- Our Party
Fred Barnes and the Legacy of Bush
Posted on Jan 12, 2009
As we move closer to Jan. 20 and the end of the Bush administration, the push to salvage the legacy of the Bush administration becomes stronger and stronger. However, even from an objective standpoint, there is little that Bush has done in the last eight years that has made America safer, stronger or freer. As a result, the clamoring to save-face have pushed Bush sycophants to unprecedented levels of absurdity.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the recent article published by The Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes about the "ten things the president got right."
The following are a handful of assertions made by Barnes as achievements of the Bush administration in the last eight years, and my responses to these statements:
Second, enhanced interrogation of terrorists. Along with use of secret prisons and wireless eavesdropping, this saved American lives. How many thousands of lives? We'll never know.
The idea that Bush has saved lives in the so-called "War on Terror" isn't exactly logical, and it isn't exactly true. Data compiled by the RAND Corporation actually shows dramatic increases in deaths caused by global terrorism following the election of George Bush to office.
But, that's the thing with things you don't know—you don't know them. Unfortunately, many neoconservatives struggling to find some redeeming value of the last eight years have taken the unknown to mean something they can posture as justifications for many of Bush's mistakes.
Not only do I have to question the moral fiber of those who champion torture, the denial of habeas corpus and spying on American citizens, I also question their intellectual integrity in saying that these anti-American practices have saved lives. Barnes says thousands of lives have been saved, but why not millions, or for that matter, billions? One might even say that although we don't know for sure if these practices have saved lives despite their obvious moral and legal failings, Bush probably saved mankind as we know it. After all, it follows the same "logic."
Bush's third achievement was the rebuilding of presidential authority, badly degraded in the era of Vietnam, Watergate, and Bill Clinton. He didn't hesitate to conduct wireless surveillance of terrorists without getting a federal judge's okay. He decided on his own how to treat terrorists and where they should be imprisoned. Those were legitimate decisions for which the president, as commander in chief, should feel no need to apologize.
This follows along the same lines Barnes' second "Bush Achievement." One can hardly consider the further undermining of the U.S. Constitution to be an achievement, unless that is one's goal all along. By the sounds of it, this may be Barnes' objective.
Ignoring the obvious (and aforementioned) moral hazards of such programs and initiatives headed by the Bush administration, which run contrary to the idea of freedom, Barnes takes no issue with apparent Constitutional violations of the presidential decisions of which he calls "achievements."
There are decisions the president has the authority to make, either by Constitutional or assumed duties. However, so long as there is a rule of law in the United States, the president should be held to that standard.
Presidential authority, federal authority and state authority are all powers of control that citizens of a free society need to both question and suspect, as that these are all potential agents of tyranny. Barnes' praise of Bush's power-grabs seems to indicate he'd be perfectly content in a society where those like Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy or Barack Obama could rule without worry of opposition. However, I suspect in the next few years we shall be hearing a different tune being sung by Barnes as the presidential authority of Bush is used by Obama to further his own agenda.
His fifth success was No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the education reform bill cosponsored by America's most prominent liberal Democratic senator Edward Kennedy. The teachers' unions, school boards, the education establishment, conservatives adamant about local control of schools--they all loathed the measure and still do. It requires two things they ardently oppose, mandatory testing and accountability.
I have not met a liberal, conservative or libertarian who is happy with No Child Left Behind. Not only is it a gross expansion of federal power over our schools, it has lowered the standards of education in schools across the country. Mandatory, standardized testing is a perfect "one-size-fits-all" solution fit for a Soviet society; however, it has had disastrous consequences for American schools.
Because schools are constantly required to meet and increase standards, schools instead lower standards in order to meet them without facing cuts in funding. Additionally, great schools are in danger of being labeled "failing schools" when they find it difficult to beat previous test scores.
This is accountability? Not only was No Child Left Behind not adequately funded for its purposes, it was a poorly crafted program that undermined its own intiatives while increasing federal control of schools.
This is why teachers, students, conservatives and liberals all hate it, and why statists love it.
Sixth, Bush declared in his second inaugural address in 2005 that American foreign policy (at least his) would henceforth focus on promoting democracy around the world.
There is nothing like democracy from the barrel of a gun. For conservatives so adamantly opposed to social welfare, they are quick to jump on the humanitarian train when it comes to global welfare. Unfortunately, this is much more expensive, both in dollars and American lives.
Not only is an interventionist foreign policy based on humanitarian motives expensive in life and blood, it is also largely ineffective when begun in nations not ready for democracy. Take a look at Palestine, who had free elections and voted-in Hamas, a terrorist organization.
Democracy is much better than any State authority (though Barnes largely argues for more State authority in his article); however, in order for democracy to work, it must be manifested domestically. It is not the responsibility of the American taxpayer to subsidize a World Task Force on Democracy.
The seventh achievement is the Medicare prescription drug benefit, enacted in 2003.
The Medicare prescription drug plan added trillions of dollars to an already struggling government program, further pushing these programs into financial ruin. Then-Comptroller General for the United States David Walker called the program "probably the most fiscally irresponsible piece of legislation since the 1960s."
How is this an achievement?
There are many different types of conservatives, but I don't think Fred Barnes is one of them. If so, he represents a disgusting mutation of conservatism that has, somewhere in its philosophical evolution, replaced federalism with a high-octane breed of statism. Instead of championing people like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Patrick Henry, Barnes and those of his ilk would feel comfortable in the company of those like Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini and Sadam Hussein.
There is no place for Barnes' politics in a free society, and his cheerleading of some of the most egregious offenses of the Bush administration clearly shows Barnes to be an enemy of the Constitution and freedom. His "big-government conservatism," or more accurately, "neostatism conservatism" is a plague on our society and truly represents the ultimate bastardization of the movement once lead by Barry Goldwater.
This type of moral and intellectual depravity is a cancer on the Republican Party, and is the reason John McCain was defeated in the last election.
Americans don't want a king. They want a leader that inspires hope, not fear. Americans want a leader who fights for more freedom, not for more laws. If Republicans and the conservative movement that drives that party wish to survive much longer, they will return to their libertarian roots and reject the creeping influence of fascism into their ideology.
How will history judge Bush? Nobody knows right now and as far as I'm concerned, this question is wholly irrelevant.
I'm an American who lived during the Bush administration and I can truly say my life has been negatively impacted as a result of his policies. Not only am I facing the responsibility to pay for trillions and trillions of dollars spent during his administration, the civil liberties that protected me from government surveillance and abuse have been undermined or altogether destroyed.
Bush has so far raised the ceiling of executive power that I fear I will never see the day when government is more restrained than when he first began office.
I don't know if I can blame the Bush administration for the philosophical poison spewed by Fred Barnes and others like him, or whether Bush simply fell into their philosophical trap; however, it is imperative that we reject this philosophy of State authority and big government if we expect to remain a nation of free people.
Liberty is a lamp that guides a nation to prosperity and happiness, and the day it goes out is the day that nation is lost. While the Bush administration, through malice or ignorance, sullied the glass that protects this light of liberty, there is still time to wipe it clean and begin anew.
However, that time is dwindling.
My only hope is that this article never becomes an obituary for freedom, and simply remains a remonstrance of the injuries suffered in the last eight years.