Rich Lowry and many other pundits are starting to remark how the current crop of GOP presidential candidates are running from the memory Bush has burned in our national brain...
The backlash against Bush has long been brewing. Compassionate conservatism was a product of the moment when Bush began to run for president in the late 1990s. The congressional wing of the party had immolated itself in the government-shutdown fights and then the impeachment of Bill Clinton. A rebranding was in order, and Bush wanted to signal to general-election voters that they needn't fear him.
Bush-style conservatism never really took with the broader party, although it gained acquiescence.
He still has throngs of fans, and he should receive a great level of appreciation (especially from Obama) for many of the efforts he made in fighting the war on terrorism. Also, until Obama came along the alternatives the Democrats offered to America made choosing Bush easy. Even then Al Gore and John Kerry weren't really the top choices for liberals to execute the Democratic party platform, but Jack Kevorkian was stuck in prison so...
Why are Republican's disowning the Bush legacy? Is it because it was an abject failure? Sort of. Bush's quest to establish a permanent GOP majority only serviced the Republican Party. What's worse was that conservatism, which is more concerned with preserving what makes this nation work so well, was thrown under the bus in order to co-opt certain issues away from the Democrats.
Republicans figured out that doing this was a great strategy if they wanted to become Democrats. Many of them were jackasses to begin with so this made sense to at least them.
Democrats thought this was a great strategy if they wanted to become full blown leftists. They knew the country would be ready for it the same way it would be ready for Barry White music, ten shots of tequila and Nancy Pelosi telling you Victoria's secret.
Thats right kids, as far as domestic policy is concerned that is the real Bush legacy....the right lurched to the left, and the left went over the cliff, but their entire philosophy is so cartoonish to begin with that as long as they didn't look down they won't actually fall.
It's working too. Their president is a golf-a-holic who has led the Democrats to jamming down the nations throat, by their own loose admission a new trillion dollar entitlement that nobody actually wanted on top of tens of trillions in unfunded liabilities. They're calling proposed cuts to the deficit by 3% "unworkable."
They - are - not - looking - down.
Bush tried to make the GOP into liberal light on domestic issues, because that is much easier than making the case for liberalism doesn't work and sends us over the cliff. When the strategy failed Democrats called it "conservativism" while conveniently leaving out the fact that their way, which is what Bush was doing, but more unbridled than Biden playing Scrabble without a dictionary, was the alternative.
Rather than putting on the brakes when they took power, liberals floored it, and things have only (and predicably) gotten worse. So why on earth would any Republican look to Bush as a model for governing success?
Unfortunately for fans of President Bush, if the GOP wants to beat Obama they'll have to put their guy's domestic legacy right where it belongs.....
...next to President Obama's.