Friday, August 22, 2008
- Sixty-eight per cent. That is how much total federal spending rose under Bush. That is more than double the growth in federal spending over the eight years of Bill Clinton's presidency.
- Bush was aided and abetted by a Congress dominated by Republicans until 2006. Juicy spending bills were passed on everything from farm subsidies to health (up 44 per cent) and education (up 47 per cent). After all, Bush had run as a "compassionate conservative"; he introduced the largest new entitlement since the Great Society programs of the 1960s: a prescription drug benefit for seniors that will add a US$1.2-trillion liability over 10 years.
- Bush also asserted, and acted on, sweeping new claims of presidential power on issues to do with national security and foreign affairs. Rejecting the traditional division of power with Congress and the judiciary, Bush claimed that these areas were exclusively the province of the commander-in-chief. If Congress passed a statute to restrict or regulate his authority, he claimed the law would be unconstitutional and therefore not binding. ... He acted on his claim that the president can ignore statutes forbidding wiretapping of citizens in the U.S. without a prior judicial warrant, thereby setting a precedent that future presidents will be able to invoke if they, too, want to bypass a law.
- Bush tied his foreign policy to his faith: "From the day of our founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the maker of Heaven and earth. So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." [So much for the notion of the government existing to protect the citizens from foreign threats. --ed]
- "I don't think anyone can say the Iraq war was worth it," says Matthew Duss, research associate at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington. "I think we have averted what could have been a major, major disaster -- but that is not the same as saying we won. Even if Iraq became a Jeffersonian democracy, I don't think we can look at the people killed, maimed, displaced, and the billions we have spent to do this, as an acceptable cost." [Savage should have noted that in addition to freedom for a foreign people being the wrong primary motivation for a war, that Iraq as a base of operations for eliminating Iran as a threat was never taken advantage of. --ed]
- [Bush] leaves behind little coherent policy toward the emerging economic and military power of China. The relationship with Russia is in crisis. It is unclear whether Iran's nuclear ambitions are being successfully contained. The de-nuclearization of North Korea is proceeding [Is it? --ed], though at a snail's pace, but stockpiles of nuclear weapons continue to pose a threat to the world. [This deserves an entire article of similar length on its own. --ed]
- In the year 2000, the U.S. was spending US$140 million on AIDS programs around the world. Today, it is spending US$6 billion, and most of it is going to Africa. [Savage -- who headlines her article by accusing Bush of being "shockingly liberal" -- praises this. Redistributing wealth is not the proper purpose of government, however. Ditto for his efforts in the Sudan. --ed]
- Despite his pledges to do so in both inaugural speeches, he did not manage to put either Social Security or Medicare on solid financial footing for the future. [Or, better yet, abolish them. --ed]
- The issue of climate change is also a blank slate for his successor. [But not in the way, I am afraid, that Savage might mean. Bush should have made a principled stand against the government doing anything on this, but he has failed to do so. --ed]
If Bush's legacy is statist, it is because his ideology, Christian conservatism, is statist, and guides his actions. Savage, who I think is also a conservative, inadvertently demonstrates this in her own criticism of his presidency, which considers individual rights no better than Bush protected them. If Bush is "shockingly" liberal for increasing federal entitlement spending, how can he be praised for spending more of our money in Africa? Or is the flaw with "liberalism" that domestic spending is too "selfish", given that the money still hasn't left the country after having been lifted from our wallets?
If Savage's article is required reading for the facts it brings to our attention, I must once again point the interested reader to C. Bradley Thompson's "The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism" in The Objective Standard for its indispensable aid in the interpretation of those facts. Bush's failure as a president has not been because he wasn't conservative enough, it has been because conservatism is antithetical to individual rights.