, but none of them approved of how he governed.

Posted by: oj at October 31, 2005 12:44 PM


Yes, the author is simply wrong about the short term. It's only in the short term that there are arguably only pragmatic policies, rather than conservative. It is ideological conservative that is actually a short term position.

Posted by: oj at October 31, 2005 12:48 PM


Mr. Cohen seems to be right re: marketing/product.

When the "3rd way" was introduced as a concept, is was clearly "left" in that it sought to get to "social democracy" by pretending to be "profreedom."

Is there a place here on your blog that specifically defines what YOU mean by 3rd way.

I've seen 3W as lying to the right so that you can move left, while Bush is cleary lying to/buying off the left so as to move right.

Maybe this is only semantics, but I see EU (pronounced eewwwwwww!) as 3rd way and Bush/angloshpere as 4th way.

Posted by: Bruno at October 31, 2005 2:00 PM

4th way? Geez, I'm still trying to figure out the 1st and 2nd way and you people are already moved to 4th way.

Posted by: h-man at October 31, 2005 3:29 PM

We're all liberals. You're a leftist.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 31, 2005 3:43 PM

We're all leftists here.

Posted by: oj at October 31, 2005 3:48 PM


All Third Way means is the use of First Way (free market capitalist) mechanisms to achieve Second Way ends (a social safety net). It requires conservatives to accept that people want to have a net in case of economic hard times and liberals to accept that only the private sector can provide an efficient and durable net. Both sides lose--only society wins.

Posted by: oj at October 31, 2005 3:54 PM

take a poll on that proposition :)

maybe give a short dfinition of "leftist", or a name to mark the dividing line.

Posted by: I. Lenin at October 31, 2005 3:55 PM


None of the Brothers, including those from other mothers, proposes to eliminate social welfare altogether--we're all leftists here.

Posted by: oj at October 31, 2005 4:03 PM

When Bill Clinton (or Hillary) gets asked about Juanita Broaddrick, then I'll believe that the press hates him (her).

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 31, 2005 4:16 PM

That heavy chick on NBC was the one who aired the interview that convinced everyone he'd in fact raped her.

Posted by: oj at October 31, 2005 4:24 PM

that is way too broad a measure of leftism, it removes all meaning from the word.

Posted by: I. Lenin at October 31, 2005 6:40 PM


Yes, because they won.

Posted by: oj at October 31, 2005 7:09 PM

Lisa Myers - yes, it was convincing.

But did the WH press corps touch the story with even a 20-ft. pole? No way. If any allegation like this ever surfaced about ANY Republican, there would be a thousand reporters on the guy's front step in less than an hour. And another thousand at the woman's door, asking all sorts of infantile and invasive questions.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 31, 2005 8:29 PM

complaining about the media is like complaining about the weather. they are killing themselves so let them get on with it. have faith in your fellow citizens, victory is one push away.

Posted by: Emile Zola at November 1, 2005 1:23 AM