Blumenthal: No Longer The "Right Man"

President Bush is the most conservative president in modern times. He consciously modeled himself as the opposite of his father’s split political personality. Fiercely attacked as a betrayer, the elder Bush was partially defeated by a conservative revolt. In a classic case of reaction formation, George W. Bush was determined never to make an enemy on the right.

President Bush brought the neoconservatives, banished by Ronald Reagan and Bush Sr., back into government, and followed their scenario to the letter for remaking the Middle East through an invasion of Iraq, using 9/11 as the pretext. He meticulously followed the right-wing script on supply-side economics, enacting an enormous tax cut for the wealthy that fostered a deficit that dwarfed Reagan’s, the problem his father had tried to resolve through a tax increase that earned the right’s hostility. And Bush has followed the religious right’s line on stem cell research, abortion and creationism.

For his vision of the world as black and white, his disdain for internationalism and international law, his tainting of the domestic opposition as unpatriotic, his unapologetic tax breaks and loopholes for the upper brackets, and his religious zealotry, conservatives celebrated him. “The Right Man” was the title of a glowing hagiography by his former speechwriter, David Frum (also author of the Bush phrase “axis of evil,” or at least “axis of …”). “Bush’s Greatness” was the headline of an article published in the neoconservative journal the Weekly Standard just before the 2004 election. Critics of Bush, it contended, were haters, and haters of Bush hated all “American conservatives and especially white, religious American conservatives.”

Yet Bush nominated Miers in place of professional ideologues because he had fallen from grace as a consequence of his stubborn adherence to conservative policies; Bush calculated that the Senate would approve her but not a right-wing judge with a well-delineated record. Had Bush’s conservative policies succeeded, he might have been able to name a purebred ideologue.

Instead Bush finds himself the brunt of a right-wing campaign of intimidation.

Despite Bush’s faithful implementation of conservative ideas, disloyal ideologues blame him personally to deflect attention from the failure of their ideas as they position themselves for whatever or whoever is next. Like Trotskyists for whom communism always remained an unfulfilled ideal, conservatives now claim that conservatism has not been tried, and that Bush is a “betrayer” and “impostor.” In his attempt to avoid the nemesis of his father, he is reliving it.

If only that were all true.

And salon is not known for hyberbole. I especially liked the article on “Commander in Chief” that decribed “a growing concensus in America that a woman can be president”. You, there - out of the bubble!

Blumenthal is a buddy of Clinton’s. Salon is liberal. I don’t think there’s much of a secret about that. But I do find his line of thinking pretty compelling.

He does overlook a few whoppers, IMHO, including Bush’s policies concerning prescription drug entitlements and rebuilding New Orleans which aren’t remotely conservative. Also conservatives themselves will argue over whether invading Iraq was a good idea, and are increasingly critical of the actual management of it, or the wisdom of endorsing fundamentalist ideas as party dogma.

Still, this isn’t a bad meme to start from. What was the conservative chattering class saying about Bush just a year ago and what are they saying now? Were they lying then? And doesn’t it seem true that Miers was nominated precisely because Bush couldn’t get away with a Bork given the consequences of his muchly lauded, on the right, governing style that lead to debacles like Iraq and the Katrina response?