It’s become something of a test of imagination for progressives to adequately express their anger and contempt for the 43d President of the United States as his destructive eight years in office finally come to an end.
New York Times columnist Bob Herbert gave it the college try yesterday:
When Mr. Bush officially takes his leave in three weeks (in reality, he checked out long ago), most Americans will be content to sigh good riddance. I disagree. I don’t think he should be allowed to slip quietly out of town. There should be a great hue and cry — a loud, collective angry howl, demonstrations with signs and bullhorns and fiery speeches — over the damage he’s done to this country
But the bigger kick in the butt to W. (who, like every unsuccessful president, is sure of his vindication by history) is coming from conservative Republicans, the same folk who hailed him as a world-historical titan not that very long ago. Check out this report from the Washington Times:
Republican Party officials say they will try next month to pass a resolution accusing President Bush and congressional Republican leaders of embracing “socialism,” underscoring deep dissension within the party at the end of Mr. Bush’s administration.
Those pushing the resolution, which will come before the Republican National Committee at its January meeting, say elected leaders need to be reminded of core principles. They said the RNC must take the dramatic step of wading into policy debates, which traditionally have been left to lawmakers.
“We can’t be a party of small government, free markets and low taxes while supporting bailouts and nationalizing industries, which lead to big government, socialism and high taxes at the expense of individual liberty and freedoms,” said Solomon Yue, an Oregon member and co-sponsor of a resolution that criticizes the U.S. government bailouts of the financial and auto industries. Republican National Committee Vice Chairman James Bopp Jr. wrote the resolution and asked the rest of the 168 voting members to sign it.
There have always been cranky conservatives who viewed the Bush administration–and before it, the Bush 41, Reagan, Ford, Nixon and Eisenhower administrations–as “liberal,” in the sense that they did not pursue politically suicidal assaults on the most popular elements of the New Deal and Great Society legacies. This goes back at least to Barry Goldwater’s dismissal of the Eisenhower administration as a “dime-store New Deal.”
So it’s not that surprising that many conservatives decided long before the financial bailouts of this autumn that Bush had failed through insufficient fidelity to the Cause; this was the semi-official Republican take on both the 2006 and 2008 electoral defeats.
But “socialism” is a pretty strong word to hurl at a Republican president who so frequently distinguished himself by playing to his party’s conservative base and expressing little but disdain for any Democrat not named Joe Lieberman.
There will inevitably be a few contrarians or sycophants who insist that Bush was a prophet without honor in his own country, though none will probably surpass in sheer hilarity Andrew Klaven’s comparison last summer of W. to the Batman of The Dark Knight.
In general, though, George W. Bush is leaving office without many friends. Unlike his equally failed predecessor, Herbert Hoover, W. can’t point back to the kind of pre-presidential triumphs that earned Hoover the eventually ironic nickname of The Great Humanitarian. There was a time when it sounded like rhetorical overkill when bloggers referred to Bush as the “Worst. President. Ever.” But at present you probably have to go back to James Buchanan for an analogue.
And now Bush is being anathemized by leaders in his own party with the scarlet letter of “socialism.” In the general happiness with which the back of him is being greeted by people all across the political spectrum, you’d have to say that he’s turned out to be a “uniter, not a divider” after all.