October 20, 2005

WHAT'S HE EVER DONE FOR US? (via Kevin Whited):

How Bush Can Save Bush (Peggy Noonan, October 20, 2005, Opinion Journal)

George W. Bush has guts. It's the big thing his friends and supporters cherish in him. He will withstand the disapproval of the world to do what he thinks is right. He'll do it when he's wrong, too. He often has too many pots on the stove, but he can stand the heat and he will stay in the kitchen. He is an emotional man, and his emotions are readily accessible. When he becomes moved talking to soldiers and their families, he means it. He knows what men who put themselves in harm's way are, and he knows what they're owed. Other leaders know they can trust his word.

He's stubborn. The smirk is sometimes real; he can be full of himself. He's impatient and peremptory. He believes his read of a person is the read. He's funny, and occasionally merry. My favorite example is what he said to Ozzy Osbourne at the White House Correspondents Association dinner in 2003. Mr. Osbourne had his new hit show and was hot as a pistol. He entered the dinner as the evening's hottest guest. Cameras followed him. He stood at one point, gestured toward the dais and yelled to the president that he should grow his hair like him. "Second term, Ozzy!" Mr. Bush shot back.

Now Mr. Bush is in the first political crisis of his presidency...

"...because it's not a crisis until I'm mad at him...."

Ms Noonan goes on, appropriately, to compare the situation to Margaret Thatcher trying to fend off the sniping from Tories, which she ultimately failed to do. Instead Tony Blair co-opted her program and has completely dominated British politics for a decade, while the Tory party has ceased to have any significance.

Republicans are fortunate that there are no Blairs in the Democratic Party--Bill Clinton having come and gone and the party having lurched Left in his wake. But George W. Bush will not only be vindicated by history, as Ms Thatcher has been, but his politics are likely to continue to dominate the party for decades. America is going to be run by a Third Way party, as are Britain and Australia, and the GOP is the only realistic candidate to do so. The idea that the way out of this situation is for George Bush, the most successful Republican politician since the Great Depression, to become more like the marginal wing of the party rather than for them to follow him is just risible.

The Conservative Revolt: There are six reasons why conservatives have turned on Bush. (Fred Barnes, 10/20/2005, Weekly Standard)

[W]hy exactly has this revolt broken out now? I've come up with six reasons, and there may be more.

One, a revolt was inevitable, sooner or later, simply because Bush is not a conventional conservative. He deviates on the role of the federal government, on domestic spending, on education, on the Medicare prescription-drug benefit, and on immigration. Given this kindling, it took only the spark of the Miers nomination to ignite a conservative backlash.

Bush, of course, is a conservative, but a different kind of conservative. His tax cuts, support for social issues, hawkish position on national security and terrorism, and rejection of the Kyoto protocols make him so. He's also killed the ABM and Comprehensive Test Ban treaties, kept the United States out of the international criminal court, defied the United Nations, and advocated a shift in power from Washington to individuals through an "ownership society." On some issues--partial privatization of Social Security is the best example--he is a bolder conservative than Ronald Reagan, the epitome of a conventional conservative.

Two, Bush has not courted leaders of the conservative movement. He's left that to his adviser Karl Rove, who did an excellent job until he was distracted by the investigation of the CIA leak case. Movement conservatives feel Bush doesn't respect them. They may be right.

The movement has never put a single conservative on the bench. He's put hundreds.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 20, 2005 11:35 AM

You always tend to skirt the question, Is the Third Way desirable?

On the answer to this question your entire thesis hangs.

Holding out Tony Blair as the model is unlikely to assuage the fears of those of us who doubt that it is.

To learn what Blair has done to the particular traditions and integrity of Great Britain, we need only consult (1) Hitchens (you know, the Hitchens who is not a pompous Trotskyite and febrile atheist) and (20 Dalyrimple.

Posted by: Paul Cella at October 20, 2005 12:35 PM

The movement is what brought us all this way. Waht we are seeing now is a crucial test of political maturity.

The conservative coalition is Madisonian, not Marxist. No member of the coalition has committed itslf to a united front following a party line. Our type of coalition exist only as long as its members respect one another's interests.

What we have is a voter allaince of individuals who care about particular matters--stopping baby-murder, keeping our guns, economic freedom, educational freedom, national defense.

There is much overlap, of course, and many are motivated by more than one issue, but the point remains that the coalition persists by mutual respect. Unlike a Marxist coalition, there is no single party line. Thus the economic conservative must not abandon the right to life, nor the gun-rights advocate the reform of public education. We make concession to others' foci of interest in order to gain and maintain the power we need to prevail on our own.

What we are seeing now, however exaggerated by the MSM, is an incipient fissure over the struggle to restrain baby-murder. It is a test we must pass.

Posted by: Lou Gots at October 20, 2005 12:36 PM

The interesting thing here is the cleave within the party isn't along the lines of pro-life/pro-choice, which is where some of the split may occure in 2008, depending on the cadidates running at the time. Instead, it seems to be more over the perceived notion that Miers may not be far enough to the right, or will drift left even if she is conservative now because of the lure of the D.C. social scene, or just is dumb as a box of rocks on constitutional law in general and will probably drool on the microphone at her confirmation hearing.

The fact that you've got people pulling out 16-year-old Dallas City Council questionaires or critiquing her comma placements shows how over the edge some of the argument has become, though the administation's efforts to disprove the fear about her being a closet liberal is going to move the debate back to the expected pro/anti Roe battle that many of Miers' conservative naysayers have said (at least for public consumption) they wanted in the first place. How they expect a Luttig to get by on that issue if it's the one that derails Miers remains to be seen.

Posted by: John at October 20, 2005 1:15 PM

George Bush refused to seek out a Gotterdammerung on the subject of judicial nominees, and the movement conservatives wanted that battle to the tips of their toes. They envisioned Ted Kennedy's severed head being paraded on a pike as a symbol of their victory.

They didn't get the fight and are outraged. Instead George Bush decided to wage politics and not war.

Posted by: Mikey at October 20, 2005 1:29 PM

It's almost as if the anti-Miers cons don't think that there's a war going on, and that maybe W has bigger fish to fry than seeking a steelcage match with Senate Dems.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at October 20, 2005 1:36 PM

The movement has never put a single conservative on the bench. He's put hundreds.

Uh, didn't the movement put him in office with the implicit understanding that he would appoint conservative judges. Wasn't that one of the original planks of his first campaign?

Posted by: James in Detroit at October 20, 2005 1:48 PM

James in Detroit:

You skirted the issue. Has he not put hundreds of conservatives on the bench?

Posted by: sam at October 20, 2005 2:11 PM

Paul: The first question is whether OJ is right about Bush and the Third Way. The answer is that he's wrong. There is no thread that connects Thatcher to Blair to Clinton to Howard to Bush. The Third Way Bush policies that OJ identifies are, in reality, the destruction of social security, the remaking of public education, the undoing of medicaid and the evisceration of public employee unions. Sounds like a conservative agenda to me.

Although I suppose an even more basic question is whether there is such a way as a Third Way, or whether it is only rebranded socialism. What's going on here, I suspect, is that OJ, at bottom a leftist constrained by religion, is trying to work through his own cognitive dissonance.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 20, 2005 2:13 PM

The screechers are rhetorical arms dealers, and this is just their way to boost sales.


And he's done that. The people who are going to criticize him on this point had best provide a list of his judicial appointees who've not met this standard. If they can't, then it's up to them to tell us why Bush is suddenly going to break his streak with this latest appointment.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 20, 2005 2:14 PM


No. He ran against the movement and won.

Posted by: oj at October 20, 2005 2:19 PM


Of course it's conservative, that's the point, it's just a different conservatism from what the wahoos wanyted. If everything George Bush wants to do gets done will there be a mandatory safety net that includes retirement, education, and healthcare?

Posted by: oj at October 20, 2005 2:21 PM


That's not actually the question. The question is whether the Second Way is desirable. Almost all conservatives would agree it isn't. You and your lot think you can take us back to the First Way. That kind of thinking left Democrats in power for seventy years.

Posted by: oj at October 20, 2005 2:25 PM

Peggy wants the President to do what exactly? (besides pull Miers of course) Can't tell at all from her piece.

Posted by: Bob at October 20, 2005 2:36 PM

Why should there only be three "Ways"?

Convenient that you can claim our choices are limited to either Democratic transnationalism or your favored Third Way.

Posted by: Paul Cella at October 20, 2005 2:46 PM


Interesting comment. I'm tempted to say that "a leftist constrained by religion" is too hard on our esteemed host, but very aptly describes President Bush.

Posted by: Paul Cella at October 20, 2005 2:51 PM


There are only three ways since it was thought that free-market capitalism and soviet style communism were merely systems with relative strengths and weaknesses. Once synthesized could lead the world away from the brink of nuclear destruction through the enlightened 'third way'. Pure bunk, but very convenient bunk for statists of all stripes.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at October 20, 2005 3:04 PM

Three ways:

1. The state provides nothing

2. The state provides everything

3. The state provides something

Posted by: The Other Brother [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 20, 2005 3:11 PM

More accurate to sy that Bush's religion keeps him from being a libertarian or neocon . . . tho for the purists looking for leftists under their beds . . .

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at October 20, 2005 3:12 PM

OJ: No. He ran against the movement and won.

Please elucidate. My sense of the 'movement' is not a single group you can be a card carrying member of, but an aggregation of not always like minded sectors of society that have recoiled at traditional social values being assaulted from the courts (notice I don't say - by the courts).


I don't think I am skirting any issue. I do recognize many fine appointments. My contention is that GWB is a servant of history, not a master. The 'movement' put him there and the real accreditation for swinging the court back to an originalist or literalist flavor belongs to that mass, not any one individual.

Posted by: James in Detroit at October 20, 2005 4:10 PM

Other Brother:

I think a conservative would say that selection #2 inevitably becomes selection #1, usually very quickly and with finality. We know Reagan believed that; does George Bush?

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 20, 2005 4:14 PM

Reagan was a New Dealer--he believed in #2.

Posted by: oj at October 20, 2005 5:14 PM


W's first big speech was the one where he excoriated the GOP Congress and pronounced himself a compassionate conservative. He then trounced the neocons' pet candidate. He doesn't owe anything to either.

Posted by: oj at October 20, 2005 5:17 PM


Yes, the First Way is incompatible with Christianity in the final analysis.

Posted by: oj at October 20, 2005 5:19 PM


There are obviously variations within each Way--we, the French, and the Soviets all have (or had) Second Way systems, but they were quite different.

Posted by: oj at October 20, 2005 5:21 PM

So you can't tell the difference between the New Deal and Bolshevism, or between Reagan and Roosevelt; or to put it another way you're a leftish John Bircher.

Posted by: joe shropshire at October 20, 2005 5:38 PM


Yes, it would be surprising if there were massive differences in the way different states within the same culture organize themselves. Everyone in the West adopted monarchy then followed the Brits and Americans into democracy then experimented with socialism and now the societies that still have futures are experimenting with the Third Way, though most of the dying nations seem content to go out relatively comfortably under the Second Way.

Posted by: oj at October 20, 2005 5:45 PM

So every state that has ever existed is a Third Way state. Sort of detracts from the incisiveness of your insight.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 20, 2005 6:11 PM


Though Darwin stumbled badly when he tried applying it to unintelligent systems, all intelligent systems are evolutionary and the manner of organizing nations is no exception. Even the Third Way is really just another version of the Second Way, but that doesn't sound very exciting so we pretend it's revolutionary.

Posted by: oj at October 20, 2005 6:20 PM

Even the Third Way is really just another version of the Second Way, but that doesn't sound very exciting...

Yes, it does; just not the way you'd like. By the way, it's nice of you to acknowledge what David's been saying for at least a year now.

Posted by: joe shropshire at October 20, 2005 6:29 PM


David doesn't even accept that he's just a Third Wayer, as witness his nonsense about: "The Third Way Bush policies that OJ identifies are, in reality, the destruction of social security, the remaking of public education, the undoing of medicaid and the evisceration of public employee unions. Sounds like a conservative agenda to me."

They're all evolutionary, hardly "destruction."

Posted by: oj at October 20, 2005 6:35 PM


Remind us again what was so horrific about the first way.

Posted by: Peter B at October 20, 2005 7:13 PM


It's unacceptable to women and the poor and we gave them the vote.

Posted by: oj at October 20, 2005 7:22 PM

Private accounts require means testing and means testing is the end of social security. Basically, we'll have mandatory accounts at approved brokerages with a limited number of index funds from which to choose, and no public pension except as a safety net.

Vouchers are not so much the end of public schools, which will continue to exist, as the end of the teacher's unions and the use of the schools as indoctrination centers: the end of public education as we know it.

For HSA's and Medicare, see social security.

The administration's use of tragedy and disaster to undercut public employee unions has been masterful.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 20, 2005 11:12 PM

So we'll still have a system where government duns us for retirement, education and health care, even in our wildest dreams.

Posted by: oj at October 20, 2005 11:23 PM

Sure. The American people don't want starving elders or kids, or uneducated kids, or people dying because they can't afford treatment. Bush's genius has been to find ways to achieve conservative goals not only despite these popular desires, but using them. Compassionate conservatism is misdirection, but it's not aimed at fooling conservatives -- despite the fact that conservatives show an astonishing insistence on being fooled.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 20, 2005 11:51 PM

and that's a significant change from the First Way.

Posted by: oj at October 21, 2005 12:38 AM

Well, I kid you a lot, but I have to say, in all seriousness, that that is the Frenchest comment you've ever made here, including your insistence that we should have cut and run in Iraq.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 21, 2005 8:17 AM

Alright, I think I have this straight now:

All societies are Third Way societies, which really means -- because the Third Way is just repackaging for the Second Way -- all societies are Second Way (socialist) societies. And this all happened, not because the First Way is really evil (much less "incompatible with Christianity"), but because people grew weary with self-government.

It's a good analysis. It really is. And a tragedy.

Posted by: Paul Cella at October 21, 2005 8:37 AM


It's the classic critique of democracy: you can't let the least secure members of your society vote and expect them to vote for freedom. There's no coherent reason that a majority should vote in ways that favor the minority.

But, no, most states in the West are Second Way and will stay that way as they die--that's what voters in France, Holland and Germany have just demonstrated.

Posted by: oj at October 21, 2005 8:53 AM


The fact is that there is no poverty any longer in America and we'll no longer tolerate it.

Posted by: oj at October 21, 2005 9:01 AM

Even J. S. Mill, the great Liberal, took it as read that anyone deriving his income from the state should be stripped of his franchise. Corrupt politicians? What about corrupt voters?

Posted by: Paul Cella at October 21, 2005 10:24 AM

Paul: I think that might close the loop. In a society in which corrupt voters will vote themselves bread and circuses, a politician with integrity is one who fools the voters into thinking he's delivering bread and circuses, when really he's bringing the whip.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 21, 2005 10:40 AM

Yes, being wealthy white men we think those who favor security over freedom are corrupt. But both are equally compelling human impulses and there are more of them than of us. We can try to design a system that maximizes our freedom while guaranteeing their security or bitch about how impure that would make us and lose entirely.

Posted by: oj at October 21, 2005 11:07 AM