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.

Now We Know for Sure

I interrupt this analysis of the Bush presidency with a news alert: Obama is on record as favoring the legalization of same-sex marriages. The document can be viewed here:

While this is not a surprise to me, I offer it for those who have tried to hide behind his rhetoric that he does not favor it. He knew he could not come out in favor and win the presidency, but this document makes it clear what he really believes. Let’s not be fooled. Face up to the reality.

The Bush Presidency: An Analysis (Part II)

Rarely has a president had to face what Bush faced just eight months into his presidency. The only other times that enemies have attacked American soil were in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and at Pearl Harbor. The 9/11 attacks stunned the nation and called for a determined, forceful response. Bush gave it as he stood on the rubble of the Twin Towers.

He vowed that the people who had perpetrated this terrorism would hear from us soon. Shortly after, he spoke to a joint session of Congress, laying out the case for confronting the evil represented by the 9/11 attacks. And it wasn’t long before the Taliban in Afghanistan were driven from their places of authority.

When Bush then turned to Iraq, his presidency was redefined. Critics called it unnecessary; the far-left accused him of deliberately deceiving the American people with talk of weapons of mass destruction in the country. “Bush lied, people died” was the refrain.

While there can be reasonable disagreements about the wisdom of the Iraq operation, let’s keep a few things in mind:

  • All intelligence agencies in the world agreed that Saddam had a weapons of mass destruction program.
  • Saddam was giving money to the families of suicide bombers, encouraging the fanatics to continue their actions.
  • Iraq had violated all the sanctions laid upon it by the U.N. after the Persian Gulf War and had restricted access for inspectors of its weapons facilities.
  • Some Al-Qaeda members were already in Iraq, and it was in the process of becoming another base of terrorist operations.
  • The removal of Saddam has now led to a government that is an ally of the United States.

Were there problems in execution? Yes. You don’t brag about “Shock and Awe” before going in; neither do you declare “Mission Accomplished” ahead of time. There was too much optimism about how quickly Iraqis would respond to freedom. They are a different culture; they had no history of self-government. And Bush stayed with the Rumsfeld strategy too long. The surge, which he finally approved, did the job.

Government’s primary responsibility is to protect its people. In the last seven years, the terrorists have been unable to repeat their 9/11 success on American soil. That, by itself, is a primary accomplishment of the Bush administration.

The Bush Presidency: An Analysis (Part I)

Last week, I spoke at the Republican Club of Lakeland, providing my analysis of the positives and negatives of the Bush presidency.

I began with a discussion of the 2000 election, which caused so much rancor in the nation. Through all the recounts and challenges, it was clear that George Bush won Florida, and therefore the election. It was a legitimate victory, marred primarily by attempts to overthrow it.

Almost immediately, the media began its attack, treating Bush as a fraudulent president. The Democrats, bitter at being beaten, dug in their heels and attempted to undermine his administration from the very beginning.

Bush wanted to be the president of all the people of America. He had a history of working with Democrats when he was governor of Texas. Yet now, no matter how hard he tried, he was portrayed as a divider, not a uniter. His situation was comparable to a pinch hitter being sent up to bat for someone who already has two strikes against him.

Now, I certainly have criticisms of the Bush presidency, as will be seen in future posts, but the treatment he received at the hands of the opposition party and the media (and some might say there is little difference between the two) was despicable. How was he going to unite the American people under these circumstances?

9/11 provided that opportunity. That will be my next subject.

Big Government: The Answer to All Problems

Obama at George Mason University

Obama at George Mason University

President-elect Obama gave a speech the other day at George Mason University in which he made the following comment:

The majority of Americans’ attitude toward government has changed drastically in recent years. Only government can break the vicious cycles that are crippling our economy — where a lack of spending leads to lost jobs which leads to even less spending.

So now we are at peace with big government because only government can save the economy. Notice also the emphasis on lack of spending. Obama seems to think that the way to bring us out of a recession is to have the government spend more so that people can spend more. Spending one’s way into prosperity? It’s been tried. It was called the New Deal. It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now.

Keep in Mind the Following

With all the talk lately about how “moderate” Obama has become, Christians (as well as other conservatives) should keep this in mind:

He has not changed his mind on these issues, and they form the bedrock of a successful society.