Friday, September 03, 2004

The past presidents / chancellors game

I should really thank Andrew Sullivan for all of these great comparison posts. The latest is that President Bush is a mixture of Woodrow Wilson and Otto von Bismarck.

The comparison is so ridiculous that one hardly knows where to begin in criticizing it. The comparison to Wilson, whose name evokes memories of a democratic zeal that lulled the West to sleep during the rise of Hitler and Stalin perfectly matches the liberal argument that Bush's foreign policy "crusade" is just making the global terror problem orders of magnitude worse. The comparison to Bismarck allows one to tar the President with all of the worst aspects of German Authoritarianism without actually spoiling the game by shouting "You're Hitler!!!" And pardon me for my skepticism but the assumption that twenty-first century American homosexuals are a persecuted ethnic minority suffering a national policy of oppression akin to that inflicted upon European Judaism during the prelude to the Third Reich does not seem to me to be correct. Not everyone who is more socially conservative than Ellen Degeneres belongs to the kinder, kuche, kirche school of social order.

It seems to me that even Bush's paternalistic "nanny-state" governing is something of a success for the conservative movement. Let's face it, the persistent hope among small-government conservatives that one sufficiently tough conservative president could enact their entire program with a stroke of the pen is entirely fanciful. Realistically speaking, a true victory for the conservative movement would consist in moving the governing philosophy of the United States further to the Right.

President Bush may have run up some hefty deficits that his social spending and, to be fair to liberals, his tax cuts have exacerbated. What matters far more is the idea that taxes can be cut sometimes instead of being permanently ratcheted ever upwards or the idea that government social programs that can accommodate reforms are inherently superior to the monolithic spending programs of the past. Those ideas gaining a greater foothold in Washington during the Bush administration would represent advances for the conservative movement.

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