Monday, December 29, 2008

Reconstituting Conservative Ideology As Good Governance

Bush's conservative legacy of failure follows from a single utterance from Ronald Reagan upon his inauguration on January 20, 1981; "Government is not the solution; government is the problem." What has happened over the last eight years links up to what has been happening over the last twenty-eight years, since Ronald Reagan was elected president.

In the long run, historians will have a very easy time characterizing the failures of the Bush presidency - Bush is a conservative Republican ascending to office with a Congress controlled by conservative Republicans, alongside a judiciary more or less controlled by conservative Republicans, all set in motion by President Reagan.

In the short run, it appears very, very clear that's not stopping conservatives from rewriting history.
A President Forgotten but Not Gone
Published: January 3, 2009

[An] elaborate example of legacy spin was placed on the Bush White House Web site before he left office on January 20, 2009: a booklet (PDF) recounting “highlights” of the administration’s “accomplishments and results.” With big type, much white space, children’s-book-like trivia boxes titled “Did You Know?” and lots of color photos of the Bushes posing with blacks and troops, its 52 pages require a reading level closer to “My Pet Goat” than “The Stranger.”

This document is the literary correlative to “Mission Accomplished.” Bush kept America safe (provided his presidency began Sept. 12, 2001). He gave America record economic growth (provided his presidency ended December 2007). He vanquished all the leading Qaeda terrorists (if you don’t count the leaders bin Laden and al-Zawahri). He gave Afghanistan a thriving “market economy” (if you count its skyrocketing opium trade) and a “democratically elected president” (presiding over one of the world’s most corrupt governments). He supported elections in Pakistan (after propping up Pervez Musharraf past the point of no return). He “led the world in providing food aid and natural disaster relief” (if you leave out Brownie and Katrina).

If this is the best case that even Bush and his handlers can make for his achievements, you wonder why they bothered. Desperate for padding, they devote four risible pages to portraying our dear leader as a zealous environmentalist.

But the brazenness of Bush’s alternative-reality history is itself revelatory. The audacity of its hype helps clear up the mystery of how someone so slight could inflict so much damage. So do his many print and television exit interviews.

Asked (by Charles Gibson) if he feels any responsibility for the economic meltdown, Bush says, “People will realize a lot of the decisions that were made on Wall Street took place over a decade or so, before I arrived.”

“The attacks of September the 11th came out of nowhere,” he said in another interview, as if he hadn’t ignored frantic intelligence warnings that summer of a Qaeda attack. But it was an “intelligence failure,” not his relentless invocation of patently fictitious “mushroom clouds,” that sped us into Iraq.
The last NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll on Bush’s presidency found that 79 percent of Americans will not miss him after he leaves the White House. He is being forgotten already, but it is important to remember how vast the wreckage stretches.
by Brad Woodhouse
Posted December 23, 2008

The Bush legacy should be remembered as a grand and failed experiment of what happens when conservatives are in complete control of the government. Conservative ideology rails against government, argues that government is the problem, not the solution. So when a government run by conservatives so utterly fails to promote and protect the common good for all citizens, is it any wonder?

And now the same folks that brought us the needless $3 trillion war in Iraq have the mother of all swan songs left in store: redefining the Bush legacy as something other than a failure. Weekly Standard senior writer and GOP insider Stephen Hayes let slip earlier this month that an unofficial White House PR campaign is afoot - which Hayes dubbed the "Bush Legacy project" -- with the mission of highlighting what they believe are the President's accomplishments and shirking responsibility for the more numerous and far more consequential failures.

In reality, more than a few people formerly in his administration have come forward as witnesses to a serious failure of leadership.

In 1987, President Reagan's job approval rating plummeted to 42 percent during the height of the Iran-Contra scandal. However, in the remaining months of his presidency, Reagan went largely unchecked and managed to leave office with a 63 percent approval rating -- allowing his conservative disciples to redefine his presidency as an example of successful conservative governance. A remarkable feat, to be sure, for a legacy of unhinged deficit spending, draconian cuts in federal assistance to local governments, a homelessness boom, and a refusal to acknowledge the fledgling AIDS epidemic. Reagan got away with repairing his legacy on the way out the door; George W. cannot be allowed to do the same.
In truth, the failures of the last eight years cannot be chalked up to one man. The war in Iraq, the floundering economy, the tragedy that befell New Orleans, were the failures of conservative ideology. The failures are owned by every conservative in Congress who championed and happily rubber-stamped conservative legislation and the conservative philosophy of governing.

The truly compelling story of this decade is one that conservatives do not want told – the rapid and dramatic failure of conservative government. America has learned what life is like under a true conservative government. With near absolute power, conservatives have pursued their agenda with little compromise or input from progressives. In a position of virtually unchecked power conservatives have failed quickly and utterly at the most basic responsibilities of governing, leaving our nation weaker and our people less prosperous, less safe and less free. The Bush years may have been years of political and legislative victories for conservatives, but those years of political and legislative victories have resulted in disastrous conservative governance.

Conservatives in Washington have taken the country on a reckless sharp right turn, offering an economic strategy ill-suited for the challenges we face in the 21st century, a foreign policy too belligerent and too ineffective, and a style of governing too arrogant and corrupt for our proud democracy. Their approach has not only failed to yield the results they've promised, but has endangered America's leadership in the world and broad-based prosperity at home in ways that will take many years to repair.

Conservative leadership in Washington, DC:
  • Misled the American people into an endless war in Iraq that has made the United States less safe, has resulted in the death and injury of thousands of American troops and Iraqis, has cost American taxpayers as much as one trillion dollars, has strained our military to the breaking point, and has prevented us from finishing the job in Afghanistan.
  • Stood idly by while thousands of Americans lost everything during Hurricane Katrina – and still haven’t taken leadership to rebuild the Gulf Coast and help people return home.
  • Allowed trickle-down, laissez-faire (deregulation, anti-regulation, no government regulation or even oversight on anything for any reason, ever, period) economics to help the rich get richer, while regular Americans struggle with soaring gas and food prices, a meltdown in the housing market, and exploding debt during today’s economic recession.
  • Turned control of our country’s health care system over to insurance and pharmaceutical companies, leaving millions of Americans incapable of paying for the rising costs of health benefits and turning emergency rooms into primary care physicians.
  • Broke their promise to America’s children, failing to fund early education programs and No Child Left Behind.
  • Ignored the scientific reality of climate change, obstructing efforts to make our air and water cleaner so oil and gas companies and big business could achieve record profits.
  • Turned their backs on America’s workers, assaulting workers’ rights and impeding regular Americans’ efforts to form unions and bargain for better pay and working conditions.
  • Conservatives have methodical pursued a campaign to politicize, ignore, twist or undermine science on the effects of smoking and of air pollution, the feasibility and benefits of energy savings through increased energy efficiency standards, the feasibility on deploying alternative energy technologies, stem cell research, educational standards, sex education and contraceptives and the drug abuse, all the way to a campaign aimed at teaching "alternatives to evolution" in the classroom.
We cannot let the conservative version of the past eight years, à la the "Bush Legacy Project," go down in history as the truth. Democrats cannot allow conservatives to reconstitute conservative ideology, as they did for Reagan's presidency, as an approach to government that will ever do more than utterly fail the American people.
"I'm absolutely positive history will be kind to this president, who made the right decisions in a difficult time for this nation," Bush Strategist Karl Rove, 5/7/08

Beware the conservative propaganda machine!
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