A year and a half ago, when we graded the president on fulfilling Reagan’s legacy, I wondered if we spent so much defending him because:
his critics, particularly those on the gay left, make such outlandish (and very often inaccurate) accusations against him. Had they made more responsible critiques, they might find us less critical of them.
As our report card showed, we found that the president deserved criticism in a number of areas, most notably federal spending and federalism.
Too often it seems that the president’s critics come from the fringes. They fault him not only for his policies, but at the same time also accuse him of being a horrible, no good, very bad person, seeing his position only as a means of power for himself and of financial gain for his cronies.
Yet, conservatives bloggers (and pundits) have, like us, taken issue with the president in a civil manner. We have even on occasion found such civil criticism on liberal web-sites and editorial pages.
These past few weeks, I have been reading about two books, each of which (at least according to the reviews I have read) offers some pretty judicious criticism of the president without, at the same time, faulting him for being simultaneously dark, dangerous and dastardly. Last night, I bought Alan Greenspan’s The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World and immediately started reading it. (To be sure, the book is a memoir of the immediate past Federal Reserve chair, more than just a critique of the current administration.)
While Matthew Benjamin calls the tome gift to Democrats and grenade for Republicans, I see it instead as a tonic for my party. In the book, the former Federal Reserve chairman reportedly skewers “President George W. Bush and congressional Republicans for what he said was reckless spending and a politically driven economic agenda and said they deserved to lose control of Congress in 2006.” We Republicans need this reminder that if we attempt to retain power by sacrificing our principles, we will be left bereft, standing for nothing and out of power.
In the second book, The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment Inside the Bush Administration, Jack Goldsmith considers his time as head of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department where he advised the president on the laws governing the War on Terror.
While many of the reviews have focused on Goldsmith’s criticism of the president’s methods, he also notes, in Michael Barone’s words, how “the administration has been strangled by law, and since September 11, 2001, this war has been lawyered to death.” From what I’ve read about the book, it seems Goldsmith gets at one of the key flaws of the president, that he did not work as well with Congress as he could (and should) have. Barone writes:
argues that the administration would have ended up with more latitude in fighting terrorism if it had worked with Congress to get legislation, even if those laws would not have been as expansive as the administration wanted. It’s a serious argument, and he also presents fairly
It’s too bad that more critics of the president don’t make the effort as Goldsmith and Greenspan apparently have to make such serious arguments in a similarly fair manner.
As my schedule permits, I look forward to reading both books. Let us hope as well that other Republicans take the time to consider these two conservatives’ criticism lest they repeat the mistakes of the incumbent and his party in recent years.