Part of the effort to pull the wagon of conservatism out of the ditch into which Bush piloted the country is going to be an effort to deny that George W. Bush was a real conservative. In reality, Bushism should be understood as the highest form of conservatism. In particular, the High Bushist years of 2001-2006 represent the only time that the post-war conservative movement has had total control over the federal government. If the practical consequences of pre-Bush conservatism were less disastrous, that’s largely because conservative political power was more constrained in those earlier eras.
Meanwhile, it’s worth recalling that at the peak of his political power, when Bush was making his most disastrous decisions, conservatives not only thought he was a good president, but a great one. There was practically a line around the block to write paens to his genius. Here’s David Gelertner’s “Bush’s Greatness” from the September 13, 2004 Weekly Standard:
It’s obvious not only that George W. Bush has already earned his Great President badge (which might even outrank the Silver Star) but that much of the opposition to Bush has a remarkable and very special quality; one might be tempted to call it “lunacy.” But that’s too easy. The “special quality” of anti-Bush opposition tells a more significant, stranger story than that.
Bush’s greatness is often misunderstood. He is great not because he showed America how to react to 9/11 but because he showed us how to deal with a still bigger event–the end of the Cold War. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 left us facing two related problems, one moral and one practical. Neither President Clinton nor the first Bush found solutions–but it’s not surprising that the right answers took time to discover, and an event like 9/11 to bring them into focus.
I hope to keep on revisiting some writings in this vein over the next few weeks, so if there’s any special pieces you recall or dig up, please get in touch (the form in the sidebar works) and give me a tip.