Joined: Sat May 29, 2004 11:46 pm
|How Bad Is He?
by Sidney Blumenthal | Sep 19 2006 -
Following is the introduction to How Bush Rules: Chronicles of a Radical Regime,
recently published by the Princeton University Press.
No one predicted just how radical a president George W. Bush would be. Neither his opponents, nor the reporters covering him, nor his closest campaign aides suggested that he would be the most willfully radical president in American history.
In his 2000 campaign, Bush permitted himself few hints of radicalism. On the contrary he made ready promises of moderation, judiciously offering himself as a "compassionate conservative," an identity carefully crafted to contrast with the discredited Republican radicals of the House of Representatives. After capturing the Congress in 1994 and proclaiming a "revolution," they had twice shut down the government over the budget and staged an impeachment trial that resulted in the acquittal of President Clinton. Seeking to distance himself from the congressional Republicans, Bush declared that he was not hostile to government. He would, he said, "change the tone in Washington." He would be more reasonable than the House Republicans and more moral than Clinton. Governor Bush went out of his way to point to his record of bipartisan cooperation with Democrats in Texas, stressing that he would be "a uniter, not a divider."
Trying to remove the suspicion that falls on conservative Republicans, he pledged that he would protect the solvency of Social Security. On foreign policy, he said he would be "humble": "If we're an arrogant nation, they'll view us that way, but if we're a humble nation, they'll respect us." Here he was criticizing Clinton's peacemaking and nation-building efforts in the Balkans and suggesting he would be far more restrained. The sharpest criticism he made of Clinton's foreign policy was that he would be more mindful of the civil liberties of Arabs accused of terrorism: "Arab-Americans are racially profiled in what's called secret evidence. People are stopped, and we got to do something about that." This statement was not an off-the-cuff remark, but carefully crafted and presented in one of the debates with Vice President Al Gore. Bush's intent was to win an endorsement from the American Muslim Council, which was cued to back him after he delivered his debating point, and it was instrumental in his winning an overwhelming share of Muslims' votes, about 90,000 of which were in Florida.
So Bush deliberately offered himself as an alternative to the divisive congressional Republicans, his father's son (at last) in political temperament, but also experienced as an executive who had learned the art of compromise with the other party, and differing from the incumbent Democratic president only in personality and degree. Bush wanted the press to report and discuss that he would reform and discipline his party, which had gone too far to the right. He encouraged commentary that he represented a "Fourth Way," a variation on the theme of Clinton's "Third Way."
In his second term, Clinton had the highest sustained popularity of any president since World War II, prosperity was in its longest recorded cycle, and the nation's international prestige high. Bush's tack as moderate was adroit, shrewd and necessary. His political imperative was to create the public perception there were no major issues dividing the candidates and that the current halcyon days would continue as well under his aegis. Only through his positioning did Bush manage to close to within just short of a half-million votes of Gore and achieve an apparent tie in Florida, creating an Electoral College deadlock and forcing the election toward an extraordinary
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"Behind every great fortune lies a great crime."
Honore de Balzac
"Democrats work to help people who need help.
That other party, they work for people who don't need help.
That's all there is to it."
~Harry S. Truman