Presidential History

A Bush Postmortem

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Columnist Ron Hart runs through some reasons why George W. Bush failed so spectacularly as president.

Bush operated in an obstinate, faith-based manner which he felt guided him on all decisions. And is there a better way to combat irrational Islamic extremism than for Bush to look to his God for all answers?  It is like a poker game of "I see your Mohammed and raise you a Jesus."  Faith-based governing is much like faith-based cliff diving: for long-term survival, it really matters that your facts and calculations are correct.

"W" made government bigger to reflect his personal religious views. Silly side shows like the Terry Shiavo intervention, stem-cell research opposition, the gay marriage ban, a non-competitive Medicare prescription drug entitlement, the No Child Left Behind debacle and wiretaps sent many of us who value freedom and a non-intrusive government packing.

And the war of choice in Iraq is nothing short of a religious war. Any rudimentary understanding of history would have told his hawkish, neocon advisors that religious wars or wars of choice never turn out well.

Whole thing here.

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  1. Damn you Edward!

  2. “W” was hands down the absolute WORSTE pres in my 30 yrs on this earth. He did more to undermine freedom and the Const than any other in modern times, INHO anyway. I know i do not have the experince of many others who were any better. just my litttle .012637. used to be .02 but its now worth less due to inflatioon, thanks bailout, lol!

  3. Any rudimentary understanding of history would have told his hawkish, neocon advisors that religious wars or wars of choice never turn out well.

    Hawkish neo-cons do not wish to learn from history. They wish to *make* history. It’s not that they don’t know it, it is simply that they believe it doesn’t apply to them.

    The criticism of neoconservatism that its actions in light of history seem unwise I think sort of misses the point.

  4. used to be .02 but its now worth less due to inflatioon

    I was told recently the commodity value of a penny is $.08.

  5. “Elemenope | November 17, 2008, 3:04pm | #
    It’s not that they don’t know it, it is simply that they believe it doesn’t apply to them.”

    Unless they’re talking about Munich, 1938 of course. Remember: It’s always 1938, and all adversaries are Hitler! ALWAYS!

  6. I have a feeling that a lot of pundits are going to argue that Bush failed because of (insert thing pundit opposes here), thus proving that the pundit is right to oppose that thing.

    How else to explain all the liberal commentators claiming that the Bush badministration shows that small government doesn’t work.

  7. “W” made government bigger to reflect his personal religious views. Silly side shows like the Terry Shiavo intervention, stem-cell research opposition, the gay marriage ban, a non-competitive Medicare prescription drug entitlement, the No Child Left Behind debacle and wiretaps sent many of us who value freedom and a non-intrusive government packing.

    And the war of choice in Iraq is nothing short of a religious war. Any rudimentary understanding of history would have told his hawkish, neocon advisors that religious wars or wars of choice never turn out well.”

    There are about — things wrong with those statements.

    1. Opposition to gay marriage is very popular. They can’t even stop a gay marriage ban in California in the biggest liberal year since 1964. Bush is unpopular for a lot of reasons, but to list his opposition to gay marriage as one of them is pretty stupid.

    2. The Shiavo Case and stem cell research are very popular with the Republican base. Being popular with the base got him re-elected in 2004. I doubt many people remember or care about either issue enough, certainly not Shiavo, for it to be much of a factor one way or another.

    3. No child left behind was a “bi-partisian” effort with Ted Kennedy. The same goes for the prescription drug benefit. Both of those programs are fairly popular. Again I don’t see those as evidence of anything beyond the fact that Bush was soft and too willing to work with Dems.

    4. And the war of choice in Iraq is nothing short of a religious war. Really? What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Have I missed our efforts to forcibly convert the Iraqis? Further, the war is over, we are leaving in 2011 and Iraq is going to be a stable and relatively free country much better than it was under Saddam. So things haven’t turned out as badly as this guy hoped they would.

    There are a lot of reason why Bush ended up at 20% approval. His emphasis on loyalty over competancy in his advisors is one of them. His refusal to fire Rumsfeld and put the proper number of troops in post war Iraq before 2007 is another one. His total misunderstanding of the nature of Katrina and the need to be in front of the issue.

    All of that is of course independent of his religion. Really what this guy is sayin is “I hate religion, I hate Bush, Bush is religious, therefore all of Bush’s failings because of his religious views”. Yeah whatever.

  8. Yes, I heard Bush call himself a free market guy recently. I’d like to know exactly in what way that’s a true comment.

    In any case, I thought the era of big government was over?

  9. “[embryonic] stem-cell research opposition.”

    How, exactly, does not spending federal government money on something make government bigger?

  10. Ugh, I’m no Bush fan, but Hart’s argument is pretty weak. Warrantless wiretapping is a product of Bush’s religious beliefs? As I stated above, I’m assuming Hart really, really doesn’t like religion, and is using this opportunity to bash all religion everywhere.

    This may be some sort of meta-Godwin violation, but, as with Hitler, I think we should pre-emptively discourage comparing people to Bush unless they actually are Bush.

  11. So, all of Bush’s mistakes can be blamed on his religious faith? Not to defend Bush, but the simplistic explanation given for his poor record doesn’t stand up to examination.

    Terry Shiavo intervention,
    Possibly right on this one.

    stem-cell research opposition,
    Bush permitted federally funded stem cell research on cell lines where embryos were already destroyed. It now seems likely that we can harvest stem-cells without destroying future embryos. Hardly seems to have delayed much research.

    the gay marriage ban
    Does he mean DOMA? The act signed by Bill Clinton? Was Bill Clinton a “faith-based” decision maker too? If not DOMA, what gay marriage ban is he talking about?

    a non-competitive Medicare prescription drug entitlement,
    That was faith-based, and not a giant pander? Also, were there any Democrats opposed to this, or have they all bought into the “faith” thing like noted Christianist Bill Clinton.

    the No Child Left Behind Act
    Again, bi-partisan, and tangentially related to Bush’s religious faith, if at all.

    the war of choice in Iraq is nothing short of a religious war
    Supported by atheists like Christopher Hitchens, and by most democartic congressional representives.

  12. Rather than his specific religious beliefs, it is the religious mindset that make Bush such a horrid president. Yes John, worse than Nixin.

    He is certain he is right about things without evidence and will ignore all evidence to the contrary. Sounds a bit like the attitude of folks going door to door with Watchtower, doesn’t it?

  13. “W” was hands down the absolute WORSTE pres in my 30 yrs on this earth.

    Sounds like you’re just a little too young to have gotten in on Nixon’s presidency. Bush’s presidency was largely shaped by Cheney trying to bring back the Nixon years, and really, really overachieving his goal.

  14. “Rather than his specific religious beliefs, it is the religious mindset that make Bush such a horrid president. Yes John, worse than Nixin.”

    We have had this discussion before J Sub D and you are just wrong. You are either living in denial of the things that Nixon actually did or have some wierd fixation on Bush that clouds your judgement. Either way it is not a defensible position. I suppose you are a little better than the numbskulls who are convinced Bush was trying to establish a dictatorship but only a little better.

  15. “Faith” would be a better word than “religion,” I think. (All religions are forms of faith; not all forms of faith are religions.) A lot of Bush’s policies were based on faith, rather than reason or evidence.

  16. “Rather than his specific religious beliefs, it is the religious mindset that make Bush such a horrid president. Yes John, worse than Nixon.”

    This statement is precisely correct (spelling corrected).

    Intelligent people constantly test their positions. Bush, forever intellectually incurious, is the poster child for dim-witted obstinance. Every position he took was wrong and he was insulated in a bubble that refused introspection.

    Worst by far.

  17. Apparently there aren’t any taxpayers that comment at this site. All the other stuff is small potatoes, except for the damn prescription drug entitlement, forced by Democrats, I might add.

  18. He is certain he is right about things without evidence and will ignore all evidence to the contrary.

    That’s not necessarily a religious mindset. Plenty of nonreligious people act this way, and plenty of religious people do not.

  19. John,

    It seems that if you like the current president, he’s the best president ever, and analogously if you don’t like the current president he’s the worst ever.

  20. For the Dems to only win 47 percent of the vote in a year that so favored them in every metric is proof that this really is a right-of-center country.

    I don’t necessarily disagree with the ‘center-right’ thing, but where the heck is Hart getting this figure from? Obama got 52% of the vote.

  21. Tulpa, so true, especially around here where athiesism rarely tempers our certainty.

  22. Bush Ard-on alert!

  23. Apparently there aren’t any taxpayers that comment at this site. All the other stuff is small potatoes, except for the damn prescription drug entitlement, forced by Democrats, I might add.

    “A tax cut without a cut in federal spending is a future tax increase.”

    paraphrased from Milton Friedman.

  24. Yes, I heard Bush call himself a free market guy recently. I’d like to know exactly in what way that’s a true comment.

    If you were a brilliant totalitarian agent, and you primary goal was to discredit free market policies, how could you do better than GW Bush has in the past eight years? The brilliant part is that he never approached anything close to free market ideas in practice (with the possible exception of SS), and yet he was able to thoroughly discredit them by occasionally mouthing a few words of empty rhetoric. When Capitalism falls to neo-Communism, Bush’s record of colossal failure will truly stand alone.

  25. He is certain he is right about things without evidence and will ignore all evidence to the contrary
    ______________________________________________
    That phrase sums up the cannibis prohibtion by the goverment.

  26. And Ard, you’re even wrong about the Dems on the Welfare for Pharma Act. Tom DeLay forced a House vote well past House time rules to twist arms for passage.

    You are the epitome of what I refer to as a “Bushpig” – one who would sell his mother into slavery for a temporary monetary gain.

  27. I have plenty against Bush, but few of Hart’s points bother me. Campaign finance reform, steel tarriffs, kid gloves in Iraq, signing obscene spending bills, he’s got some warts, sure. But taxes are the biggest infringement of freedom possible, yet nobody around here gives a shit about them.

  28. Shrike, Delay was twisting Republican’s arms you damn fool. The Democrats were all on board already.

  29. Also, I should add that religious people may believe in the tenets of their faith without evidence, that doesn’t mean they approach EVERYTHING in life with a fideistic mindset. In other words, just because one believes that Jesus rode from the dead without evidence, doesn’t mean that one doesn’t demand evidence for other things in life.

    But if the atheists among us want to continue burning their religious strawman, by all means continue.

  30. But taxes are the biggest infringement of freedom possible

    Paying taxes surely sucks, but I have never, ever written a check for a tax bill and thought “Damn. I wish I were a prisoner in Gitmo. THEY don’t have to pay taxes, by God! Their freedom is being infringed upon much, much less than mine is.”

  31. Reagan was the worst president ever.
    Then Bush I was the worst ever.
    Then Clinton was the worst ever, too.

    After that, things took kind of a downturn.

  32. “””4. And the war of choice in Iraq is nothing short of a religious war. Really? What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”””

    It’s a fine line to agrue Iraq as a religous war as in religion vs religion. I’ve spoken to a few people that view it as an extention of the crusades. To them, it is a religious war. Of course that doesn’t make it true. If that’s Nick’s view, I would disagree, but I believe many, mostly christian conservatives would disagree with me. However, Bush said he spoke to the heavenly father about going into Iraq. Bush believes, or wants us to believe, it is a war with the christian god on our side. Therefore, it’s christians vs something, and the idea of being a religious war is open for debate.

    “””””A tax cut without a cut in federal spending is a future tax increase.” “”””

    Spending more without cuts or added revenue is a future tax increase. But hey, they’ll blame it on the next guy.

    “””yet nobody around here gives a shit about them.”””

    We all give a shit about taxes, But keeping taxes low while greatly increasing spending means you’re willing to pass the buck to the next guy. That’s fiscal irresponsibility. Someone has to pay the bills. Now if Bush kept spending down and reduced taxes, then we could pat him on the back.

  33. Jennifer, I take your point on Gitmo. There is no excuse not to immediatly try them in a fair court then execute the guilty and free the innocents.

  34. If tax cuts increase revenue and spending goes up the same amount, that is not a future tax increase. Unfortunately spending went up even higher. But don’t blame the tax cuts, blame the spending.

  35. Jennifer, I take your point on Gitmo.

    Thanks, but my point wasn’t about Gitmo so much as the idea that “paying taxes is the biggest infringement of freedom possible.” No; there are plenty of things that are far worse.

    Thanks to oil revenues, Saudi citizens have MUCH lower tax burdens than Americans. I doubt you’d argue that the Saudis therefore have more freedom.

  36. “””” But taxes are the biggest infringement of freedom possible,”””

    James, you missed Jennifer’s point, which was prison is the biggest infringement of freedom, not taxes.

  37. Ok, ok, tax cuts are not the biggest infringement of freedom. I apologize for my hyperboly.

  38. Of course I meant taxes not tax cuts.

  39. I am neither a fan of Bush nor a libertarian, so perhaps I’m not the best person to make this point defending Bush on libertarian grounds, but my understanding is that all he did was block federal support for embryonic stem cell research– he didn’t do anything to prohibit pursuing that research using non-federal funds. Given that this magazine’s regular demographic purports to oppose government funding for just about any kind of research, I don’t see why that position would make Bush a failure in your eyes.

  40. I see that Hart’s article was thoroughly eviscerated byy Reason posters within an hour of being posted here. Well played, comrades!

  41. JRD, you’re right. Calling the Iraq war a religious war is disingenuous as well.

  42. “””If tax cuts increase revenue and spending goes up the same amount, that is not a future tax increase. Unfortunately spending went up even higher. But don’t blame the tax cuts, blame the spending.”””

    Do tax cuts increase federal revenue?

  43. They did for Kennedy, Reagan and Bush II. I think it is called the Laffer curve.

  44. Tricky, it depends.

  45. Bush was pretty much a complete disaster for libertarian-leaning Republicans. Just like his father was.

    The only hope is that Bush has so thoroughly discredited the big-government right that the GOP engages in a vigorous re-think. My biggest worry is that the GOP that emerges will become, in Goldwater’s words, an “echo, not a choice.”

  46. Second, or third, or whatever on the “faith, not religion” thing.

    There are plenty of religious people who use reason and evidence to understand the world, and there are plenty of irreligious people who view everything through a faith-distorted filter.

  47. The Laffer Curve has diminishing returns.


  48. Shrike, Delay was twisting Republican’s arms you damn fool. The Democrats were all on board already.

    Except you’re the damn fool, Ard. The link below says that 207 GOPers voted “aye” and only seven Dems were arm-twisted into a DeLay vote.

    Do you ever tire of being wrong?

    http://www.govtrack.us/congress/vote.xpd?vote=h2003-332&sort=vote

  49. Ard wrote: “kid gloves in Irag…”

    Every day’s an Ab Ghraib with James Ard! (sung to the tune of “Every day’s a holiday with Mary!”)

  50. Of course the Democrats “opposition” to NCLB is that not enough money was thrown at it. So instead of just repealing federal intrusion into the classroom, Obama is going to “fix” it by sending New York tax money to Kansas schools. Yeah, that’s the ticket! /sarcasm

  51. Interestingly, it seems opposition to even privately funded stem cell research is now a part of the Republican platform.

    Thanks, GOP.

  52. Shrike, I doubt Delay twisted those seven Democrats arms. IIRC it was a few holdout Republicans that were threatened with losing campaign funds if they voted nay. The Democrats weren’t for this particular bill BECAUSE IT WASN”T BIG ENOUGH.

  53. In fact, please explain what Tom Delay could hold over a Democrat to get their vote.

  54. Shrike, I doubt Delay twisted those seven Democrats arms. IIRC it was a few holdout Republicans that were threatened with losing campaign funds if they voted nay. The Democrats weren’t for this particular bill BECAUSE IT WASN”T BIG ENOUGH.

    You never give in do you? Even faced with evidence of your ignorance in this particular subject.

    It’s ok. I know nothing about string theory. But once in a while I might pretend.

    You’re like Tall Dave and Guy Montag – way over your head here.

  55. The bill came to a vote at 3 a.m. on November 22. After 45 minutes, the bill was losing, 219-215, with David Wu (D-OR-1) not voting. Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Tom DeLay sought to convince some of dissenting Republicans to switch their votes, as they had in June. Istook, who had always been a wavering vote, consented quickly, producing a 218-216 tally. In a highly unusual move, the House leadership held the vote open for hours as they sought two more votes. Then-Representative Nick Smith (U.S. politician) (R-MI) claimed he was offered campaign funds for his son, who was running to replace him, in return for a change in his vote from “nay” to “yea,” but later recanted.[13]
    About 5:50 a.m., convinced Otter and Trent Franks (AZ-2) to switch their votes. With passage assured, Wu voted yea as well, and Democrats Calvin M. Dooley (CA-20), Jim Marshall (GA-3) and David Scott (GA-13) changed their votes to the affirmative. But Brad Miller (D-NC-13), and then, Republican John Culberson (TX-7), reversed their votes from “yea” to “nay”. The bill passed 220-215.

    (source – Wiki)

    Even Jeff Flake voted with the Dems.

    Why do you bother?

  56. Shrike is like joe, except with no brain and a hefty dose of methamphetamine.

  57. If tax cuts increase revenue and spending goes up the same amount, that is not a future tax increase.

    Sure it is. You have to pay interest on top of what was cut. Tax cuts without spending cuts are worthless. All you do is kick the can down the road.

  58. Here’s some evidence that it was Republicans with the sore arms:
    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F05E6DB123DF935A35751C1A9659C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all

    I watched the vote in disgust, so ignorance is a bogus charge.

  59. Actually, I probably wasn’t up until 3 am that night, but I watched the replay on C-span.

  60. Why is it defenders of the Laffer (laughable) Curve can never actually state the point on the curve where there is a balance.

    It’s just cut taxes all the time. Why not reduce them to zero by that logic.

    And I’m sure that several libertarians on the site would happily agree 😉

  61. What is a greater infringement on freedom? The government confiscating money from you for unnecessary and expensive wars across the globe or the government printing oodles of money and borrowing from foreign lenders to fund aforementioned wars, creating huge deficits and causing inflation and a falling dollar? The last eight years have been a bear market all, and good ol’ Clinton and Bush are the ones to blame.

  62. I was so sickened that I went to Canada for the worst of it.

  63. Shrike is like joe, except with no brain and a hefty dose of methamphetamine.

    But I cite my claims with evidence, asshole.

    Oh – I don’t see you’re credibility at work.

  64. I predict “Bush nostalgia”.

  65. BDB | November 17, 2008, 5:25pm | #

    Shrike is like joe, except with no brain and a hefty dose of methamphetamine.

    He seems to have cleaned himself up pretty well, then, because he smashed a put away on this thread.

  66. Hart is a damn good writer. I hope he keeps it up. He is funny, smart and willing to say what needs said.

  67. Ageed, Hart is brilliant. A true thinker and humorist, much akin to PJ O’Rourke. I, for one, am glad he surfaced.

  68. Always entertaining. He has a way of saying what all of us are thinking.

    Keep up the good work.

  69. Joe, you know damn well the the prescription drug benefit was a Democratic issue that Bush stole for political reasons. How about admitting that it was a gross expansion of entitlements? I didn’t think you would.

  70. That certainly demonstrates Bush’s loyalty to supposedly small-government principles. What a conservative guy.

  71. All religions are forms of faith

    Not mine.

  72. Let’s see, the Bush family has been in government for three generations and someone expects them to honestly hold small government principles?

  73. The Medicare drug program was a big expansion of entitlements.

    Is this imagined to be a controversial point? Because it’s not. Medicare Part D was a big expansion of entitlements.

    You’re a strange man, James.

  74. Bush usherd the prescription drug entitlement through Congress. What an idiot. And the LA Senator went to work for drug lobby at $2mil a yr after. THe GOP betrayed us, Hart is dead-on.
    And damn funny.

  75. Ron Hart possesses a penchant for brevity and independent thought that are sadly missing from our national dialogue. Perhaps this is attributable to the fact that he is relatively new to the journalistic cesspole and thereby not shackled to the politics of institutionalized opining. Or maybe he just doesn’t give a sh*t and speaks his mind.

  76. Hart is right when he says blending the social agenda of either Dems or Rupugs with the incompetence of government always yields bad outcomes.

  77. Let’s all bash Bush but based on intelligence and politial assessment Hussein planned to take over by force every middle east oil country. Euro weenies and the UN had no stomach for supporting the USA. Bush’s pursuit was vainglorious but will go down in history as a rightous effort.

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