Wednesday, April 04, 2007

'Regretting Bush'

That's the title of this post. The writer? A political conservative and an evangelical Christian, Will Hinton. Whether you agree with him or not, like everything Hinton writes, it's interesting.


Charlie said...

I think it would be interesting to look at 2nd-term presidents and see just how many remained popular until the end, especially with their own party. The sort of party unity that happens around elections to get your man in office soon falls apart as various factions try to get the sitting president to embrace their pet projects. At the end of eight years there are bound to be a number of dissatisfied people who feel the president failed them, and the party. He didn't do what they would have done in his place. He squandered his opportunity. He moved the party in the wrong direction, etc.

I don't think this is news. War makes any ordinary presidential term of office all the more damaging to the president. Look at how unpopular Lincoln was before his death. We venerate him now, but "his" war killed hundreds of thousands and literally ripped the nation apart. As a result of the war and his stand on slavery he had very few friends at the end.

In most cases, by the end of 8 years we're glad to see a president leave office. They have become too human. We start off with high hopes, but soon they let us down and we start looking ahead to the next candidate, the next miracle worker, the next messiah. Maybe the problem isn't our political candidates but our own unrealistic expectations of ordinary men and women and their ordinary human limitations.

Mark Daniels said...

There's a lot of wisdom to what you say here and second terms are notoriously difficult for presidents. Only Eisenhower and Reagan of recent chief executives have left office with their popularity intact and Reagan was remarkable for having rebounded after his approval ratings had tanked.

Wars, while they're going on, are generally good for presidential popularity. It's usually only after wars have ended that wartime leaders or their parties are punished at the polls.

Lincoln was subjected to vicious attacks during his tenure, of course. But his performance in the 1864 election indicates that he had broad popular support.

I do think that he would have experienced a significant loss of support after the war had he survived however. The same radical Republican forces who bedeviled Andrew Johnson would have gone after Lincoln and his reconstruction program. The difference might have been that Lincoln was a fantastic politician who already had years of experience in dealing with the radicals. Jefferson was dogmatic and unable to even give the appearance of compromise.

Given the attack on the United States on September 11, 2001, one might have reasonably expected President Bush to enjoy ongoing support from the American people like that of President Roosevelt following the attack on Pearl Harbor. But that hasn't been the case.

Is the President's low public approval and low approval even within his own party attributable to war weariness? In part, I guess. But many conservatives--including George Will, William Buckley, Joe Scarborough, Tucker Carlson, and others--have opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning. They've described it as Wilsonian. These folks wouldn't be war-weary if they thought that the war was a good idea in the first place.

But they deem the war inconsistent with conservative principles, along with the spending of the past six years. This is where I think conservatives like Will Hinton are coming from.

Thanks, Charlie, for your comments!


Charlie said...

Thank you, Mark. You make a number of good points, as usual. Perhaps the crux of Bush's problem is just as you say, that the war and his interpretations of conservatism have given a number of Republicans doubts about whether Bush is a "true" conservative.