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The GOP Is Finally Debating Bush-Era Failures

David Frum comments [1] on the Republican divisions exposed at Saturday’s debate (via Dreher [2]):

For a decade and a half, Republicans have stifled internal debates about the George W. Bush presidency. They have preserved a more or less common front, by the more or less agreed upon device of not looking backward, not talking candidly, and focusing all their accumulated anger on the figure of Obama. The Trump candidacy has smashed all those coping mechanisms. Everything that was suppressed has been exposed, everything that went unsaid is being shouted aloud—and all before a jeering live audience, as angry itself as any of the angry men on the platform.

It’s not quite true that all of these things have gone unsaid for all this time. Dissenting Republicans and conservatives have been saying some version of them for the last fifteen years, and on some issues for much longer than that, but party and movement leaders weren’t interested in hearing any of it. On the contrary, they were determined to squelch internal debate and demonize those that made awkward and embarrassing criticisms of Bush and his allies from the right. The point is that there were plenty of opportunities in the last decade for the GOP and conservative movement to acknowledge the colossal errors of the Bush years and to try to learn from them, but their leaders were committed to making excuses and rationalizations for Bush-era failures long after Bush left office.

Republicans told themselves that the electoral defeats in 2006 and 2008 were flukes or simply the result of “wasteful spending,” which naturally didn’t include the trillions being wasted in an unnecessary foreign war. The fantasy that the “surge” was a great success was another way to avoid thinking about how disastrous and costly the war had been. Many Republicans took for granted that Bush had “won” the war by the end of his presidency, which was even more absurd but extremely convenient for the war’s supporters. Midterm victories in 2010 and 2014 helped the party to avoid reckoning with the toxic Bush legacy a little longer. The last two presidential nominees were either identified closely with major parts of Bush’s agenda or had no substantial disagreements with most of it. Each time the GOP could have repudiated Bush, it mostly chose to reaffirm support for him and what he had done. That they chose to do this year after year is all the more bizarre when one remembers that Bush left office with one of the lowest approval ratings of all time. The more that the country rejected Bush, the more desperately party and movement leaders clung to him and ensured that his toxicity would continue to poison the party for many more years.

In his own hapless way, Jeb Bush forced the issue by running for president. He made all of his brother’s failures fair game for criticism from the other candidates when he insisted on defending his brother’s record. Because Jeb Bush has been one of the more vocal opponents of Trump, he encouraged Trump to become the most vocally anti-Bush Republican in the field. The Bush dynasty is fortunately coming to an end, but not before one of its members unwittingly created the opening for Republicans to have the debate about the disastrous Bush administration that they have avoided having for ten years.

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56 Comments To "The GOP Is Finally Debating Bush-Era Failures"

#1 Comment By steve wilson On February 17, 2016 @ 11:11 pm

And the worst of W is that we are stuck with obama because he was a disaster.

#2 Comment By Bobloblaw On February 18, 2016 @ 4:19 am

“”Just think if we had taken the trillions wasted in Iraq and invested in our infrastructure and education.”””

“At one point we were buying brand-new garbage trucks for the Iraqis as California was buying used ones. Incredible really.””

You mean we haven’t spent trillions on education and infrastructure already? Why is it the Feds job to buy garbage trucks for California?

#3 Comment By Bobloblaw On February 18, 2016 @ 4:26 am

“”Two facts that are true for everyone between the ages of 18 and 64 are that the best and worst presidents of your lifetime are Bill Clinton and George W Bush respectively”””

There are a lot of 64 year olds not alive today because a guy named LBJ lied about the Gulf Tonkin and got 58,000 Americans killed. Thus far US involvement in Vietnam had far worse ramifications than Iraq. Isis is bad but pails in comparison to the Khamer Rouge. As for Clinton the best. What did he do exactly except after 1994, embrace Reagan’s economic legacy?

#4 Comment By pauln On February 18, 2016 @ 10:54 am

Couple of follow up comments.

1. In adding up the awfulness of Dubya, he also had Congress slip in a law making it impossible for people to declare bankruptcy over student loans. Say hello to debtor’s prison, everybody.

2. As much as it pains me to say this (and my degree is in Economics, so it really pains me to say this) for all his faults, Nixon was a committed idealist for Peace, and helped to step the entire world away from war. Since his sacking, which I think was related to this fact, both Parties have been all war, all the time. Worth thinking about.

#5 Comment By Vito Danelli On February 18, 2016 @ 1:24 pm

Bruce Bartlett has been on the congressional staffs of Ron Paul and Jack Kemp, worked for Ronald Reagan in the White House and at the Treasury Department for George H.W. Bush.

Bartlett lost his think tank job in 2006 when he wrote a book “Impostor: How George W Bush Betrayed the Reagan Revolution and Bankrupted the Country” – in 2006 no less.

#6 Comment By EliteCommInc. On February 18, 2016 @ 11:26 pm

“Bartlett lost his think tank job in 2006 when he wrote a book “Impostor: How George W Bush Betrayed the Reagan Revolution and Bankrupted the Country” – in 2006 no less.”

Given the fact, that the country was already deeply in debt and the supposed surplus never existed save in myth and a final and,

Pres. Regan engaged in deficit spending as well, I m unclear just what revolution is being discussed here.

If we are going to be punching sacred cows.