Has Bush changed his ideology?

An article on how President Bush has gotten more and more liberal in his second term, culminating in his massive takeover of the financial sector. So why don’t liberals give him any credit for this?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Bruce

    I’ve read how Bush in his first term kept optimistically expecting that, if he went halfway with the Dems, they’d meet him halfway. Since this has failed to happen over and over, one may have to conclude he’s a slow learner.
    One saw it with the medicaid funding, first term. However, I am not sure the octopus we’re currently wrestling is completely the same thing.

  • fw

    clinton was arguably more conservative fiscally than most republicans. his welfare reform was something republicans had been trying to do for years. he balanced the budget and gave us a surplus. individual incomes rose.

    Bush never has been a conservative. not on foreign policy (his dad was a conservative there), not on financial issues. most certainly not on constitutional issues. his stand on abortion is his sole claim.

    credit for what exactly dr vieth? this crisis is a direct result of the gramm bill in 1999 that dismantled govt regulation of bank and security firms.

    I do not agree that deregulation is a conservative position. yet you seem to have drunk the kool-aid on this one.

    read adam smith. he has alot to say about how markets need to be governed by the rule of law to prevent excess (government regulation!). I do not believe adam smith would be considered liberal.

  • Kirk

    My theory on executive leadership is that ideology has little hope in the face of pragmatics. Executives campaign on their respective conservative or liberal ideology, but once they’re in office they swing towards a mean of moderation. The simple fact is that a wholly conservative or a wholly liberal political agenda rarely lasts when the stuff hits the fan. Whether out of expedience or necessity, politicians sacrifice tenants of their ideology in order to get the job done.

    In the case at hand, Bush advocated an extremely free market, but now faces the likelihood of an economic disaster. So, he sacrificed his viewpoint out of necessity and took a more leftist approach to the problem. As for why liberals won’t give him credit, well, logic hasn’t always been a huge factor in partisan politics. Why change now?

  • http://necessaryroughness.org Dan at Necessary Roughness

    fw:

    Agreeing with most of what you say here, but I’d go further back to Carter to blame for this crisis. The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 forced banks to make high-risk loans to low wage-earners that they wouldn’t have made normally. Clinton’s changes in 1995 accelerated the creation of bad loans.

    This has not been a free market for some time.

  • Joe

    “credit for what exactly dr vieth? this crisis is a direct result of the gramm bill in 1999 that dismantled govt regulation of bank and security firms.”

    fw – you do realize that Bush was not president in 1999 – so it is pretty hard to imput blame to him for this bill.

  • Manxman

    Bush is a pragmatist and a globalist – the terms liberal & conservative don’t fit a person like this.

  • kerner

    Bush has always been a socialk conservative, but he has governed as a fiscal liberal. I don’t know if Bush was always a globalist, as he talked a pretty isolationist game in the 2000 campaign. But after 9/11, Bush’s response was to become very interventionist abroad, and I’m not sure whether that was conservative or not.

    Liberals will never give him any credit (well, Bono gave him credit for fighting AIDS in africa) because they hate him for disrupting their own quest for power.

  • Peter Leavitt

    fw, you have the CRA part right, though you’re way off base with credit for what exactly dr vieth? this crisis is a direct result of the gramm bill in 1999 that dismantled govt regulation of bank and security firms.

    The Gramm bill basically repealed Glass Steagall that during the Depression split the investment sides off from the commerciual banks. Gramm had bi-partisan support for it with a 362-57 vote in the House and a 90-8 vote in the Senate.

    The Gramm bill allowed the commercial banks to do investment banking once again. This recently helped the financial creisis by allowing Bear Stearns to join the J.P Morgan bank, Merrill to join the Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to convert to from investment to commercial bank legal status.

    The Gramm bill was carefully considered by Congress that for good reason bought the argument that the public interest was best served by allowing commercial banks to do investment banking within the context of stric t regulation. In fact the commercail banks that held toxic mortgage paper have come out of this crisis in better shape due to having more stringent capitalization requirements.

    That the Gramm bill is a major cause of the mortgage marke tmeltdown is a canard.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    Note: I think we need to goo back and look at the defintion of conservative and liberal, econmically, socially, wrt foreign policy etc. Also note that the American understanding of those terms differ from other countries quite often – I’m not saying one side is right and the other wrong, but it would help if those terms are defined when used so that we don’t argue pass each other. Maybe Gene could define those words as he understands them, since this is his blog?

  • Sam

    Veith wrongly describes the article as saying that Bush has gotten more and more liberal in his second term. I think this is because Veith sees liberal as the only alternative to anything that cannot be called conservative. Scylding’s point @9 about definitions is well taken.
    But the article does not say that Bush has gotten more liberal. Rather, it merely quotes many who are disappointed that Bush does not govern as they think an ideological conservative should. No liberal is quoted as saying that Bush governs like a liberal.
    The best quote, in my view, is from a professor who describes Bush as governing pragmatically.
    Had I been asked, I would have said that he has governed more incompetently than any past president, and pointed to 9/11, Iraq, FISA, Katrina, and our current economic meltdown. Good riddance, George II.

  • Don S

    Sam, I’m glad you weren’t asked, because that is a simplistic and highly partisan answer, to simply blame all things entirely on Bush. 9/11 occurred 8 months after he took office — Clinton had no part in the blame for that? Even though Clinton’s response to the 1993 World Trade Center bombings, his attempts to capture/kill Osama bin Laden, his response to the Cole bombing, etc. ,etc. were all laughably inept? Iraq has certainly been difficult, but is by no means an abject failure. We have ridded ourselves of a true enemy of the U.S. and a de-stabilizing force in the Middle East, and at this point we have the chance to substitute a U.S. – friendly government. At the least, the jury is out on Iraq. FISA is also open to interpretation, but was certainly an understandable response to 9/11 and its aftermath. Katrina was unfairly laid on Bush’s shoulders for wholly political reasons. Sure the feds were inept, but the local city and state governments, run by Democrats, botched the whole thing from start to finish, in the evacuation and first responder stages, as well as in the preparation (or lack thereof) for the inevitable big hurricane over years prior.

    To lay the current economic meltdown in Bush’s lap is just plain silliness. Not even the Democrats in government are doing that. They recognize that this is a bi-partisan issue, primarily brought on by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, which are more Democratic than Republican institutions.

    As for Bush’s governance, he identified himself at the outset as a “compassionate conservative”, and I think we got what those of us on the right feared — a guy who is not afraid of a government-oriented solution to domestic issues.

  • Anon

    He is still pro-life and pro-family, and the two highest goals and organizing principles for today’s “progressives” are abortion and homosexual abomination.

  • Peter Leavitt

    We’ve been lucky for the most part to have Bush. He has stood up to the terrorists and bids fair to win the war in Iraq. He has held the line on stem-cell research and appointed two conservative justics to the Supreme Court, He, also, lowered taxes in a way that has helped all classes of people and increased federal revenue.

    My only serious issue with him is that he hasn’t stood up to the congress on fiscal matters and has strained the budget with some of his own budget including the prescription drug pogram and the utopian No Child Left Behind flim flam.

    In time would guess that Bush will be known as one of the better modern presidents who had the courage to make bold and unpopular decisions that led to the liberation of Iraq and to the steering the Supreme Court in a better direction, all of which could be put in jeopardy by an Obama presidency that would probably by comparison make Carter seem like a statesman.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    Anon: Instead of simplistic sloganeering, please tell us what you see as conservative and liberal.

    But in Iwould like to see the defintions of conservative and liberal as used here, especialy by Vieth, but also by the other commenters. I think there is far too much rhetoric without clarification of the terminology concerned.

    Please?

  • Joe

    “I think there is far too much rhetoric without clarification of the terminology concerned.”

    I think part fo the problem is that these are not defined (or definable?) terms – not just here but in the abstract.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    Joe: Well, undefinable terms are not worth using. However, even if folks just clarified their own use of the terms, it would be helpful. I’m the last one even to imagine that a consensus on the terminology is possible.

  • kerner

    To me, “conservative” means less government whenever possible, and free markets whenever possible. It does also mean a strong national defense, but I have trouble with labeling a military commitments overseas as liberal or conservative, because I think that the circumstances under which these commitments are considered makes a lot of difference.

    On the other hand, “social conservatism” ought to be more of a personal thing rather than governmental policy. Abortion may seem like an exception, but when you factor in the government’s legitimate duty to protect the lives of its citizens, especially the most helpless, then it fits right in.

  • fw

    and you all identify republicans as being more conservative than democrats these days, for what reason????

  • Peter Leavitt

    Lets not get hung up with an abstract discussion of terms. Veith is clear on this thread that liberlaism has to do with the expansion of government as opposed to the conservative view that favors a smaller government.

    In my view Bush, like most Republican presidents, favors smaller government, though the American people have become inured to large government and the Democrats have succeeded with their populist rhetoric when it comes to seriously cutting the budget and, for example, partially privatizing Social Security, as Bush seriously proposed.

    Fortunately, the private sector has managed about a fourteen $trillion dollar per annum economy that manages to compensate for vastly ineffecient public spending all levels of government.

    At any rate, the real problem of our nation- and the West- has to do mainly with the moral and ethical decadence brought on by the secular establishment. Fortunately, blogs likes this and many other signs point to a resurgence of serious religion.

  • kerner

    Peter:

    But the government, and certainly government spending, have undeniably grown a lot under Pres. Bush. Frankly, this is why it has always bugged me when people have called Bush “conservative” and McCain “not really conservative”. In the control the growth of government and government spending sense, McCain is probably more conservative than Bush has turned out to be.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    Peter, I would prefer to hear from Veith as to his own use of the terms – because the terms liberal and conservative are being thrown about willy nilly in many different contexts, not just size of government. But having a discussion without at least attempting to clarify your terminology is, well, not such a bright idea. I think you did mention something, however, which is useful, by using the word secular instead of liberal. That is a clearer term, at least.

    What I’m also getting at is the foam-at-the-mouth hysteria some seem to resort to whenever they hear/read the word liberal, without even bothering to define what it is. I’m not talking about Veith here, though.

    To give an example which could be useful: In Britain, the word conservative is often linked to privelege, aristocracy and upper class, while liberal is linked to labour, blue collar and “the people”. Maggie Thatcher was a bit atypical, but it is noteworthy that Blair was an economic Thatcherite, but from Labour (ie, a liberal). In South Africa liberal is more difficult to pin down, but either indicate people-friendle, bigger government, or Thatcherite economics. Conservative means old-school, big government, nationalist views.

    Now this is an American blog, but from the comments here I have come to the conclusion that many of the commenters go glassye-eyed/wild-eyed when these terms are mentioned (Bit like Linus’ Wild Eyed Fanticism lol). Hence my request. Comprehendo?

  • Sam

    Whatever compass Bush uses to guide his decisions, it is not found in this portion of the 2008 GOP platform.

    http://www.gop.com/2008Platform/Economy.htm

    “We do not support government bailouts of private institutions. Government interference in the markets exacerbates problems in the marketplace and causes the free market to take longer to correct itself. We believe in the free market as the best tool to sustained prosperity and opportunity for all.”

  • Reg W Schofield

    What I find funny is all the hand wringing by the ultra conservatives over the money used to stop the fall of AIG. If nothing was down the impact on citizens and the market would have been devastating . Things have changed immensely over the last 70 years and that type of extreme fiscal conservatism doesn’t fly with me no more . I’m all for smaller government but do not have a problem with the government helping stabilize markets .

  • Anon

    Adherance to the Word of God, and thus liking the Declaration of Independence and the Philadelphia Constitution as manifestations of Christian political thought is a very different position that wishing all power, including that formerly exercised by families and the voluntary organizations, along with all earnings of the People, to be exercised by the State. I don’t care what names you give the two positions, as long as you are consistent.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    How about we just use:

    Conservative: Whatever positions I agree with

    Liberal: Whatever positions I wish to demonize

    Would that work?

  • Sam

    tODD, if I may amend slightly.

    Conservative: Whatever positions the Lord and I agree with.

    Liberal: Whatever positions the Lord and I wish to demonize.

  • fw

    #27 todd and sam..

    heck naw.

    Conservative: Palin and Mc Cain are jus regular folk and they are sooooo likeable. Why can´t the press just leave them alone and stop persecuting them unfairly. Why is it they keep after Palin to give interviews?
    (not nothing really about “positions” not that they really have any).

    Liberal: Their positions have something to do with comprehensively teaching kindergarteners about sex, a radical homosexual agenda (they want to get married and have families), and reading terrorists their rights,and they want women to have lots of abortions. and their patriotism is suspect. To accurately summarize the core democratic agenda that they will implement as priorities and have been implementing in the democratic congress.

    And oh, almost forgot, they want to nationalize some of the largest financial institutions in the world along with heavily subsidize the auto industry, and expand the role of the federal government. Things that, as we know, republicans would never support because they are in favor of shrinking government at the same time they cut taxes. They would never give us a tax cut with borrowed money during a war like we suspect the democrats would do if they were ever in power.

    oops, somehow those sneaky democrats managed to do ALL these things without even being in control of congress or the white house….THEY are to blame for the current mess we are in.

  • Peter Leavitt

    kerner at #20, I agree that McCain would be more serious than Bush on fiscal matters.

    Reg Schofield, I agree that the AIG bailout was necessary. Also, Paulson and Bernanke are right that a program to buy up these toxic mortgage assets is necessary to restore confidence in the credit markets. While far from certain, there is good reason to think that if these presently punk assets are held long enough for the housing market to recover the cost will be much less than the 700 $billion to one $trillion.

  • kerner

    Aw, come on tODD, fw, and even Sam, I KNOW you guys have serious definitions of what it means to be liberal or conservative in mind. Care to share them, or is it more fun to be sarcastic?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kerner (@29), I don’t think I do have a good definition for “liberal” (Lib) or “conservative” (Con). I think those terms are problematic.

    I mean, I do understand what those terms mean, but I don’t always use them the same in different contexts. This is, in fact, the way many people use them. From a descriptivist point of view, we should consider not what I think the words mean, but what people seem to. In that case, I think the majority of Americans believe that Lib=”Democratic” and Con=”Republican.” Of course, that renders the words somewhat useless, and, to those who know a little something about politics, absurd, especially given recent administrations.

    We could try to embrace the root meanings of the words, in which Cons value tradition and maintain the “way things were”, while Libs are open to new ways of doing things, but again, this is unsatisfying, since one necessarily has to define a timeframe. Is a new thing that’s been around for 10 years still new? How about 50? 100? If you try to repeal something that’s been around for 100 years, are you a Lib or a Con? If you try to do new things to conserve the environment (that is, maintain its state), are you a Lib or a Con?

    After that, in my opinion, the words fail to be defined simply (that is, using a unified ideology), and merely become laundry lists of issues and policies, roughly lining up with Lib=”Democratic” and Con=”Republican”, with the understanding that the parties are referred to “as I wish they were”, not as they actually are.

    Thus my flip response (@25). I find the whole thing hopeless, and especially in the case of “conservative”, a wrangling over a brand name, rather than an attempt to define.

    And, in the case of Bush, to cynical ol’ me it seems that labeling him or his actions “liberal” is a way for Republicans to throw him under the bus in time for election season: “Who, him? Oh, we never really believed in that guy, anyhow. He’s not one of us. Don’t mark him among our number when you consider our party. Apostate.”

    This works, of course, because (in spite, you know, of the liberal (ahem) media’s control of our dialog) conservatives (whoever they are) have succeeded in negatively branding the term “liberal”, while “conservative” still retains most of its sheen (unless abbreviated, as in neo-con).

  • truth seeker

    For the very same reason that conservatives wouldn’t give credit to a liberal president who became more conservative over his presidency. Most people hold on too tightly to labels and party lines.


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