I watched the Republicans debate in South Carolina on Tuesday, and I noticed how many of them tried to compare themselves to Ronald Reagan. It was, frankly, laughable. The Reagan Aura has grown far beyond anything a mortal man could hope to claim, but even the real Reagan was much more than any of these yokels could hope to compare.
I happen to think that the Republicans in the race would be very wise to try to show how much they are like our current President, George W. Bush. Yep, that's right. For all the conventional wisdom that folks should try to avoid being seen with Dubya, I argue that anyone who wants to get elected in 2008 had better start moving towards him, not away.
There are many reasons why I believe this. Let's start with the obvious fact that somehow got lost; Dubya collected more than 62 million votes in 2004. And at that time, his Job Approval, the number most media hacks were noting, was floating around 50 percent. The present media number is an average Job Approval of 34%, according to Real Clear Politics, which by simple math means that President Bush still has over 42 million people who vote by the Bush Standard. Not that 42 million would be enough to win, but only a complete moron would drive away 42 million or think that they could win without them.
As always, a thoughtful and thought-inspiring posting by DJ. It's also partisan, but that's why we're here, so of course I have my own take on his words...
Ronald Reagan was the last of the great cold warriors. He was an appropriate man for his times with talk of the "evil empire" and calls to "tear down that wall." But the Soviet Union is gone now and our new adversary is amorphous. "Islam" is not our enemy in the sense that the Soviet Union was. The world is no longer divided into "us" and "them," even though I still hear a lot of talk to that effect. The US is the world's sole superpower and with that comes the responsibility to behave strongly but benevolently rather than just being belligerent all the time. The philosophies of Reagan and Thatcher no longer apply.
So that takes us to Bush and whether or not he is the sort of president that others should emulate. DJ thinks that he is, but I would argue that what my fellow blogger describes as virtues are more like window-dressing.
For example, there was a poll back in 2000 about which candidate you'd rather have a beer with, and Bush won easily. Clearly his "how y'all doin'" factor was much higher than either Gore's or Kerry's and a lot of casual voters could identify with him and thus he won their votes.
But we shouldn't elect a person based on their likability. The presidency is an awesome job, and the standards should be very high. Gore might have been the proverbial wooden Indian, but he was also a policy wonk, and that's one skill that a successful president needs. Bush has spent his whole life as a privileged character and so when he reached the highest office in the land and encountered resistance to his ideas, his response was to become angry and withdrawn and to find means to get his way no matter what. His use of signing statements is the perfect example. Someone like Gore would have worked with the opposition to find a middle ground.
Also, I believe that while a president must understand and empathize with the common man, he should also be a figure who earns respect by his demeanor. The best example of that would be Franklin Roosevelt. His presidency was highlighted with programs which elevated the average American and yet he never resorted to cheap stunts to make himself appear common. Maybe it's old-fashioned of me but I don't think that the president should appear in public wearing blue jeans or wielding shovels or hammers just as a publicity stunt. I don't want my president to be just another Joe -- I want him to earn my respect by everything he says and does.
As for Bush's accomplishments, DJ talked about his appointing judges who "respected the constitution," but Bush himself has had the least respect for the principles on which the nation was founded of any president in my lifetime, and that includes Richard Nixon, whom I believed was about as bad as it could get. I already mentioned his use of signing statements, which perfectly symbolizes his attitude that he is the one who calls all the shots. He doesn't want to bother with a veto and the discussions it will arouse, so he just tells everybody that he's signing the law but has no intentions of following it, and there's nothing anyone can do about it.
Bush's efforts to spy on citizens without judicial authorization is an insult to the founders of the nation. Measures such as "No Child Left Behind" have imposed federal authority on matters which have always rested with the states. His support for government involvement in matters which rightfully belong to individuals have been shown with his mishandling of the Terry Schiavo case as well as his support for restrictions or abolition of abortions and the imposition of his brand of spirituality on public school students.
And then there's Bush administration's obsession with secrecy. The energy task force should have been a warning, but we let him get away with it and it's been all downhill ever since. Bush's decisions are made by a tightly-knit cabal of advisors, and then passed down for others to accept. As his poll numbers have fallen, his response has to become more isolated than ever. I'm sure that his personal advisors are telling him that if we just wait another month or so, everything in Iraq will be fine. And when a group of Republican congressmen came to tell him just the opposite, the response was outrage by Rove and Cheney and a redoubling of their propaganda campaign. Clearly this is not a good character trait for the leader of a democratic nation.
And this attitude has been expressed internationally as well. Bush just ignored North Korea and refused to negotiate with them. The result wasn't submission, but rather an attempt to detonate a nuclear device. Rather than working with the moderates in Iran, we threatened their nation, thus making the the most radical political and religious elements more credible and giving them the internal leverage to suppress dissent.
Bush was bound and determined to have his invasion of Iraq and devastated many of our oldest and strongest alliances. Compare this to what his father did to unite nations from all over the world to form the forces which were successful in turning Saddam out of Kuwait. Now these nations are understandably reluctant to have anything to do with us and we are crippled diplomatically.
DJ concludes his commentary by saying that because candidates like Hillary and McCain are so unlike Bush, they are unelectable. I disagree. I don't personally like Clinton very much -- her whole demeanor grates on me -- but she is knowledgable and is willing to listen to all points of view. That's very different than Bush, but it's also something that is considered a positive trait. McCain was the victim of a Bush hatchet job back in 2000, and it's likely he'll never recover from that. But he's also a decorated war hero and a man who stood up to the very worst his North Vietnamese captors could do to him. I'm personally disappointed that in a naked attempt to grab a few votes, he's lurched well to the right, but his record of service to the nation, both in the military and in elected office cannot be denied.
So who has DJ's "right stuff?" Well, I'd say that the candidate with the perfect balance of personality, experience and expertise is Bill Richardson. He's served as a cabinet officer, an ambassador and a governor. He's well-spoken and has a clear grasp of what needs to be done and a willingness to work with people to get it accomplished. And he's not a demagogue who'd use the power of the government to promote a narrow partisan or religious agenda, which has been a hallmark of the current administration.
Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!