Friday, June 01, 2007

George W. Bush : NeoLiberal, Not NeoCon

President Bush has sent shuddering waves of revulsion and horror through the pro-war, anti-immigration ranks of his die-hard supporters in the past two weeks, something we will look at it in detail here later, if only to catalogue for history some of the many blog comments that are so poisonously, and hilariously, outraged and unhinged.

The Bush Backers are feeling betrayed and confused because after supporting Bush through five years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and giving full cheer to his extremely controversial moves to detain and torture enemy combatants in Guanatanamo Bay; to allow wiretapping against innocent American citizens; to introduce the Patriot Act; to pursue the deeply unpopular 'War on Terror' and to generally act as though he was the King of All Radical Republicans, and a deeply committed conservative Christian to boot, the president's real colours are now becoming known to the True Believers and they don't like it at all.

Allow illegal immigrants to stay and become Americans. Excuse me?

Meet with the Iranians and sit down for a reasonable talk instead of blasting their nuclear facilitates into dust. WTF...Excuse me?

Let those goddamn Russkies call America 'Nazi-like' and then invite Putin to the family home in Maine for a weekend stay. Excuse me?

Harass Israel on bringing forward the Palestinian state and tell them to stop killing so many civilians. Excuse me?

And there's plenty more of these supposed radical Bush policy shifts already underway, and plenty more to come.

The Bush Backers are angry, furious, betrayed and outraged because they can now see the gut-churning Dawn Of Reality that they may have been cheer-leading a freaking Liberal In Disguise all along...

Which brings us to this interesting column from Richard Cohen writing in the Washington Post, who argues that President Bush is, after all, a NeoLiberal, or at the very least more liberal than NeoCon. And the proof is there for all to see.

Cohen's argument is mostly accurate and, disturbing as it is for us to admit, kind of convincing. But he makes the point that Bush's NeoLiberalism, such as it is, has been all but destroyed by sheer incompetency.

Decide for yourself (excerpts) :

....George W. Bush. He's more liberal than you might think.

You recoil, I know. After all, the conventional wisdom is that Bush is the most conservative of all presidents, an advocate of limited government, minimal taxes and, when it comes to the quintessentially liberal concern with civil liberties, the man who gave us the twin black eyes of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. It's an appalling record.

But consider this: An overriding principle of conservatism is to limit the role and influence of the federal government. Nowhere is this truer than in education

...Bush has extended the (education) department's reach in a manner that Democrats could not have envisaged. I am referring, of course, to the 2001 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, better known as No Child Left Behind. I will spare you the act's details, but it pretty much tells the states to shape up or face a loss of federal funds. It is precisely the sort of law that conservatives predicted Washington would someday seek -- and it did.

Similarly, let's take a look at the much-mocked notion of diversity. Bill Clinton was widely berated for his effort to have an administration that looked like America -- women, African Americans, Hispanics, you name it. Whether by design or not, Bush has also managed that feat. A female education secretary is one thing, but a national security adviser -- the uber-macho post -- is something else, and that went first to Condi Rice. And over at Justice, Bush chose Alberto Gonzales, the son of Hispanic migrant workers...

You only have to listen to Bush talk about the virtues of immigration -- another liberal sentiment -- or his frequent mention of the "soft bigotry of low expectations" to appreciate that the president is a sentimental softie, what was once dismissively called a "mushy-headed liberal."

Allow me to make the case that this is also true when it comes to Iraq. I acknowledge that the war is a catastrophic mistake and was incompetently managed. But if you don't think it was waged on behalf of oil or empire, then one reason for our involvement was an attempt to do some good -- rid the world of a really bad guy and make life better for Iraqis and others in the region. This "liberal" intent may have left Dick Cheney cold and found Don Rumsfeld indifferent, but it appealed to Bush and it showed in his rhetoric and body language.

Bush's neoliberal instincts have come a cropper across the board. His appointees have too often been incompetent, and his well-intentioned education act is underfunded. But it is with Iraq that real and long-term damage has been done. For years to come, his war will be cited to smother any liberal impulse in American foreign policy -- to further discredit John F. Kennedy's vow to "pay any price, bear any burden . . . to assure the survival and the success of liberty."
Read The Whole Thing Here