Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Liked the Father, Love the Son

I will always remember George H.W. Bush for this: "This aggression against Kuwait will not stand." He took a stand against lawlessness and led a coalition that initiated the beginning of the end for Saddam Hussein. His administration then made a fundamental miscalculation by not forcing Saddam out and his failure to surround himself with the right political folks contributed mightily to eight years of the 'glorious' Clinton administration which historians will remember less kindly than many expect - who lost Osama in Sudan?

George W., on the other hand, is not his father. Barnes characterizes W as an 'insurgent' in a short, brilliant piece in the WSJ (also on OpinionJournal.com here) that explains why Bush is so HATED in many circles but well loved in many others. Excerpt:

The scheming in Washington as President Bush prepares for his second term is easily explained. It's the insurgents versus the Washington establishment, and the insurgents are winning.

Mr. Bush finds himself in the unusual position -- for a president, anyway -- as leader of the insurgents. Unlike other presidents who came to Washington with bold plans, Mr. Bush has not been housebroken by establishment forces. Even Ronald Reagan made peace with Washington. Mr. Bush hasn't.
Contrary to the doubters, the establishment does exist and does throw its weight around. It consists of the permanent bureaucracy, much of the vast political community of lobbyists and lawyers and consultants, leftovers from Congress and earlier administrations, trade groups and think tanks, and the media. The establishment can and does shape the zeitgeist in Washington and, importantly, a huge chunk of the Senate is establishment-oriented and dozens of senators themselves members of the establishment. It's become more Republican in recent years but is still center-left in ideological tilt. But it's liberal in a reactionary way, passionately opposing conservative change.

In the eyes of the establishment, the Bush tactics, the Bush agenda, and Mr. Bush himself are over the top.
Mr. Bush's agenda is post-Reagan in its conservatism, which means it's more far-reaching and thus more threatening to the establishment. Mr. Bush would not only reform Social Security and allow individuals to invest a portion of their payroll taxes in financial markets, he would also revamp the entire federal tax code and fill the Supreme Court with judicial conservatives...In foreign affairs, Mr. Bush would make aggressive efforts to spread democracy around the world the centerpiece. The foreign policy élite is aghast.
By Washington standards, Mr. Bush is a misfit. He's different. He barely socializes at all and on weekends and holidays makes a beeline for Camp David or his ranch in Crawford, Texas. He'd rather invite Christian musician Michael W. Smith and his wife to the White House for dinner than eat out.
Mr. Bush is also a seriously religious man in a largely secular town. This has brought him no end of criticism. He also refuses to hide his loathing of the press, probably the most dominant force in Washington. In short, Mr. Bush hasn't tried to fit in.

Nor has he been tamed. Domesticating new presidents is the favorite pastime of the Washington establishment. . .

Mr. Bush prefers to infuriate the establishment. His most provocative move was to accept Mr. Powell's resignation, then ease him out of office quickly instead of allowing him a few months to tie up loose ends at the State Department. The establishment regarded Mr. Powell as their lone representative in the upper reaches of the Bush administration, and now he's gone.

Almost as bad, Mr. Powell was succeeded by a Bush loyalist, Ms. Rice.
If Mr. Bush is anxious his insurgency might fail, he hasn't let on. On the contrary, he exudes confidence that, despite the establishment, he'll succeed in his second term. Mr. Bush did make one bow to the establishment last week. He showed up in a tuxedo at the British embassy for a party honoring Ms. Rice. "One tux a term," a White House official said. "That's our idea of outreach to the Washington community."

In a thematically related piece Charles Krauthammer focuses on how Dick Cheney's lack of presidential ambition empowers the administration in a remarkable way.

There is an unusual feature to the second Bush Administration that is extraordinarily important but has been almost entirely overlooked. For the first time in a half-century, a two-term presidency will end without sending out its Vice President to seek a mandate for succession at the next election.
With Cheney's renouncing presidential ambitions, it is known in advance that the Bush Administration will die in January 2009 without an heir. What does that mean? Late in Bush's term, it will mean terminal lame duckness, even more powerlessness than most late presidencies experience.

But early in Bush's second term, the fact that Bush-Cheneyism will never have to seek popular ratification again gives Bush unique freedom of action. Which, in the hands of a President with unusually ambitious goals, will yield perhaps the most energetic — to some, the most dangerous — presidency of our lifetime.

Bush is fully aware of his situation. Hence the remarkable alacrity with which, after the election, he seized the moment. No two-month vacation to unwind. No waiting for the January Inauguration to set the agenda. He waited but two days to lay claim not just to victory but to a mandate.
This is no accidental presidency. Bush intends his to be a consequential presidency. And he knows that in January 2009 it all ends. This is a man on a mission, indeed several missions. And very little time. If that scares the Democrats who tried everything to defeat him — and those around the world who were desperately hoping for his replacement and repudiation — it should.

Vision and guts. W has them both in spades.

HT: Neal Boortz

[UPDATE/Correction: the Barnes column is on OpinionJournal.com, the WSJ's free opinion site that usually includes a column or two each day that is published in the newspaper. The link is above, before the excerpt. -- The Monk]

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