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Bush’s Farewell Address & His Legacy

Sometimes when I watch a speech, see an item on the news or read something on the web, an idea hits me and I feel “compelled” to blog on it.  Other times, an idea steeps over time (as with my points on Bush’s mistakes).

And then there are times, when as a blogger, I write about something because my readers expect me to do just that.  I doubt I would have watched the presidential debates last fall had I not felt obligated to y’all to comment on these exchanges.

Tonight, however, I watched the president’s Farewell Address not because I felt obligated to, but because I wanted to.  I was curious to see how he would defend a tenure where he has had some remarkable successes and made some serious mistakes.

As our nation is about to inaugurate its first African-American president, it is interesting that two of the four men outgoing president singled out at the conclusion of his address are black.   Another is Hispanic.

And Bush began his final speech as president by offering kind words for his successor: “Standing on the steps of the Capitol will be a man whose story reflects the enduring promise of our land.  This is a moment of hope and pride for our whole Nation.”  It is indeed a moment of pride for our nation which once allowed the enslavement — and later sanctioned the discrimination — of individuals of African heritage.  Black slaves once built the White House.  Now, a black man will live there.

The president focused on his record in keeping us safe.  He cited the emerging democracies of Iraq and Afghanistan.  While he acknowledges there can be “legitimate debate” about many of the decisions he made

. . . there can be little debate about the results.  America has gone more than seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil.  This is a tribute to those who toil night and day and night to keep us safe — law enforcement officers, intelligence analysts, homeland security and diplomatic personnel, and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.

Note his grace in praising those who carried out his policies. He devoted a considerable amount of time to talking about the promise and meaning of America, contrasting our “guiding principles” with the ideology of our opponents in the current global struggle, our system “based on the conviction that freedom is the universal gift of Almighty God and that liberty and justice light the path to peace.”

Liberty, freedom. George W. Bush understands our founding ideal.

I will miss the moral clarity of his speeches on the War on Terror. Would it that he had delivered such addreses more often.


Broad Outline of Where W Went Wrong — Bullet Points

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 7:25 pm - January 15, 2009.
Filed under: Post 9-11 America,Where W went wrong

Given my tendency to write essays, I sometimes bury the meat of my posts after the jump.  So, I decided to separate post to list the conclusion of my prior post where I list the broad areas of President Bush’s failure.  I flesh them out a little in the post, so check it out to read my explanation.

But, if you’re pressed for time, here are the main reasons (in my view) for the slide in the president’s popularity in his the second half of his first term and his second term.

  1. Taking his popularity in the wake of 9/11 for granted and not doing enough to defend his character and promote his programs. (And as per Jack Goldsmith, this applies to the way he dealt with Congress.)
  2. Not realizing that the increased security expenditures in the wake of 9/11 should mean cuts from other areas of the budget.
  3. Seeing his reelection a a personal vindication and appointing cronies instead of competent conservatives to posts of power and influence.

Broad Outline of Where W Went Wrong

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 7:18 pm - January 15, 2009.
Filed under: Post 9-11 America,Where W went wrong

As President Bush prepares to deliver his farewell address, I thought I’d offer my broad overview of why, I believe, he lost the support of the American people and how he failed conservatives.

Later, either today, tomorrow or this weekend, I may use the text of that address to focus on his accomplishments. Despite his many blunders, he did accomplish a good deal, notably in keeping us safe since 9/11 and in appointing two responsible, intelligent and eminently qualified jurists to the Supreme Court.

While Bush has been anything but a conservative on fiscal issues, I don’t regret my vote for him in 2000 and 2004. Given the alternatives, I know we’d be in worse shape had Al Gore or John Kerry won. Gore’s behavior since his loss has shown he lacks the temperament to lead. And Kerry was too beholden to liberal opinion to develop a coherent strategy to face the threats abroad.

Since I’m going to focus on Bush’s failings, let me alert you to Fred Barnes’s piece listing ten things, he believes, the president got right. I agree with him on most of those.

While we can find many little mistakes over the course of the president’s eight-year tenure, I believe that many (if not most) of them stem from two things, taking his popularity for granted in the wake of 9/11 and misreading the 2004 election returns.

After 9/11, just by (by and large) doing the right thing, his popularity skyrocketed and remained high through the summer of 2003, the same time he tapped a overly deferential man lacking in public relations skills as his Press Secretary. Simply put, Scott McClellan was the wrong man to handle a press corps eager to under George W. Bush.

Even as the press became increasingly combative in 2002 and 2003, the public continued to rally around the president. He didn’t think he needed do anything to remain in the good graces of the American people. So, he didn’t work hard enough to burnish his image and defend his policies in the wake of unrelenting attacks on his character and motives.

At the same time as he requested larger federal outlays to meet the terrorist threat, he didn’t do anything to restrain domestic spending. It would seem that a responsible steward of the public treasury would say, if we need more to pay for this program, we’re going to have to take less to pay for that.


Given that Obama Supports “Tax Cuts” for Those Who Don’t Pay Taxes . . .

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 5:43 pm - January 15, 2009.
Filed under: Economy,Liberal Hypocrisy,Obama Watch

. . it makes sense he’d pick a man to serve as Treasury Secretary who took tax reimbursements for taxes he didn’t pay.

Conservatives’ Dinner with Obama

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 4:18 pm - January 15, 2009.
Filed under: Conservative Ideas,New Media,Obama Watch

When I heard that the president-elect had dined earlier this week with a number of leading conservatives, it seemed to confirm an impression I had formed of Barack Obama during the Democratic primaries:

He reminds me of those liberal activists I encountered in college, those who would come to hear visiting conservative speakers, ask questions in a civil tone and even amicably greet their Republican peers on campus.  In classroom discussions (in which [they] would often participate) [they] would usually chime in with the standard liberal idea du jour.

Those activists would often prepare for conservative lectures by boning up on the ideas of the speakers, tracking down their articles in various periodicals, borrowing their books from the library (this, in the days before the Internet).  Indeed, in interviews, Obama has frequently shown a familiarity with conservative ideas greater than that of most other prominent Democrats.

My guess is that the president-elect had an exchange with those pundits similar to those I frequently enjoyed with liberal students while at Williams (and later at the University of Virginia School of Law).  There was much disagreement, but respect for each other’s ideas.  He likely responded with argument, not innuendo or ad hominem.  Perhaps, in some cases, he didn’t offer an opinion one or the other while acknowledging the speaker had a point.

The guest list included some of the most thoughtful conservatives columnists, including four of my favorites, Michael Barone, Charles Krauthammer, Larry Kudlow and Peggy Noonan.  And since I’ve compared Peggy to the Greek goddess Athena, perhaps, I could call this a gathering of the Olympians of conservative opinion.

On his blog, Barone offered a short squib on the dinner, refraining from offering any details (except to acknowledge his presence) and suggesting that it was the pundits (host, George Will, perhaps?) who organized it:

I’m not going to write about any of the details here; it was off the record, as such gatherings must be, if people are to get above the level of frankness that obtains in public statements. But my observations will affect my writing in the weeks, months, and years ahead. A miffed talk-radio host notes that George W. Bush and previous Republican presidents did not dine with liberal journalists on coming to Washington. That’s not entirely true: The late Katharine Graham invited the Reagans and the George H. W. Bushes to dinner and cultivated a friendship with Nancy Reagan. But evidently no liberal journalist thought to send an invitation to the now outgoing president. Perhaps one should have.

I’d always thought one of Bush’s great mistakes was his failure to reach out to the liberal media (more on that later today). When I first heard of the dinner, I had assumed the president-elect intended to correct that flaw of his soon-to-be predecessor’s Administration.

If indeed the conservative journalists did instigate this dinner, this exonerates (at least in part) the president of that charge. And it puts them in a better light than their liberal media colleagues, ever eager to engage their ideological adversaries.  As it makes one wonder why, as Barone put it, “no liberal journalist thought to send an invitation to the now outgoing president.”

Finally, while I’m (obviously) eager to praise columnists I respect, fairness requires me to praise the presient-elect.  It speaks highly of the man that he would accept the invitation from columnists who have criticized him in print and pixel.  And it confirms my early assessment of the man. 🙂

Situational Partisan Inaugural Outrage

Welcome Ace of Spades and Instapundit Readers!!

So eager were left-wing bloggers (and sometimes even their allies in the MSM) to find fault with George W. Bush that they became outraged over actions he took which they would ignore, excuse or even praise if a Democrat (save perhaps Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primaries) had taken.   (What is it with the left and this need to manufacture outrage against approved targets?)

Remember how outraged Bush critics were just four years ago at the expense of Bush’s inaugural?

The current economic crisis, which some have called the worst since the Great Depression, has not deterred the organizers of Obama’s inaugural festivities from outspending the Bush team four years ago. So much do this year’s festivities cost that the outgoing president has declared an emergency to pay for it so his successor won’t have to spare any expense as he celebrates his swearing-in.

Indeed, “Barack Obama’s inauguration is set to cost more than £100m [$146 million] making it the most expensive swearing-in ceremony in US history.

The most expensive swearing-in ceremony in US History?  Where’s the outrage?  Oh, yeah, it’s a Democrat doing the spending so the standards are different.

UPDATE:  This year an AP reporter is defending the same extravagence one of her colleagues faulted four years ago.

Irresponsible State Legislators & California’s Fiscal Hole

On Sunday, while participating in a rally in support of Israel outside the federal building in Westwood, my former State Assemblyman Paul Koretz approached me, asking for my support in his current bid for LA City Council.  While I wondered at the appropriateness of his campaigning at the event, I took advantage of his approach to question his fiscal record.

First, I saw his current bid for elective office undermining the whole notion of citizen legislator. Some people just have to keep running for office.

When I moved to Southern California, Koretz was serving on the West Hollywood City Council.  In 2000, he ran for and won a seat in the California General Assembly.  Term-limited out in 2006, he announced shortly thereafter that he was running for LA City Council–which required him to move just so he could make another bid for elective office.

So, back to his fiscal record.  Given that California faces record budget deficits, I asked him if he had done anything to contain the size of state government.  He mumbled something about some expenditure he had looked into or some such.  I wondered whether he pressed the governor to dismiss the state employees hired during Gray Davis’s tenure in office, the point being that even as state revenues have declined, the size of the government has grown.

I reminded him of the difficult choices my brothers have had to make during the economic downturn, having to lay off employees so they can keep their business afloat.  Shouldn’t a state make a similar choice if it faces a revenue shortfall?

But, for the “past eight years,” to borrow an expression, in the Golden State, our elected officials have done little to cut state spending.  Instead of working to cut spending, Koretz introduced a resolution to impeach the president, something beyond the purview of a state legislature.

It’s not just in Washington where Democrats (and alas Republicans as well) don’t see deficits as an impediment to new government programs.