Repudiating the Bush Era

Abandoning the GOP

Michael Hirsch at Newsweek takes a look at some of the historic names that are leaving the ever more conservative, outside the mainstream Republican party.

Susan Eisenhower is an accomplished professional, the president of an international consulting firm. She also happens to be Ike's granddaughter—and in that role, she's the humble torchbearer for moderate "Eisenhower Republicans." Increasingly, however, she says that the partisanship and free spending of the Bush presidency—and the takeover of the party by single-issue voters, especially pro-lifers—is driving these pragmatic, fiscally conservative voters out of the GOP. Eisenhower says she could vote Democratic in 2008, but she's still intent on saving her party. "I made a pact with a number of people," she tells NEWSWEEK. "I said, 'Please don't leave the party without calling me first.' For a while, there weren't too many calls. And then suddenly, there was a flurry of them. I found myself watching them slip away one by one."

Eisenhower isn't the only GOP scion debating if the party still feels like home. Theodore Roosevelt IV, an investment banker in New York and an environmental activist like his great-grandfather, Teddy, takes issue with what he says is George W. Bush's inattention to global warming (and Republican presidential contender John McCain's flirtations with the religious right). He's unhappy with the cost of the global war on terror and the record deficits incurred to finance it. Ninety years ago, former president Teddy Roosevelt attacked Woodrow Wilson's pro-democracy idealism, calling it "milk-and-water righteousness"; Roosevelt's great-grandson doesn't like how the current president is promoting values abroad, either. "I come from a tradition of pragmatic Republicanism," he says. "This administration has taken the idea of aggressively exporting democracy à la Woodrow Wilson and gone in a direction even Wilson wouldn't have considered."

The party might even be alien to Barry Goldwater, the 1964 GOP nominee who jolted the party rightward when he said that "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice." Goldwater's youngest daughter, Peggy, who is active in GOP politics in Orange County, Calif., says she is a "moderate conservative," just as her firebrand father became later in life, irked by Republicans in Washington who embrace big government. "The government is taking on more than I feel they can handle," she says.

Major Development in USAT Scandal

The internal investigations unit of the Justice Department has admitted the obvious - under Bush, Rove and Gonzlaez, the DOJ was rapidly being turned into a subsidiary of the Republican Party.  From the NYT:

The Justice Department has begun an internal investigation into whether a former senior adviser to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales improperly tried to fill vacancies for career prosecutors at the agency with Republicans loyal to the Bush administration, department officials said Wednesday.

And Karl Rove is under increasing pressure to share what he knows with Congress:

The Senate committee issued a subpoena to Mr. Gonzales for all Justice Department e-mail about the dismissals involving Karl Rove, the senior White House political adviser.

And more details are coming out about the coverup that followed the politically motivated firings of the 8 US Attorneys:

Three of the dismissed prosecutors provided, for the first time, accounts of telephone calls they said they received earlier this year from Michael Elston, the chief of staff to the deputy attorney general, as Mr. Elston squeezed them to remain silent about the circumstances of their ousters, in an effort to tamp down public scrutiny.

The calls came within weeks after each of them had been dismissed, but before department officials, including Mr. Gonzales, had begun in testimony to cite performance failings as the rationale for their removal.

Paul K. Charlton, the former Arizona prosecutor, said he was left with the impression that Mr. Elston “was offering me a quid pro quo agreement: my silence in exchange for the attorney general’s.”

John McKay, the former United States attorney from Seattle, said he was disturbed by the entire exchange.

“I greatly resented what I felt Mr. Elston was trying to do: buy my silence by promising that the attorney general would not demean me in his Senate testimony,” Mr. McKay told the investigators in his statement. “I believe that Mr. Elston’s tone was sinister and that he was prepared to threaten me further if he concluded I did not intend to continue to remain silent about my dismissal.”

H. E. Cummins, the former prosecutor in Arkansas, had raised a similar accusation in February in an e-mail message he wrote to other prosecutors who had been dismissed.

President Bush Looms Over Tonight's GOP Debate

And that's not a good thing for the Republican Presidential hopefuls, as Adam Nagourney of the NYT points out:

As they gather Thursday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library for their first debate, the Republican presidential candidates are thrilled at the chance to associate themselves with Reagan. But they may not be able to escape the challenge created for them by the current president.

As much as Iraq or health care or any other issue, the question of how to deal with President Bush is vexing the Republican field. Do they embrace him as a means of appealing to the conservative voters who tend to decide Republican primaries? Or do they break from him in an effort to show that they will lead the nation in a new direction? Do they applaud his policies or question his competence — or both?

A Party in disarray, a Movement discredited

As the Republican Presidential candidates gather tonight for their first debate, let's step back and reflect on what is now the most important political story of our day - the extraordinary political and intellectual collapse of the American right.  Consider:

  • Democrats won 53% of the national vote in 2006, their highest national share of the vote since 1982, and one their best performances in the post FDR-era.  In a recent Pew Center study, Party self-identification has swung from 43% - 43% in 2002 to a remarkable 50 % D - 35 % R today.
  • In the 1st quarter of this year the Democratic Presidential candidates out-raised the Republicans by 50%, and John McCain, their former frontrunner, raised as much as Governor Bill Richardson, considered a "2nd tier" Democratic candidate.
  • In a column in the National Review this week, William Buckley, an intellectual godfather of the modern conservative movement, raises the question on whether the Republican Party can survive the Bush era.
  • Each week seems to bring another high-level Republican resignation, investigation or scandal, so much so that they barely receive press attention when they happen.  In a piece I posted a few days ago, I make the case that it is critical that the nation openly discusses the profound moral and leadership failings of this disappointing era, an era that will become known as one of the most corrupt in our history. 

But of course what is driving all this is the total failure of conservative government to deliver for the American people.  Out of power for so long, these conservatives finally gained control of all three branches of government in 2003, and had the chance, without Democratic opposition or input, to show the country what they could do.  And what the American people learned is that these conservatives cannot govern; that their policies have left America much weaker than they found it; that they are among the most corrupt and morally bankrupt leaders in our long and proud history; and that faced with overwhelming evidence of their failings, they soldier on, blindly following discredited approaches, angrily smearing their opponents, and continuing to weaken the nation they claim to love, and were so desperate to lead. 

NDN has written extensively these past few years about what we call “the end of the conservative ascendancy.”  You can find this work in a section of our site at, and we recommend several essays in particular, a couple of which have been widely referenced in the media: A Defining Moment for the Bush Presidency, Defining Leadership Down, The End of the Conservative AscendancyA Day of Reckoning for the Conservative Movement, The State of Conservative Government, 2006 and Absolute Power Corrupts...

Is this all politics? The ravings of an angry lefty?  Perhaps, but think about it – the tragedy of Iraq, the return of the Taliban, the regrouping of Al Qaeda, our failure to halt nuclear proliferation, the weakening of our global alliances and standing in the world, the denial of climate change, the insult of their response to Katrina, the flouting of the Geneva Conventions, the breaking of our proud military, undisciplined spending, the shifting of the tax burden from the wealthy to the middle class, the purposeful under-funding of their education reform initiative, the lack of progress on trade liberalization, a decline in the incomes of average families, rising rates of those without health insurance, in poverty and with dangerous levels of household debt, the demonization of Hispanic immigrants and failure to solve the immigration problem, their lack of concern for the those caught in a failing health care system, their assault on a women’s right to choose and as discussed earlier their systemic corruption and deceit, all defining leadership down.   

So little went right during this era, so little went as advertised.  Their rhetoric has been compelling, their marketing and communications top drawer, but conservative government has been a farce.  We all must hope that the Republican leaders at the debate tonight, so desperate to align themselves with a different era of politics that they chose to gather in Reagan's shadow, have the courage to address the failings of this age, and help the American people usher in a new era of progress.

William F. Buckley Jr.: "There are grounds for wondering whether the Republican party will survive"

A pretty extraordinary rebuke of President Bush and the conservative foreign policy failures of the past six years from an enexpected source.  It's a piece well worth reading and a milestone in what we call the Repudiating of the Bush Era

The Waning of the GOP

By William F. Buckley Jr.

The political problem of the Bush administration is grave, possibly beyond the point of rescue. The opinion polls are savagely decisive on the Iraq question. About 60 percent of Americans wish the war ended — wish at least a timetable for orderly withdrawal. What is going on in Congress is in the nature of accompaniment. The vote in Congress is simply another salient in the war against war in Iraq. Republican forces, with a couple of exceptions, held fast against the Democrats’ attempt to force Bush out of Iraq even if it required fiddling with the Constitution. President Bush will of course veto the bill, but its impact is critically important in the consolidation of public opinion. It can now accurately be said that the legislature, which writes the people’s laws, opposes the war.

Meanwhile, George Tenet, former head of the CIA, has just published a book which seems to demonstrate that there was one part ignorance, one part bullheadedness, in the high-level discussions before war became policy. Mr. Tenet at least appears to demonstrate that there was nothing in the nature of a genuine debate on the question. What he succeeded in doing was aborting a speech by Vice President Cheney which alleged a Saddam/al Qaeda relationship which had not in fact been established.

It isn’t that Tenet now doubts the lethality of the terrorists. What he disputed was an organizational connection which argued for war against Iraq as if Iraq were a vassal state of al Qaeda. A measure of George Tenet’s respect for the reach and malevolence of the enemy is his statement that he is puzzled that Al Qaeda has not, since 2001, sent out “suicide bombers to cause chaos in a half dozen American shopping malls on any given day.” By way of prophecy, he writes that there is one thing he feels in his gut, which is that “Al Qaeda is here and waiting.”

But beyond affirming executive supremacy in matters of war, what is George Bush going to do? It is simply untrue that we are making decisive progress in Iraq. The indicators rise and fall from day to day, week to week, month to month. In South Vietnam there was an organized enemy. There is clearly organization in the strikes by the terrorists against our forces and against the civil government in Iraq, but whereas in Vietnam we had Hanoi as the operative headquarters of the enemy, we have no equivalent of that in Iraq, and that is a matter of paralyzing importance. All those bombings, explosions, assassinations: we are driven to believe that they are, so to speak, spontaneous.

When the Romans were challenged by Christianity, Rome fell. The generation of Christians moved by their faith overwhelmed the regimented reserves of the Roman state. It was four years ago that Mr. Cheney first observed that there was a real fear that each fallen terrorist leads to the materialization of another terrorist. What can a “surge,” of the kind we are now relying upon, do to cope with endemic disease? The parallel even comes to mind of the eventual collapse of Prohibition, because there wasn’t any way the government could neutralize the appetite for alcohol, or the resourcefulness of the freeman in acquiring it.

General Petraeus is a wonderfully commanding figure. But if the enemy is in the nature of a disease, he cannot win against it. Students of politics ask then the derivative question: How can the Republican party, headed by a president determined on a war he can’t see an end to, attract the support of a majority of the voters? General Petraeus, in his Pentagon briefing on April 26, reported persuasively that there has been progress, but cautioned, “I want to be very clear that there is vastly more work to be done across the board and in many areas, and again I note that we are really just getting started with the new effort.”

The general makes it a point to steer away from the political implications of the struggle, but this cannot be done in the wider arena. There are grounds for wondering whether the Republican party will survive this dilemma.

Wolfowitz Watch

Wolfowitz defended himself before the World Bank's Board of Directors yesterday:

“The goal of this smear campaign, I believe, is to create a self-fulfilling prophecy that I am an ineffective leader and must step down for that reason alone, even if the ethics charges are unwarranted,” he said. “I, for one, will not give in to such tactics. And I will not resign in the face of a plainly bogus charge of conflict of interest.”

The NYT seems to think that a deal is likely:

Mr. Wolfowitz’s defiant response left unclear what would happen next, but many at the bank saw it as a prelude to his eventual departure if negotiations could lead to the board’s endorsement of his claim that he had acted in good faith, not favoritism, in arranging for a pay increase for Shaha Ali Riza, his companion, in 2005. She was, at the time, being transferred to the State Department, but continued to receive her salary from the bank.

Bush DOJ Appointees: "It wasn't me..."

Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty told Congress that he had little involvement in the politically motivated firings of 8 US Attorney Generals.  In doing so, he joins his boss Alberto Gonzalez, Gonzalez's former chief of staff Kyle Sampson and William Moschella, the principal associate deputy attorney general, who have all employed the "it wasn't me" defense.  Senator Chuch Schumer responded with this:

"If the top folks at DOJ weren't the key decision-makers, it's less likely that lower-down people at DOJ were, and much more likely that people in the White House were making the major decisions,"

Read more here...

Student Loans - Another Conservative Failure

Amit Paley at the WAPO is reporting that in 2001 the Bush Administration passed on a Clinton-era Department of Education proposal to clean up the crooked student loan industry.  They did of course find time to cut funding for financial aid at a time when less high school students are going to college.  Yet another example of conservative failures in governing.

The Bush administration killed a proposal to clamp down on the student loan industry six years ago following allegations that companies sought to shower universities with financial favors to help generate business, according to documents and interviews with government officials.

The proposed policy, which Education Department officials drafted near the end of the Clinton presidency and circulated at the start of the Bush administration, represented an early, significant but ultimately abortive government response to a problem that this year has grown into a major controversy.

Now, as the $85 billion-a-year student loan industry faces an array of investigations into questionable business practices that some officials believe could have been curtailed by the 2001 proposal, the Education Department has embarked on a new effort to set rules for the industry to prevent conflicts of interest and other abuses. If approved, the rules would be implemented in summer 2008, a few months before Bush leaves the White House.

The abandonment of the 2001 proposal underscores what some consumer advocates and Democratic lawmakers believe is lax federal oversight of the financial aid system by a department they say is too cozy with the industry. More than a dozen senior department officials either previously worked in the student loan business or found high-paying jobs in the sector after they left the agency.

"The Department of Education has been run as a wholly owned subsidiary of the loan industry under this administration," said Barmak Nassirian, a longtime advocate for industry reform at the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. "They are running the federal loan program for the profit of their friends and not for the benefit of students and taxpayers."

George Tenet and Condi Rice

Watch this video from former CIA Director George Tenet's appearence on 60 Minutes last night. 

His book is out today and one section that stands out immediately is his criticism of then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and her failure to take anywhere near appropriate action after being warned about the threat posed by al-Qaeda.  Find out more in our Campaign to Get Condi to Come Clean.  And find out more about Tenet's book int the NYT review of George Tenet's "At the Center of the Storm."

Syndicate content