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Is George W. Bush a conservative?

John Simkin

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In yesterday’s Sunday Times, Andrew Sullivan described William F. Buckley as the “undisputed titan of American conservatism” and was “instrumental in Ronald Reagan’s long, steady intellectual march to power”.

Buckley has recently decided that George W. Bush is not really a conservative. “Bush… ended up being very extravagant in domestic spending, extremely tolerant of excesses by Congress. And in respect of foreign policy, incapable of bringing together such forces as apparently were necessary to conclude the Iraq challenge.”

Sullivan, also a conservative, adds: “His legacy… includes two bungled wars, a doubling of the national debt, a ruination of America’s moral high ground in the war against Islamic terror, the worst US intelligence fiasco since the Bay of Pigs, and the emergence of Iran as a regional and potentially nuclear power with control of the West’s energy supplies.”

Sullivan explains that “American conservatism has gone from being a political philosophy rooted in skepticism of power, empirical judgment and limited government into an ideology based in born-again religious faith, immune to empirical reality and dedicated to the relentless expansion of presidential clout. It sanctions wiretapping without court warrants, indefinite detention without trial and the use of torture.”

I agree with what Buckley and Sullivan say about Bush. However, I believe they are being disingenuous. All conservative presidents have not delivered a cut in government spending. They all increase defence spending so that they can pay-back their corporate backers. Look at the budget deficit left by Ronald Reagan. Presidents such as Nixon, Reagan and Bush senior, were willing to let the CIA organize assassinations and acts of terrorism against left of centre governments in the third world. Nor were they too concerned about the way the CIA and their allies such as DINA used torture against their enemies.

The only reason that conservatives like Buckley are attacking Bush is that he is more incompetent than his predecessors. In reality, it has nothing to do with ideology.

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