The essential George W. Bush

Andrew Sullivan wonders whether President Bush is a conservative. Sullivan concludes that Bush isn’t, at least not in the sense one usually associates with the word. I tend to agree with Sullivan. I think the Bush administration is essentially centrist and largely non-ideological in terms of its domestic policy. The major feature of its foreign policy — a proactive approach to defending the nation from terrorism — isn’t inherently conservative either, although, unfortunately, in the present milieu I suppose it can fairly be characterized as such.
The reality that this isn’t a particularly conservative administration is slowly dawning on many conservatives, and this realization is likely to cause growing consternation. I would note, however, that Bush is about as conservative as anyone Americans knowingly would have elected in 2000 and perhaps not much less conservative than anyone they would knowingly elect in 2004. But if the Bush administration is successful, it may be possible to elect someone more conservative in 2008. And the Senate is already more conservative than before thanks to Bush.
HINDROCKET ADDS: Well, don’t forget that he also cut our taxes. Someone who defends our country and cuts our taxes, and doesn’t go out of his way to trash our country’s history and culture, is a conservative by today’s standards. I’d obviously like to see more of an effort to cut spending and a more principled stance on issues like race discrimination. But I agree that the candidate I’d like to see in office will not, in today’s climate, get elected.
ONE MORE THOUGHT: It also occurs to me that President Bush, like Richard Nixon, is being defined by the people who hate him. Nixon was never very conservative; in terms of the issues that now separate politicians, he was quite liberal. But his image was formed by his enemies. Because he was hated by liberals, people thought of him as much more conservative than he really was. The same thing may be happening with Bush.


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