Bushism on steroids?

The Washington Times may be fading away, but here is a parting shot from columnist Jeffrey T. Kuhner:

The past decade will be remembered as the pivotal tipping point where the United States ceased to be a superpower. Like the Roman Empire in its later stages, America’s imperial grandeur masked moral rot and economic decay.

The beginning of the 21st century promised continued U.S. global dominance. Our economic might seemed unrivaled; the dot-com boom had not yet gone bust. Washington was still basking in the warm glow of its victory in the Cold War. America bestrode the world like a military and economic colossus.

The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks changed everything. Like Rome and Imperial Britain, the United States embarked upon costly, prolonged wars in far-away countries. The result is that America remains mired in Iraq and Afghanistan. The two wars have cost more than 5,200 dead and $1 trillion with no victory or end in sight.

The fundamental mistake was made by President Bush. Contrary to popular myth, Mr. Bush was not a unilateralist conservative traditionalist; rather, he was a Great Society Republican who championed nation-building abroad and Big Government corporatism at home. Our goal should have been to smash the forces of global jihad through a strategy of total victory through total war – just as in World War II, when every domestic priority was subordinated to defeating the Axis Powers.

Instead, Mr. Bush tried to plant democracy in the sands of Mesopotamia and the stony soil of Afghanistan. He followed a foolish – and ultimately, destructive – policy of seeking to implement social engineering, nation-building projects. The result was imperial overstretch.

Moreover, he also stressed that America could have both guns and butter.

There was no need to choose. Tax cuts, federalizing education, a massive Medicare prescription drug plan, runaway government spending, soaring deficits, huge bank bailouts and expensive stimulus programs – Mr. Bush’s brand of corporatist Keynesianism paved the way for socialism and reckless spending.

President Obama is making the same mistake. He is not the antithesis of Mr. Bush, but his culmination. Mr. Obama represents Bushism on steroids. He is seeking to erect a European-style social democracy characterized by a bloated public sector, a burdensome welfare state, economic sclerosis and foreign policy impotence.

This is a strong indictment of BOTH President Bush AND President Obama. It is surely an insult to both Republicans and Democrats to say that their guy is the same as his opponent. Does the author have a point? Can you defend your guy against his charges?

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.

  • David T.

    Many Republicans predicted this of Bush even before he was elected president in 2000. He was conservative on certain social issues, but always saw government as a solution for most everything. This approach defacto undermines the rights and responsibilities of the individual and the estate of the Family.
    Kuhner sees things quite clearly.

  • David T.

    Many Republicans predicted this of Bush even before he was elected president in 2000. He was conservative on certain social issues, but always saw government as a solution for most everything. This approach defacto undermines the rights and responsibilities of the individual and the estate of the Family.
    Kuhner sees things quite clearly.

  • http://www.christlutheran.net Jeff Samelson

    Which raises the interesting question: what kind of candidate will the Republicans put forth in 2012? Someone more like Bush? Like Reagan? Like McCain? Ron Paul? It will be interesting to see.

  • http://www.christlutheran.net Jeff Samelson

    Which raises the interesting question: what kind of candidate will the Republicans put forth in 2012? Someone more like Bush? Like Reagan? Like McCain? Ron Paul? It will be interesting to see.

  • Joe

    This critic of Bush’s “Compasionate Conservatism” (i.e. read Big Gov’t) is accurate and reflects why I did not vote for him in the 2000 primary. I also think his depiction of Bush’s nation building mind-set is fair. I am just not sure I agree that it is a bad thing.

  • Joe

    This critic of Bush’s “Compasionate Conservatism” (i.e. read Big Gov’t) is accurate and reflects why I did not vote for him in the 2000 primary. I also think his depiction of Bush’s nation building mind-set is fair. I am just not sure I agree that it is a bad thing.

  • Booklover

    I agree that Bush went above and beyond what needed to be done overseas. Also, his federalization of education was greatly disheartening. When conservative Christians jumped on his bandwagon, it was dismaying.

    Do Presidents really have the power to do all these things on their own? Can’t anyone stop them?

  • Booklover

    I agree that Bush went above and beyond what needed to be done overseas. Also, his federalization of education was greatly disheartening. When conservative Christians jumped on his bandwagon, it was dismaying.

    Do Presidents really have the power to do all these things on their own? Can’t anyone stop them?

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Its like a giant prizefight and I got nobody in the arena.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Its like a giant prizefight and I got nobody in the arena.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Jeffrey Kuhner gets this backwards. The problem begins with the people, not the politicians. Bush was elected by the American people as a “compassionate” conservative and Obama was elected by the people as an “empathetic” liberal. In a democracy at the local, state, and national levels the people usually get the government they deserve.

    The fact is that virtually every government program has a political constituency that pushes hard to maintain programs and to add bigger and better ones. Americans talk a good game about small government but most of them, having become pampered by government programs, deep down wish for a nanny state. This Tea Party movement is yet another farce.

    Until the American people take full responsibility for their lives, including health care and retirement, then all too many of them will parasitically ask the government to do it for them.

    Underneath it all people tend to project onto the politicians their own grievous faults.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Jeffrey Kuhner gets this backwards. The problem begins with the people, not the politicians. Bush was elected by the American people as a “compassionate” conservative and Obama was elected by the people as an “empathetic” liberal. In a democracy at the local, state, and national levels the people usually get the government they deserve.

    The fact is that virtually every government program has a political constituency that pushes hard to maintain programs and to add bigger and better ones. Americans talk a good game about small government but most of them, having become pampered by government programs, deep down wish for a nanny state. This Tea Party movement is yet another farce.

    Until the American people take full responsibility for their lives, including health care and retirement, then all too many of them will parasitically ask the government to do it for them.

    Underneath it all people tend to project onto the politicians their own grievous faults.

  • Dan Kempin

    I cannot get by the statement that the US is “mired” in “wars” that have cost 5200 lives in almost ten years.

    The only “mire” has been the political whining and agitation which, I agree, has no victory or end in sight.

    5200 lives are certainly nothing to scoff at. Still, it is hardly a number that I would say “mires” a nation the size of the US in war. I would guess that the combined murders in Detroit and Los Angeles would total higher over the same period of time.

    Still, caricaturing and bashing our perceived opponents seems to be sufficient progress for most.

    I am very thankful for president Bush and I pray for president Obama.

  • Dan Kempin

    I cannot get by the statement that the US is “mired” in “wars” that have cost 5200 lives in almost ten years.

    The only “mire” has been the political whining and agitation which, I agree, has no victory or end in sight.

    5200 lives are certainly nothing to scoff at. Still, it is hardly a number that I would say “mires” a nation the size of the US in war. I would guess that the combined murders in Detroit and Los Angeles would total higher over the same period of time.

    Still, caricaturing and bashing our perceived opponents seems to be sufficient progress for most.

    I am very thankful for president Bush and I pray for president Obama.

  • DonS

    Peter @ 6 — well stated. The whole notion of a government being “compassionate”, when in fact everything it does is through coercion and the use of other peoples’ money, is absurd. Americans have chosen a nanny state over liberty.

  • DonS

    Peter @ 6 — well stated. The whole notion of a government being “compassionate”, when in fact everything it does is through coercion and the use of other peoples’ money, is absurd. Americans have chosen a nanny state over liberty.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Ah! If only I had waited until Obama had become President to lob all my criticisms at Bush, I would have had so much company! Instead, I had to suffer through piles of arguments about how history would vindicate him, possibly as one of the best Presidents ever blah blah blah. Fascinating to see how little time it took after Bush walked out the door before he got thrown under the bus.

    Of course, it’s all done in the service of tearing down the current President. Conservatives didn’t like people doing that to Bush when he’s in office, but they’ll gladly do it to him when he’s out of office, in order to take a shot at the guy in office.

    “Mr. Bush was … a Great Society Republican who championed nation-building abroad.” This is, of course, a simplistic statement. Bush campaigned in 2000 against nation-building. In fact, according to this article on the Army’s own history of Operation Enduring Freedom:

    The historians say resistance to providing more robust resources to Afghanistan had three sources in the White House and the Pentagon. First, President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had criticized using the military for peacekeeping and reconstruction in the Balkans during the 1990s. As a result, “nation building” carried a derogatory connotation for many senior military officials, even though American forces were being asked to fill gaping voids in the Afghan government after the Taliban’s fall.

    So one reason that we’re still in Afghanistan, 10 years later, is because of criticisms that Bush, et al., leveled against Clinton, preventing him from dedicating adequate resources to get the job done in Afghanistan. (And, of course, as the Army historians go on to note, resources were further diverted because of Iraq.)

    Also, to focus on just one of the many things Bush will be remembered for, I was unaware of Obama’s “Tax cuts! Tax cuts! Tax cuts!” position on solving economic woes.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Ah! If only I had waited until Obama had become President to lob all my criticisms at Bush, I would have had so much company! Instead, I had to suffer through piles of arguments about how history would vindicate him, possibly as one of the best Presidents ever blah blah blah. Fascinating to see how little time it took after Bush walked out the door before he got thrown under the bus.

    Of course, it’s all done in the service of tearing down the current President. Conservatives didn’t like people doing that to Bush when he’s in office, but they’ll gladly do it to him when he’s out of office, in order to take a shot at the guy in office.

    “Mr. Bush was … a Great Society Republican who championed nation-building abroad.” This is, of course, a simplistic statement. Bush campaigned in 2000 against nation-building. In fact, according to this article on the Army’s own history of Operation Enduring Freedom:

    The historians say resistance to providing more robust resources to Afghanistan had three sources in the White House and the Pentagon. First, President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had criticized using the military for peacekeeping and reconstruction in the Balkans during the 1990s. As a result, “nation building” carried a derogatory connotation for many senior military officials, even though American forces were being asked to fill gaping voids in the Afghan government after the Taliban’s fall.

    So one reason that we’re still in Afghanistan, 10 years later, is because of criticisms that Bush, et al., leveled against Clinton, preventing him from dedicating adequate resources to get the job done in Afghanistan. (And, of course, as the Army historians go on to note, resources were further diverted because of Iraq.)

    Also, to focus on just one of the many things Bush will be remembered for, I was unaware of Obama’s “Tax cuts! Tax cuts! Tax cuts!” position on solving economic woes.

  • Dan Kempin

    For the record, I do think Bush was a great president. Flawed, yes, but most of the criticisms for which he is being bashed by “conservatives,” I ascribe as a failure of the republican congress. They had a majority in both houses too, if you recall, and they decided to do nothing with it. (Give ‘dingy Harry’ and Nancy credit for that much–at least they are trying to implement their convictions.)

  • Dan Kempin

    For the record, I do think Bush was a great president. Flawed, yes, but most of the criticisms for which he is being bashed by “conservatives,” I ascribe as a failure of the republican congress. They had a majority in both houses too, if you recall, and they decided to do nothing with it. (Give ‘dingy Harry’ and Nancy credit for that much–at least they are trying to implement their convictions.)

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Dan’s right,except 5200 lives is about the death toll in LA alone for a little less than a decade. Detroit achieves that (?) in a little more time.

    And like Joe, I didn’t vote for Bush at any time. I voted against his opponents.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Dan’s right,except 5200 lives is about the death toll in LA alone for a little less than a decade. Detroit achieves that (?) in a little more time.

    And like Joe, I didn’t vote for Bush at any time. I voted against his opponents.

  • Economist Doug

    #9 Bush’s “Tax Cut, Tax Cut Tax Cut!!!” and Obama’s “Spend, Spend, Spend” surely have the same result:

    Massive deficits

    The only difference is the beneficiary. Obama predominantly sent increased spending to Democratic-leaning constituencies. Bush passed tax cuts that predominantly went to Republican-leaning constituencies.

    Although I don’t think even Bush could have imagined trillion dollar deficits year after year.

  • Economist Doug

    #9 Bush’s “Tax Cut, Tax Cut Tax Cut!!!” and Obama’s “Spend, Spend, Spend” surely have the same result:

    Massive deficits

    The only difference is the beneficiary. Obama predominantly sent increased spending to Democratic-leaning constituencies. Bush passed tax cuts that predominantly went to Republican-leaning constituencies.

    Although I don’t think even Bush could have imagined trillion dollar deficits year after year.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Doug (@12), but Bush was also “Spend, Spend, Spend”, which is why his tax cuts were so ill-conceived.

    Tax-and-spend is better than tax-less-but-still-spend-more-anyhow, as it were.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Doug (@12), but Bush was also “Spend, Spend, Spend”, which is why his tax cuts were so ill-conceived.

    Tax-and-spend is better than tax-less-but-still-spend-more-anyhow, as it were.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Bush actually moderated deficit spending during his second-term until the recession began in 20008. For an interesting chart of Bush and Obama actual and projected spending see Bush Deficit vs. Obama Deficit in Pictures .

  • Peter Leavitt

    Bush actually moderated deficit spending during his second-term until the recession began in 20008. For an interesting chart of Bush and Obama actual and projected spending see Bush Deficit vs. Obama Deficit in Pictures .

  • Economist Doug

    #13 You’ve mischaracterized the situation.

    Obama asked for $3.5 trillion in spending for the current fiscal year.

    President Obama increased discretionary spending by 13.6% in a single year.

    That’s roughly twice as much as Bush did in his most free spending year.

    The last Bush budget had a deficit of $407 billion.

    The White House doesn’t anticipate having deficits that low any time in Obama’s first term.

    So to correctly characterize it:

    Obama “SPEND, SPEND, SPEND, SPEND, SPEND, SPEND, SPEND”

  • Economist Doug

    #13 You’ve mischaracterized the situation.

    Obama asked for $3.5 trillion in spending for the current fiscal year.

    President Obama increased discretionary spending by 13.6% in a single year.

    That’s roughly twice as much as Bush did in his most free spending year.

    The last Bush budget had a deficit of $407 billion.

    The White House doesn’t anticipate having deficits that low any time in Obama’s first term.

    So to correctly characterize it:

    Obama “SPEND, SPEND, SPEND, SPEND, SPEND, SPEND, SPEND”

  • Economist Doug

    Honestly when I first read this post I thought it read “Buddhism on Steroids”.

  • Economist Doug

    Honestly when I first read this post I thought it read “Buddhism on Steroids”.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Doug (@15), as an economist, you almost certainly have a better grasp of things than I do, as well as better access to the facts you discuss. As it was, I spent a better part of tonight trying to track down data on discretionary spending over the years, and I’m a little confused.

    You said, “President Obama increased discretionary spending by 13.6% in a single year. That’s roughly twice as much as Bush did in his most free spending year.” Now, based on a spreadsheet I downloaded from GPOAccess.gov, the 2009 estimate on discretionary spending does appear to be 14% over what it was in 2008.

    However, if I am reading that spreadsheet correctly, it is not at all true that “that’s roughly twice as much as Bush did in his most free spending year.” The 2002 budget increased discretionary spending by 13% over the 2001 budget. And the 2003 budget increased discretionary spending by 12% over the 2002 budget. There were several other years that were more than half the percentage points of Obama’s increase, also.

    So either I don’t understand, or you got it wrong. If I got it wrong, please point to a data source to show me where I got it wrong, since I’m not so good at finding economic data easily, apparently.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Doug (@15), as an economist, you almost certainly have a better grasp of things than I do, as well as better access to the facts you discuss. As it was, I spent a better part of tonight trying to track down data on discretionary spending over the years, and I’m a little confused.

    You said, “President Obama increased discretionary spending by 13.6% in a single year. That’s roughly twice as much as Bush did in his most free spending year.” Now, based on a spreadsheet I downloaded from GPOAccess.gov, the 2009 estimate on discretionary spending does appear to be 14% over what it was in 2008.

    However, if I am reading that spreadsheet correctly, it is not at all true that “that’s roughly twice as much as Bush did in his most free spending year.” The 2002 budget increased discretionary spending by 13% over the 2001 budget. And the 2003 budget increased discretionary spending by 12% over the 2002 budget. There were several other years that were more than half the percentage points of Obama’s increase, also.

    So either I don’t understand, or you got it wrong. If I got it wrong, please point to a data source to show me where I got it wrong, since I’m not so good at finding economic data easily, apparently.

  • Economist Doug

    #17 I was referring to Bush’s final year as his “most free spending”. I can see how that would be deceptive. Apologies as I didn’t mean to give that impression.

  • Economist Doug

    #17 I was referring to Bush’s final year as his “most free spending”. I can see how that would be deceptive. Apologies as I didn’t mean to give that impression.

  • LAJ

    If the Republicans nominate another Bush or McCain,they will fail. People are beginning to realize that we need less government interferance. Partly because of the tea-party movement, a third party might just take over eventually or the Republican party will have to change dramatically. President Bush, however, did take the war on terror seriously, and worked day and night to keep America safe. Something this president needs to work on.

  • LAJ

    If the Republicans nominate another Bush or McCain,they will fail. People are beginning to realize that we need less government interferance. Partly because of the tea-party movement, a third party might just take over eventually or the Republican party will have to change dramatically. President Bush, however, did take the war on terror seriously, and worked day and night to keep America safe. Something this president needs to work on.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD, I think the people bashing Bush here are not the same who were defending him back in the day.

    In any case, I’ve been here all along bashing both Bush and Obama, so you’ve been in good company, even if I didn’t always express my sentiments (I’m often a lurker).

    As to the article, I think the author is quite correct, but others have been saying the same things since 2000 for bush, and since 2004 for Obama. A skillful use of rhetoric barely concealed the fact that both Bush and Obama were/are Wilsonian, social democrats. The electorate, in both 2000 and 2008, simply allowed itself to be deluded. I almost think willfully so.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD, I think the people bashing Bush here are not the same who were defending him back in the day.

    In any case, I’ve been here all along bashing both Bush and Obama, so you’ve been in good company, even if I didn’t always express my sentiments (I’m often a lurker).

    As to the article, I think the author is quite correct, but others have been saying the same things since 2000 for bush, and since 2004 for Obama. A skillful use of rhetoric barely concealed the fact that both Bush and Obama were/are Wilsonian, social democrats. The electorate, in both 2000 and 2008, simply allowed itself to be deluded. I almost think willfully so.

  • Cincinnatus

    Also, I would submit that your economic data dispute with Doug is, while merited in pursuit of precision, is ultimately a red herring. The point is that Bush was a big spender, and Obama an even bigger spender. Exact percentages between the two is hardly a fruitful debate. It’s like two high-school dropouts arguing over who is actually the most successful: ultimately they are both failures, even if one works minimum wage and the other makes a dollar more.

  • Cincinnatus

    Also, I would submit that your economic data dispute with Doug is, while merited in pursuit of precision, is ultimately a red herring. The point is that Bush was a big spender, and Obama an even bigger spender. Exact percentages between the two is hardly a fruitful debate. It’s like two high-school dropouts arguing over who is actually the most successful: ultimately they are both failures, even if one works minimum wage and the other makes a dollar more.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@20, 21), yes, some good points, even if I did have to raise an eyebrow at your referring to Bush’s “skillful use of rhetoric”. Yes, I know what you mean, and yet …

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@20, 21), yes, some good points, even if I did have to raise an eyebrow at your referring to Bush’s “skillful use of rhetoric”. Yes, I know what you mean, and yet …

  • Cincinnatus

    Ha…point taken, tODD (@22). I was referring to the overall campaigns, though.

  • Cincinnatus

    Ha…point taken, tODD (@22). I was referring to the overall campaigns, though.


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