Sunday, July 23, 2006

Buckley on Bush 2

Once again, conservative godfather William F. Buckley has come out against President Bush, arguing in an interview with CBS's Thalia Assuras that he isn't really much of a conservative at all:

I think Mr. Bush faces a singular problem best defined, I think, as the absence of effective conservative ideology — with the result that he ended up being very extravagant in domestic spending, extremely tolerant of excesses by Congress. And in respect of foreign policy, incapable of bringing together such forces as apparently were necessary to conclude the Iraq challenge.

I've spent a good deal of time studying conservatism over the years, but I'm not sure exactly what an effective conservative ideology would be. An emphasis on small government? Maybe, but much of modern conservatism amounts to little more than sloganeering against liberalism. What does small-government conservatism mean in practice? Certainly nothing Americans, or any other liberal people, would want.

Regardless, I agree that Bush isn't much of a conservative. His social conservatism -- opposition to stem-cell research and same-sex marriage, for example -- seems like an ongoing effort to pander to a rabid base rather than the expression of genuine conviction, while his neoconservatism in foreign policy isn't really conservatism at all (which is Buckley's main point here). His business-friendly policies with respect to taxation and regulation are conservative only insofar as conservatism may include, or allow for, some degree of corporatism -- in this sense, Bush is a conservative oligarch looking to boost the fortunes of his own class at the expense of the people.

One more thing. Buckley is surely right about this: "If you had a European prime minister who experienced what we've experienced it would be expected that he would retire or resign." The American system is different than the European parliamentary ones, of course, but wouldn't it be nice to have Bush held accountable the way parliamentary leaders are? There's no way he would have been able to hold on to the confidence of parliament given what he's done (and failed to do) along the way.

(For more, Buckley on Bush 1 is here.)

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