How Bush Embraced Government, Reconnected with the Middle Class, Saved Conservatism, and Earned the Approval of Over 30% of the Country

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David Brooks stands by his man:

Bush hasn't abandoned conservatism; he's modernized and saved it….Almost single-handedly, Bush reconnected with the positive and idealistic instincts of middle-class Americans. He did it by recasting conservatism more significantly than anyone had since Ronald Reagan. He rejected the prejudice that the private sector is good and the public sector is bad, and he tried to use government to encourage responsible citizenship and community service. "Government should help people improve their lives, not run their lives," Bush said. This is not the Government-Is-the-Problem philosophy of the mid-'90s, but the philosophy of a governing majority party in a country where people look to government to play a positive but not overbearing role in their lives.

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  1. This is not the Government-Is-the-Problem philosophy of the mid-’90s, but the philosophy of a governing majority party in a country where people look to government to play a positive but not overbearing role in their lives.

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

  2. “…philosophy of a governing majority party in a country where people look to government to play a positive but not overbearing role in their lives.”

    As long as one exhibits the correct “responsible citizenship and community service”, I guess there’s nothing overbearing about President Bush’s governing philosophy.

  3. This is not the Meth-Is-the-Problem philosophy of the mid-2000s, but the philosophy of a governing majority party in a country where people look to meth to play a positive but not overbearing role in their lives.
    ——

    Better.

  4. Of course, that 30 percent approval rating got him elected twice.

  5. Bush hasn’t abandoned conservatism; he’s modernized and saved it…

    I didn’t realize that it was in trouble in the first place.

  6. Brooks makes some interesting predictions. When he’s shown to be wrong, will anyone nail him on it? No. The punditocracy never gets called on their predictions.

  7. …he’s modernized and saved it….

    Hmmm….Is GWB the FDR of the 21st century?

  8. “…in a country where people look to government to play a positive but not overbearing role in their lives.”

    Is Brooks talking about Canada? He sounds Canadian; are we sure he isn’t one of “them”?

  9. Almost single-handedly…

    Closer and closer to it as the years roll by.

  10. …in a country where people look to government to play a positive but not overbearing role in their lives.

    It’s sad, but that really does describe most of the people I know. Why can’t we be a country where people look to the government as a necessary evil?

  11. ….or a “not-so-necessary” evil?

  12. “… not run their lives,” Bush said.

    Tell that too…

    Gays who want to get married.

    Sick people in California who need marijuana, and sick people in Oregon who want to die.

    The people who didn’t care about Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction.”

    Everyone in New London who lost their homes.

    Everyone in New Orleans post Katrina.

    I could go on and on, of course.

  13. David Brooks is the Dr. Strangelove of political columnists. Everytime he gets close to approaching an honest opinion his partisan instincts lurch into a display of hackery.

    Of course, by this analogy, I suppose Hugh Hewitt would be Buck Turgidson.

  14. I think a leader should exit with low approval ratings – its a sign of spending “political capital”.

    (Where have you heard that before…)

    JasperPants

  15. Why is it that saving something from itself always seems to mean ‘make it look like modern liberalism’?

  16. By “Bush,” is Brooks referring to the President? The current President? Wow.

  17. yay, yipee! It’s the super ultra funky and huggy conservatism — without all that outdated “principle” stuff.

    Goldwater was such a meanie poopie head anyway.

    Groan.

    This is sounding more like the last few chapters of “Animal Farm” every day.

  18. Sure you have all read how Brooks’ numbers are wacked and only reflect the white votes (maybe a little fruedian racist slip there). I will find the correction and post- be right back.

  19. I think a leader should exit with low approval ratings – its a sign of spending “political capital”.

    Bush has spent all of his political capital ‘reforming’ Social Security. Oh yeah, and saving Terry Shiavo and making sure that people were prepared for Katrina.

  20. Link:
    http://mediamatters.org/items/200510250001
    cut:
    “Had Brooks considered the entire “middle class” — including non-whites — within the income levels he identified, he would have found the margin to be much slimmer. In fact, 2004 exit poll data show that Bush’s margin over Kerry for voters of all races earning between $30,000 and $75,000 a year was seven percentage points (53 percent to 46 percent), only four points more than Bush’s margin in 2000 and one point more than President Clinton’s 1996 middle-class margin of six points over Republican Bob Dole:”

  21. This is simple. The electorate is like an Alcoholic with political personalities. When they were drinking they were fine with the conservatism and now that there is no more conservatism they are going through withdraws. We are about to be sober when his popularity gets down to about 28%. He does not follow the rule of law and he has proved that he has no principles! We are screwed!

  22. Why is it that saving something from itself always seems to mean ‘make it look like modern liberalism’?

    Regression to the mean.

  23. mvs – I’m waiting for the dray horse to announce that he will keep on working for the good of the community.

  24. This would be funny if it weren’t so damn sad.

  25. Bush hasn’t abandoned conservatism; he’s modernized and saved it….

    modernized conservatism. oxymoron, anyone?

  26. “Why is it that saving something from itself always seems to mean ‘make it look like modern liberalism’?

    Regression to the mean.”

    I’m laughing because it hurts.

  27. although, it must be said, that’s exactly what it is — revolutionism dressed up in some ratty old rags to make it look archaistic. bush/cheney/rummy/wolfowitz have utterly no intention of going back to anything — as if they could! they want to destroy the world as it is and remake it in the image of what they think the past, present and future SHOULD look like and has never at all resembled.

    idealistic ideology run amok — in this way, no different from mussolini, lenin or robespierre except in how they choose to market themselves.

  28. The thing I can’t figure out is, why are people still talking about this as if it weren’t obvious from the time Bush first ran for office as a moderate, “compassionate conservative”? I suppose it took five years to figure this out because we’ve been too busy laughing at Bush’s malapropisms to stop and look at his governing philosophy.

    Nor should it come as a surprise to anyone that the public wants the government to help them (spending) and not hinder them (regulations). They voted for Republicans not because they wanted smaller gov’t, but because they wanted lower taxes, better security, more Christian morality, etc. Not less social spending. Also fiscal responsibility, which people used to believe the Republicans were good at.

    “He rejected the prejudice that the private sector is good and the public sector is bad”

    So how come all his solutions involve giving taxpayer money to the private sector? Faith-based initiative? Medicare giveaway to the pharm industry?

    I think Brooks is right in that the public wants the kind of president he describes in his article, but I don’t think that president has more than a passing resemblance to Bush.

  29. A competent administration is capable of delivering on their secondary goals – which in Bush’s case would be some sort of compassionate conservative vision for America. Obviously, he has effed that up, but do not forget that on the administration’s primary goal, delivering tax payer’s money to influential backers and friends, they have been very, very good. Maybe too good as it may have prompted too many investigations.

  30. Mark Borok:

    “I suppose it took five years to figure this out because we’ve been too busy laughing at Bush’s malapropisms to stop and look at his governing philosophy.”

    I’m going to use the generic “we” here, not to refer specifically to myself or anyone on these boards, but to people in general.

    It is the Politics of Wink and Nod. With only two coalitions representing every significant interest in America, we are forced into coalitions with people we find distasteful. We jump into the coalition with both feet, knowing that if our whole coalition doesn’t advance, our individual issues don’t advance either. What follows is a sort of sorry attempt to read what we want into our candidate so long as he gives us room to do so. We all tell ourselves that he just had to say that to get elected. Given the chance, he will really do X instead.

    It is only rarely that we run out of excuses. When a coalition has both houses, the executive, and gets to nominate two SCOTUS justices, we are really forced to look at actions as actual preferences.

  31. Gaius, I, for one, do not welcome my Bushian overlords. Whatever virtues or lack thereof that Jeb Bush has, I’m not voting for any dynasties, thank you very much. That goes for any Clintons, Kennedys, or Washingtons that may be inclined to run in 2008. No, wait, I might vote Washington.

  32. what effect do you suppose declaring a ‘War on Ducks’ had? 😉

  33. That idiot, David Brooks:

    He rejected the prejudice that the private sector is good and the public sector is bad…

    It’s not prejudice, it’s weight the evidence and considerations of fairness that leads one to posit the preference of the private sector over the public.

    The Bush/Brooks approach is to largely adapt the big government policies of liberalism but call them “conservative”.

  34. …Shoulda been: “it’s the weight of the evidence”

    Sorry.

    Oh Preview button, why do I forsake thee?!

  35. It is only rarely that we run out of excuses. When a coalition has both houses, the executive, and gets to nominate two SCOTUS justices, we are really forced to look at actions as actual preferences.

    There’s still the filibuster! A partisan can always persuade himself that things would be different if there were no filibusters to stand in the way.

  36. thoreau:

    It depends on what your desire is. My argument would be that the filibuster is yet one more factor to obscure what a given administration is actually trying to do. The nice thing about recent nominations and statements by the administration is they are pretty clear. Clarity is gold.

  37. thoreau:

    In other words a bad administration may get two terms instead of one because the threat of filibuster kept him from goring any oxes.

    Too, sometimes oxes need to be gored and filibusters prevent that from happening.

  38. Hmmm….Is GWB the FDR of the 21st century?

    I repeat:

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

  39. OK, Stevo, how about Millard Fillmore?

    No particular reason except that of all the presidents he has the funniest name.

  40. It was obvious to me that George Bush would expand government power, so I voted against him in 2000 & 2004 – I voted Libertarian both times.

    More frightful than Bush’s clear commitment to big government has been the way the entire Republican Party went along with him. What happened to the standards conservatives claimed to have.

    The real problem is not that Bush betrayed conservatism. The real problem is that conservatives abandoned principle and judgment to support this man, who will bankrupt America before he leaves office.

  41. No particular reason except that of all the presidents he has the funniest name.

    Always with that Millard Fillmore crap. When was the last time you met someone named “Rutherford,” eh, homey?

  42. Bush hasn’t abandoned conservatism; he’s modernized and saved it.

    He’s half right, real conservatives–as I’ve always understood them–abandoned this President long ago.

    Those “conservatives” that stay behind and keep cheering for Bush are little better than the feminists who got down on their knees for Clinton amidst the Lewinski affair. I’m not saying that’s what Brooks is doin’ here necessarily…

    …Wait a second! …Maybe I am.

    …Almost single-handedly, Bush reconnected with the positive and idealistic instincts of middle-class Americans.

    That’s true, he did reconnect with the positive and idealistic instincts of middle-class Americans…

    …and then he perverted and twisted those positive and idealistic instincts to his own well intentioned but but poorly conceived and incompetently administered policies.

    He did it by recasting conservatism more significantly than anyone had since Ronald Reagan.

    I suspect this is what Ed Bradley might have called a non-comparison comparison. …I’ve got another comparison for Brooks… Bill Clinton–just like President Bush–was nowhere near the conservative Ronald Reagan was.

    P.S. The secret password is: Newt never happened.

    He rejected the prejudice that the private sector is good and the public sector is bad, and he tried to use government to encourage responsible citizenship and community service.

    …and that’s one of the reasons my middle finger is so high in the air!

    Notice that the idea that the private sector is good and the public sector is bad is described as “prejudice.”

    prej.u.dice n.

    1. a. An adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts.
    b. A preconceived preference or idea.

    2. The act or state of holding unreasonable preconceived judgments or convictions. See Synonyms at predilection.

    3. Irrational suspicion or hatred of a particular group, race, or religion.

    4. Detriment or injury caused to a person by the preconceived, unfavorable conviction of another or others.

    http://dictionary.reference.com/search?r=2&q=prejudice

    I came to this conclusion through a close examination of the facts. …but to Brooks, I and people like me are apparently stupid like racists.

    Government should help people improve their lives, not run their lives,” Bush said. This is not the Government-Is-the-Problem philosophy of the mid-’90s, but the philosophy of a governing majority party in a country where people look to government to play a positive but not overbearing role in their lives.

    I don’t see much positive about the President’s idea of what government should do, but I see a lot of things I consider overbearing.

  43. “I came to this conclusion through a close examination of the facts”

    If you observe the facts of a particular case and then derive general conclusions from them, then that can be considered prejudice. Example 1: “I know of several people who were mugged by blacks, therefore I conclude that blacks are naturally predisposed to crime.” Example 2: “I know of several cases where the public sector failed to perform, therefore I conclude that it will always fail to perform.” If you follow this, you may overlook individual cases where the public sector may be doing a good job, or you may pre-emptively dismiss any ideas for reforming it and making it perform better.

  44. Brooks. Mencken. Reanimate both for a cage match. (Mencken would probably respond quicker to reanimation as he is merely dead. Brooks, being a turd, might require some gene therapy as well.)

  45. Funniest president’s name:

    Really, I don’t think “Millard Fillmore” is any funnier than “Grover Cleveland,” but maybe that’s because the latter makes me think of a furry blue monster.

    And if you really think about it, no president had a funnier name than “Dwight D. Eisenhower.”

    Funniest name of a presidential candidate who did not get elected:

    Monica Moorehead (only funny in light of Clinton, though)

  46. Very well Borok…

    …but you can’t say that coming out against government solutions is prejudice without knowing something about how the people in question came to their conclusion.

    The conservative movement isn’t against government solutions out of prejudice. …coming out against central planning isn’t prejudice. …a belief in the invisible hand isn’t prejudice. The reasons Medicare and Medicaid are terrible solutions aren’t prejudice.

  47. Tom Crick,

    By themselves, those things are not prejudice. However, assuming that they are all you need to know to draw a conclusion about a specific circumstance or propsal – that’s prejudice.

  48. I’m with you joe, but I’m not with Brooks.

    I stand by my comment about facts and prejudice–he can’t make that jump… …not that his is the only logical leap I’ll see a journalist make today. …but this one in particular irks me more than most.

    …and that’s because, it seems to me, that he purposely used the language of racism to describe those who oppose the President. …A common theme among Bush supporters, as we’ve discussed.

  49. Tom Crick –

    I’m sure Brooks wasn’t referring to you specifically, so you can rest easy on that point.

    As to conservatives being prejudiced, I hate to bring up Rush Limbaugh, but he is an example of a conservative who has stated (at least twice that I know of) that the federal gov’t is incapable of doing anything right – except, for some reason, maintaining an effective army. Al Franken has a brilliant passage in his anti-Limbaugh book where he solicits other, intelligent conservatives to offer examples of federal programs that have worked. They all manage to come up with a few.

    Limbaugh may be an idiot, but you can’t deny that he is a prominent conservative.

  50. Stevo, I have to agree. It may be that Pesident with the funniest name is as hard to agree upon as Worst President Ever.

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