Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Better Man Than His Detractors

On May 15, 2006, the site owner of polipundit.com issued an order to the other five writers on the blog, as follows: From now on, every blogger at PoliPundit.com will either agree with me completely on the immigration issue, or not blog at PoliPundit.com."

Within hours of that totalitarian action, he barred all of the writers from posting at the site, an action he then called “temporary”, but thirty-two months later the ban remains in effect.

Readers at the site were vocal, and some of them prescient. From the first, one reader observed You’ve just lost the center-right, congratulations (comment 63), while another simply noted this news is very disappointing. Now there is no reason for me to come back and I will go visit other sites that agree with you in principle, but are much more respectful in there [sic] tone (comment 7), while others were less polite, like the fellow (comment 526) who noted “that’s the whole point. We CAN’T engage. Poli took that away. Intellectual cowardice at its finest.”

Examining the meltdown, blogger The Anchoress warned that there would be a price for such inability to allow free and open discussion of the major issues, political as well as social. The short verdict, she warned, was that the public would reject conservatives as reactionary and small-minded.

In the polipundit debacle, a single issue caused the site owner to basically go nuts and kick out a team of writers who had built up his site from a modest readership to one of the leaders in the blogosphere for conservative debate and discussion. But it reflects a deeper and far more serious problem in Conservatism, the inability to tolerate a wide range of opinions, the bitter denunciation of even allies and champions for the smallest variance. This is most apparent in the shameful disrespect of President George W. Bush by conservatives.

Three issues reflect the collapse of conservative sanity with regard to the President; the nomination of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court, the Immigration crisis, and the Dubai Port decision. The behavior by leading conservatives in these three cases illustrates the sad decision to abandon traditional conservative stands, and to burn their bridges to the public’s appreciation of their ideals.

With regard to the Miers nomination, conservatives soon after the announcement began to express a sense of “betrayal” about Miers, and in a blatant reversal of their stated moral position that every nominee had a right to an up or down vote, demanded that Miers be removed from consideration before even her first day before a committee to consider her nomination. The hypocrisy was blatant and deliberate, and seriously damaged the moral foundation for the far Right, demoting them from principled activists to self-serving mandarins.

This does not mean that Miers was a good choice. But the opposition to Miers was expressed in exactly the wrong way, a way which played completely into the hands of the Left, as the Right could then be cast with some justification as dishonest and unconcerned with the public interest. Certainly the move showed a disloyalty to President Bush, not so much in disapproving of Miers as the manner and tone in which it was cast. When I wrote about this issue in 2005, I found a range of reactions, from those who thought I was writing “screeds” and was “unworthy of respect”, to those who said I was “exactly right”, those who 'especially liked’my response, including the Anchoress, who wrote that “DJ Drummond makes some excellent points and probably is quite right”.

Miers may or may not have turned out to be a good justice, we frankly will never know now because she was never given a hearing much less a chance to show her mind. It was a poor series of events for conservatives, because even though we ended up with Alito (followed by Roberts), conservatives remember not the good judgment of President Bush, but the bitter opposition they had against Miers, and they have never yet apologized for using unethical tactics to get what her removed from consideration. ‘The ends justify the means’ has always been a chilling maxim from the evil side of humanity, and conservatives should be ashamed for having their values sullied by such behavior. Michelle Malkin should be ashamed that she could only refer to the White House Counsel as a “crony”, and Jonah Goldberg that he could only see Miers in terms of “battiness”. George Will had no business claiming that President Bush “has forfeited his right to be trusted as a custodian of the Constitution.” Such venomous dishonesty does not belong under the byline of a conservative writer, and until recent years we would never have seen it.

The next key issue was Immigration. Absolutely no one in the GOP argues that illegals coming into the United States do not represent a grave threat, but the hysteria from the hardline Right has damaged the credibility of the Republican leaders. One thing that annoys me the most with regard to this issue, is the constant lying on the hardline Right against President Bush, ignoring all of his work on border security like increasing funding for border security by 159% since taking office, working with foreign nations to improve their own border security along US borders, more than doubling the number of agents along the border as well as UAVs and improving interior enforcement. Bush led the initiative to increase the number and scope of ICE teams from 15 in 2005 to 75 teams in 2007.

The plain fact is, Bush’s detractors simply ignored the facts because they wanted to attack the President. Tom Tancredo was one such rebel, refusing to cooperate with the President or grant even courteous consideration to White House proposals to deal with the problem. Tancredo was sadly representative of a bitter contingent willing to blow apart any chance of a real solution, simply because they did not get their way. President Bush, to his credit, was willing to re-examine and modify his plans in response to real-world conditions, something the foam-mouthed Right never once considered.

It should be obvious on its face that dealing with twenty-some-odd million people who should not be in the country is a difficult task, not least when you have to fight political opposition, including a bunch of narcissists in your own party, to get anything done. This is a problem that has vexed Presidents and Governors and all manner of political solution for more than a generation. No, that does not mean that it’s acceptable to ignore the problem, or that every solution should be accepted without debate or criticism, but the puerile and vicious attacks on President Bush, from conservatives especially, is unconscionable. In the first place it sabotaged any kind of progress towards a solution, allowing liberals and egotists to pretend they did not have to do anything, while honest efforts to address the problem were mocked and shot down by people who could not offer a realistic alternative.

I especially disliked the people who thought it was a good idea to eviscerate the ones trying to find a workable solution, and who presented themselves as equals to the leaders they attacked, even though such men never actually run for the office they claim they could do so easily, and are unwilling to concede that the people duly elected might have a moral right to claim authority to actually do their job. Back in 2006, I went off on Jed Babbin for that kind of attitude. I still like what I wrote then, so for all you folks who believe you have the right to trash President Bush for not being your personal meat puppet, it’s real simple:

Elections matter, you dope. And nobody elected you diddly, much less President of the United States. He’s the captain of our Ship of State, and if you want to cut him off at the knees, you don’t get to claim he has to earn your allegiance. That’s what the elections did, you hypocrite. Dubs said the same things then as he is saying now, and since he got the win in 2000 and again in 2004, that makes him the boss.
Him, not you. 62 million plus voted for George W. Bush in 2004, and you don’t get to ignore that election now when it’s inconvenient for you, anymore than John Kerry and Al Gore get to pretend they are really the President.

Right about now any of the Rabid Wing will start off saying how I am trying to silence dissent. Not at all. If you don’t like a policy, say so, and by all means tell your Congressman and Senators what you want them to do on any given vote. But disagreeing with a position on a given issue, or several issues, does not give you license to lie about what Bush has really said or done or stands for, and it doesn’t give you leave to attack the twice-elected leader of our party and our country. The man has more than earned your respect and support, and only the most venal and petty sort of person does not see that. And the sort of person who would ride the rise of the Republicans into majority, largely on the work of George W. Bush, but then threaten to sink the ship if they don’t get to set the course and seize command from the rightful captain, well folks that’s nothing but a dirty, low-down mutineer
.


On now to the Dubai Ports deal. In early 2006, DP World, a company based out of the United Arab Emirates, agreed in principle to take over management of six U.S. ports then managed by a British firm which was leaving the business. It should be noted at the start, that there were only two companies interested in the deal – Dubai World out of the UAE, and the People’s Republic of China. For some reason, the hardline Right decided that there was a third option, a way to either force the British company to keep the ports or that some fictional all-American firm would come into existence just to prevent – what? It seems that the hardright was never clear about what exactly was at risk. Dick Meyer at CBS noted that the UAE would never own the ports or have anything at all to do with their security (security at ports is addressed by US Homeland Security), and in any case the UAE’s standing as a US ally is excellent. As Meyer wrote in his article, the people attacking Bush for the deal were nothing but purveyors of “demagoguery and cheap shots”. Reuters put it bluntly: “Maritime security experts sided with the president
I tried to put the matter in perspective myself, even before I realized that the hype against the deal was paranoid delusion and Bush-hate.

In the end, the deluded jackals of HardRight won, and the deal was destroyed, at the small cost of breaking legal and diplomatic precedent, insulting a valuable ally, and demonstrating once again the refusal of the hardline elements of conservatism to act like adults.

My point is simple – President Bush has made mistakes, but he has been unfairly attacked by people who should, by all rights, have supported him, if only to gain the most of their own goals and ideals.

The greatest President of the 20th century was Ronald W. Reagan, the man who represents the heart of Conservative Idealism for most self-identified Conservatives. Many conservatives have been disparaging of President George W. Bush, despite a comparable record on major points:

Ronald Reagan was governor of California, where he earned a record for getting the job done by working with all parties, including Democrats. George W. Bush was governor of Texas, where he earned a record for getting the job done by working with all parties, including Democrats.

Ronald Reagan as governor experienced economic crises and had first-hand experience with the causes and effects of illegal immigration. George W. Bush as governor experienced economic crises and had first-hand experience with the causes and effects of illegal immigration.

Ronald Reagan’s judicial appointments in general were excellent, with the exception of Supreme Court nominee Sandra Day O’Connor. Conservatives forgave him for that one bad choice. George W. Bush’s judicial appointments in general were excellent, with the possible exception of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers. Conservatives never forgave him for that choice.

Ronald Reagan tried to address the problem of illegal immigration, proposing a program that critics said amounted to Amnesty. Conservatives in general forgave him for that program. George W. Bush tried to address the problem of illegal immigration, proposing a program that critics said amounted to Amnesty. Conservatives in general never forgave him for that program.

Ronald Reagan faced down an enemy that liberals said could not be beaten, in Communism. Years later critics began to grudgingly admit that Reagan played a role in winning the Cold War. George W. Bush faced down an enemy that liberals said could not be beaten, in Global Terrorism. Years later critics still refuse to acknowledge Bush’s success in protecting America.

Of course there are also differences between Ronald W. Reagan and George W. Bush. When terrorists blew up the Marine barracks in Beirut, Reagan withdrew from Lebanon, condemning that nation to another generation of civil war and terrorist violence. When Al Qaeda mounted counter-offensives using car bombs and incursions from Iran and Syria, George W. Bush refused to abandon Iraq, saving that nation from another generation of tyranny and terrorist violence. And President George W. Bush tried to propose solutions to the Social Security and Medicare crises while there was still room to act proactively. One cannot help but wonder what he might have accomplished if the conservatives in power at that time had acted in America’s interest instead of their own myopic political greed. During the 1980s, Republicans were in the minority of power but accomplished a lot because they rallied behind President Reagan. It can fairly be said that this is the source of our present consternation – conservatives expected the President to get behind their pet projects and bills, instead of showing the loyalty due to Bush.

So what did President Bush do, that he deserves any credit? Here’s a short list:

• Banned partial-birth abortion
• Reinstated parental-consent clause in the Medical Privacy Act
• Upheld ban on abortions at military hospitals
• Proposed, worked for, and signed into law two income-tax cuts
• Worked to eliminate the Death Tax
• Worked to privatize Social Security
• Eliminated OSHA’s ‘ergonomic’ rules for home businesses
• Reduced H1B visas from 195,000 a year to 66,000
• Killed attempts to revive Kyoto Global Warming Treaty
• Revised Forestry Management Act to allow cleanup to prevent fires, removed need for Environmental Impact Statement before removing dangerous brush and fallen tress from fire-risk areas
• Removed Saddam Hussein from Iraq
• Eliminated Al Qaeda network in Afghanistan
• Eliminated Al Qaeda operational existence outside North African continent
• Disarmed Libya of its WMDs
• Improved US military review ability, emphasis on asymmetrical warfare
• Best friend to Israel since 1948
• Prohibited putting US forces under UN command
• Brought back EP-3 plane and crew from China without conflict
• Ended participation in International Criminal Court
• Faced down the UN, saying “America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country."
• Worked to reform Medicare
• Worked to address border security, created largest budget and roster for enforcement, internal fugitive capture, and employer penalty system in history
• Constructed ABM silos in Alaska, Montana, and Maine
• Operation Tarmac
• Denied ABA role in vetting federal judge/justice nominations

It’s quite fashionable these days to deride and attack President Bush. In a few days, he will be former President Bush, so few if any people consider the man except as a target. But it is my contention that Bush has done a fine job, deserving not only of credit and praise, but also that the present condition of Republicans and Conservatives is directly attributable to the shabby treatment heaped on the President. For the ideals of Conservatism to become attractive to American voters again, we simply owe better loyalty and support to our leaders, especially when they are conservatives or at least Republicans.

7 comments:

Hawkins1701 said...

I agree, Bush has done far more good than bad.

I agree too, that the Dubai Ports deal thing got out of hand.

I think you're overstating the Harriet Miers thing. Yes, conservatives didn't like it, and yes, it was wrong for any of us to say that she should not have had her day in court.

But I for one am very happy with Alito and Roberts, and the Miers thing, while a misstep, isn't something I'm inclined to harp on or hold against W. (Sorry if I'm wrong on the names of his two justice appointments.) I think it's painting with a broad brush to say that all conservatives never forgave Bush for that one.

On the immigration thing, the fact that Reagan granted amnesty, with the idea that the borders would be secure so that it would never need to be done again, made me and the rest of the "jackals" so dead set against it. Twenty years later, with the "amnesty to end all amnestys" in the history books, we're right back here again debating another one. (As an aside, for a so-called conservative to shut out all debate on this matter on his website is a travesty. And he is no different from the liberals in the dissent tolerant department.)

The fact of the matter was that over 20 million people who broke our laws would be rewarded with legalization, without a single guarantee of border enforcement.

It's far easier to legalize them than to secure the border, even if the legislation gets written.

Case in point: the border fence.

President Bush signed the legislation authorizing it.

Still hasn't been built, and probably never will be.

Meanwhile, illegal aliens continue to depress American wages, and far more important, cost Americans their lives. Through deliberate action, such as the gang member shooting a woman's entire family in San Francisco, or non-deliberate action, such as the Virginia Beach drunk driver killing two teenage girls....Illegal aliens continue to kill us, while the government looks the other way with "sanctuary" cities. If the government enforced the law, plain and simple, the victims there and in countless other cases would still be alive.

If calling Mr. Bush to task for a bill that would have condoned all this through legalization, without a single guarantee of plugging our porous borders, is being unreasonable, then sign me up with the "jackal" brigade.

Enforcement first. And no amnesty for people who broke our laws. When we hold companies who employ them to task, and the jobs go away, illegal aliens self-deport. At the very least, this should be done, along with the border fence, before ANY talk of an amnesty. Rewarding criminal behavior only begats more of it.

Bush protected this country, stood his ground on Iraq and Afghanistan, and all three nations are better because of it.

But the other flaw I see in his Presidency is that he did not stand up for fiscal conservatism. Far from it. He spent like a liberal. (More fairly phrased: He allowed Congress to do so.) And even more significant is that the IDEAS of small government went AWOL during his time in office. Reagan made them a central tenet of his presidency. Bush, if he ever mentioned small government, did so as an aside.

In his words, he abandoned free market principles in order to save the market.

Wrong.

He merely primed the pump for Obama, to run up an even steeper price tag on an overwrought and ill advised government reaction to an economic problem that was caused by the government.

Tax cuts: good. Trying to make them permanent, mentioning it in virtually all the State of the Unions: good. Trying to reform Social Security: good.

It's a failure of Congressional Republicans that we couldn't get any of those done while we were in the majority. What happened guys?

Give the Democrats credit. Now that they're in total power, they're playing to win, playing like this is a war, and shutting the minority party out of a spot at the dinner table.

If only we had even come close to being so bold.

Back to Bush. Better than Reagan in one respect: he didn't let 9/11 go unanswered, as Reagan let Lebanon go unanswered. (In fairness to the Gipper, he was very cautious with American troop lives. He didn't want to commit our forces to danger without a clear benefit to be derived from it. And he just didn't see one from us staying in Lebanon. Plus, the Soviets still presented bigger fish to fry. Yes, yes, it's still awfully hard for me to criticize him. :-))

Should not have taken nearly so long for the strategy in Iraq to have changed, but I think history will be kind to Bush in that regard.

A good man, and a man I will miss.

But I do hope that the Republican party doesn't follow his advice, and embody this nebulous concept of reaching out to everybody.

Just what does that mean, and what then, do we stand for?

If the party doesn't start to stand up for conservatism in government again, and actually govern that way once we are in power, then fundamentally, we're not much different anymore than the Democrats.

Both parties want to wield the government to change things, albeit different agenda items.

Limiting the size of government. Pro-life, emphasizing federalism and the vote of the people. (Something I agreed with John McCain on.) Lower taxes. The people's will, not the will of judges. Strong national defense. Fighting for the presidential line-item veto. (Probably a pipe-dream, but a fight that should be carried on.) America is a great country. And man is not destroying the world, nor should we punish industry due to unsolved science (i.e. global warming).

I know putting things into practice is much harder than on paper, but c'mon, Republican Party. Shouldn't be rocket science.

As long as some in the party are still blaming Rush Limbaugh or Christians or talk radio or enforcement first immigration folks or pro-life folks, as long as this is going on, we get nowhere in solving the real problem.

We nominated the moderate Republican everyone wanted, and he lost for precisely that reason. Not enough differences from Obama.

If we keep not learning from that mistake, and our mistakes in governance while we had power, then we may never have it again. Or, if we do, it will simply be us practicing "big government" to the Democrats' "bigger government."

Curtis said...

Well said, D. J. In balance I agree with you but less so re: the Miers nomination. Alito has been a good addition to the court and I can't see how Miers could possibly have been confirmed; I concede your point, though.

Many conservatives assumed that President Bush's reelection provided a mandate for implementing their agenda. Couple that with a desire to be liked and you get our current discomfort (i.e., Obama).

Sterling A Minor said...

Hawkins1701 included these statements:

"Give the Democrats credit. Now that they're in total power, they're playing to win, playing like this is a war, and shutting the minority party out of a spot at the dinner table.

If only we had even come close to being so bold."

These statements are clearly wrong.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. Mostly incorrect drivel...but interesting:

• Proposed, worked for, and signed into law two income-tax cuts

- Great...now we're deeper in debt. How about CUTTING SPENDING BEFORE reducing your income.

• Worked to eliminate the Death Tax

- Fantastic, and I "worked" to create time travel...yay me!

• Worked to privatize Social Security

- See above

• Eliminated OSHA’s ‘ergonomic’ rules for home businesses

- OSHA never enacted any rules regulating ergonomics anywhere, much less in home businesses. Bush didn't eliminate anything.

• Removed Saddam Hussein from Iraq

- and got Al-Qaeda INTO Iraq!

• Eliminated Al Qaeda network in Afghanistan

- I know some military folks that may disagree with you...

• Eliminated Al Qaeda operational existence outside North African continent

- LOL

• Disarmed Libya of its WMDs

- Funny, I thought Qaddafi did that

• Best friend to Israel since 1948

- This is a good thing?

• Prohibited putting US forces under UN command

- Except that forces are under UN command in UNOMIG

• Ended participation in International Criminal Court

- Because he doesn't want to be tried in it

• Worked to reform Medicare

-See above

• Worked to address border security, created largest budget and roster for enforcement, internal fugitive capture, and employer penalty system in history

-See above

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