Archive for the ‘ Politics & Government ’ Category

Help Is on the Way?

Those really aren’t the most reassuring words. As Ronald Reagan noted more than once, often the government is the problem, not the solution. We are going to discover that anew over the next few years.

The Bush Presidency: An Analysis (Part VII)

My final critique of the Bush presidency has to do with communication. A president must be able to connect with the American people and explain what he is doing. He will not convince everyone of the rightness of his policies, but he must make the effort, which most people will at least respect.

George Bush started well. After 9/11, his speech to a joint session of Congress was one of the best presidential speeches in recent memory. He was at his best. Unfortunately, he seemed to peak with that speech.

Ever since the Democrats took Congress in the 2006 elections, it’s as if we have had an invisible president. I don’t remember any president in my lifetime disappearing from the public scene as completely as this one has. I have been frustrated many times, wishing he would show more fortitude and combativeness. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you set aside your arguments and become a whipping boy for your enemies. You need to stand firm.

Bush was usually halting in his speech, and was obviously uncomfortable in a number of public speaking venues. That did not serve him well. If indeed there is “Bush fatigue” in the nation, part of the blame is that he became a virtual nonentity, unable to convincingly defend his policies, particularly on Iraq.

What does the Republican party need? Two things:

  • First, principled leadership–politicians who have foundational beliefs based on the Constitution, rule of law, and Biblical morality.
  • Second, leaders who can communicate their principles. There really are a lot of principled people out there getting involved in the political arena, but not many of them seem capable of connecting with people and making the message understandable and appealing. That was the quality Ronald Reagan possessed. Perhaps that is why we are always looking for “the next Reagan.”

President Bush, I salute you for keeping the country safe and for upholding constitutionalism in your choices for the Supreme Court. If you had grounded your domestic policies on principles consistent with the Constitution, you would have left a glowing legacy. As it is, we are now searching for new and effective leaders who can rebuild on the proper foundations.

The Bush Presidency: An Analysis (Part VI)

Then there is the issue of immigration. There is a misperception out there (even promoted by Bush) that conservatives don’t like immigrants. That is not the case, and it is not the issue. The key is that immigrants need to follow the laws in order to become citizens.

When President Bush pushed for his comprehensive immigration bill, he tried to make it seem as though it was a tough approach to lawbreakers, but it was not. In fact, as many noted, it was amnesty by another name.

The most disturbing aspect of the president’s support for this approach was how it conflicted with his own War on Terror. A porous border, without any real examination of who is entering the country, is an open invitation to terrorists. I critique the president on this policy because it contradicts his own aims. Yet he didn’t recognize the problem.

Again, this is part of the “compassionate conservatism” philosophy that he espoused throughout his terms. No one wants to appear callous to those who are seeking a new start in life. That’s understandable. But a president’s first priority, as Bush himself would agree, is to protect and defend the American people. Why then endorse a policy that undercuts that priority?

Why do so many want to come to America?

I believe this political cartoon explains the reasons quite well.

So, I am disappointed with President Bush on matters of the economy, federalism, and immigration. There is one more area in which he failed as well. That will be the subject of the next (and final) post analyzing the Bush presidency.

Unbelievable? Unfortunately, No

Should This Man Oversee the IRS?
Should This Man Oversee the IRS?

I normally don’t post twice in one day, so if you are reading this and have been following my analysis of the Bush administration, don’t miss the latest installment of that immediate preceding this post.

I just couldn’t let this one pass without drawing your attention to it. Timothy Geithner is Obama’s pick to be Secretary of the Treasury. If you have been following the story, he has a history of not paying his taxes. The Treasury Secretary is the boss of the IRS. Does something seem amiss here?

The best overall explanation of the absurdity of this situation can be found in Michelle Malkin’s new piece today. Malkin is one of the sharpest conservative commentators around. She makes her points in unforgettable language. You can read her commentary here.

The Bush Presidency: An Analysis (Part V)

Total federal spending per household has risen 115% since 1965. The sharpest increase occurred during the Bush administration–11%. That comes to an average of $23,500 per household in 2007. Now, is President Bush to blame for all of this? Only in conjunction with Congress, which decided to go along with the spending spree. The saddest part of this to me is that Congress was controlled by the Republicans until the 2006 elections. They must share the blame.

And then, of course, the dam broke in September 2008, as we began to bail out the big banks and investment firms. Frankly, this is unprecedented in American history. The size and scope of this bailout dwarfs anything attempted earlier. Yet President Bush was swayed by the argument that the entire economy would collpase without this bailout.

I disagree with that assessment. Would there be massive problems without it? Yes. But there are going to be massive problems with it as well. Will we learn our lesson about the bad decisions that were made, both in government and on Wall Street? Not if we don’t have to face the consequences of our bad decisions.

When President Bush agreed to the bailout, he also bailed out on his free market premises. To me, this shows that his principles were not intact. He had a preference for free markets and economic liberty, but not a conviction that we should stay the course. Preferences and convictions are two different things.

And it is always the taxpayer who suffers.

If only President Bush had developed firmer foundational principles . . .

The Bush Presidency: An Analysis (Part IV)

I have praised President Bush for his policies to keep America safe from terrorism and for his Supreme Court appointments. Where, in my estimation, did he fall short?

Right from the start, I was bothered by his terminology, particularly his emphasis on “compassionate conservatism.” Now I know that may not seem like much to some people, and I also know that he took the title from an excellent Christian author, Marvin Olasky.

Yet it seemed to come across as a criticism of conservatism in general. It was as if we were now going to discover a new type of conservative, one we had never seen before, a “compassionate” conservative. And in too many minds, including, I think, the president’s, that meant more government spending to “help” people.

Let me make this clear: I want to help people. The issue is not whether people need help, but how that help is best delivered, and what kind of help is really needed. Just throwing money at a problem is not a solution. Neither is greater federal oversight of things like education. Setting up a program like No Child Left Behind may sound good, but why is this a federal issue? Whatever happened to the concept of federalism?

Spending soared during the Bush years. He rarely vetoed any spending bill. And for those who want to blame the spending on the Iraq war, here is an interesting statistic: defense spending is currently only 4% of our Gross Domestic Product, while the 45-year average is 5.5%. So it is not defense that is causing all this spending; it is domestic spending instead.

One prime example is the new Medicare prescription drug program that President Bush supported. It is now estimated that it will cost more than 1 trillion dollars (we’re getting used to those numbers, aren’t we?) over the next decade.

This house of money looks suspiciously similar to a house of cards–and that is what we are currently experiencing. More on spending in the next post.

The Bush Presidency: An Analysis (Part III)

Alito (left) & Roberts
Alito (left) & Roberts

Another of Bush’s positive accomplishments was adding two respected conservative justices to the Supreme Court. John Roberts replaced William Rehnquist as Chief Justice after Rehnquist’s death. Joseph Alito took over for retired justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Both Roberts and Alito are considered to be original intent jurists, seeking to find the reasons the founders included certain provisions in the Constitution. They do not believe that judges should make law. In this, Roberts mirrors Rehnquist; Alito is more concerned about original intent than O’Connor was, making his appointment an improvement in the Court.

The problem, of course, is that none of the avowedly liberal justices stepped down during Bush’s term. They were obviously waiting for a Democrat president who would replace them with another liberal. That’s exactly what Obama will do. It doesn’t take a prophetic gift to predict that.

So Bush made the Court slightly better during his time in office. This is crucial for decisions dealing with abortion, same-sex marriage, and other social issues in particular. But it could also be beneficial for any cases that may arise over massive bailout laws or other economic decisions to be made by the new administration. The situation on the Supreme Court, therefore, is a definite plus for Bush.

My next few postings will cover the negatives, from my perspective.