Thursday, November 18, 2010

Missing Bush

The newest liberal to suddenly discover that George W. Bush was actually a moderate is Washington Post columnist, E. J. Dionne Jr. He begins:

Will the Tea Party sell out for a mess of pottage in the form of a ban on earmarks?

That's one possibility. But another is that this embrace of a purely symbolic approach to deficit reduction is a sign that the Tea Party's central goals may lie elsewhere - in an effort to push the Republican Party away from those aspects of George W. Bush's legacy that tried to steer the conservative movement in a new direction. The real point may be to get the GOP to say goodbye to the idea of a compassionate conservatism and to Bush's peculiar but real brand of multiculturalism.

Dionne then goes on to compare Bush's multiculturalism and tolerance of Islam with the Tea Party.

It is notable, Gerstle adds, that at "a time in which the United States was at war and Europe was exploding with tension and violence over Islam, Bush played a positive role in keeping interethnic and interracial relations in the United States relatively calm."

Christopher Caldwell, a columnist for the Financial Times, was one of the first political writers to pick up on the significance of Gerstle's essay. Caldwell, an American conservative, used it to critique Bush's multicultural and compassion agenda and to explain the Tea Party's rise. Intriguingly, he suggests that "many of the Tea Party's gripes about President Barack Obama can also be laid at the door of Mr. Bush."

I will not disagree with this last statement - that many of Obama's excesses began in the Bush administration. I do argue with his assertion here and in a linked document that the Tea Party:

Finally (and related to these findings): while there is considerable overlap between the Tea Party movement and religious conservatism, there is evidence that the Tea Party may represent not so much a more libertarian alternative to the Christian Right as an embodiment of a more critical or even hostile attitude toward multiculturalism, immigration and the idea of compassionate conservatism put forward by former President George W. Bush.

Dionne is building a straw man here. He depicts a Tea Party that does not resemble the actual protesters then asks, "Why can't you be more like that nice George Bush?"

 It is ironic that during the eight years of the Bush administration, no one in the left would admit that Bush has many admirable traits. Only not that he is out of office will they admit that he wasn't so bad.

Another irony, and one that they will not admit, is that Obama has failed to match Bush on promoting tolerance and understanding. In the two years since Bush left office, anti-Muslim sentiment has grown and is now worse than immediately after 9/11. This has nothing to do with people protesting the size of government. It happened because of a vacuum in the White House. When Dionne talks about multicultural understanding under Bush, he is indirectly pointing out the lack of it from President Obama.

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