The Vindication of George W. Bush
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Posted byTIMOTHY H. LEE
Ten years of supposed liberal ascendancy has come to mean almost complete permanence of Bush tax cuts that originally faced nearly unanimous Democratic opposition.
“I just wanted to thank so many on the other side after all these years, for finally acknowledging publicly that ninety-eight percent of the Bush tax cuts helped the middle class.”
~Representative Louis Gohmert (R-Texas)
Consider first this week’s “fiscal cliff” stalemate.
Since November, liberals have claimed a sweeping ideological mandate, a validation of their political agenda, at least insofar as higher taxes were concerned. Obama himself wasted no opportunity to assert that voters were offered a choice of higher or lower taxes, and they opted for the former. A watershed shift, they seemed to think.
Viewed from a broader perspective, however, reality is very different.
Obama and his party just did something that Republicans couldn’t do even when they controlled both houses of Congress and the White House. Namely, make the Bush tax cuts permanent for approximately 99% of Americans.
To reinforce the point, note that higher tax rates were set to automatically take effect on January 1. Accordingly, if Obama and fellow Democrats had done nothing, the Bush tax cuts that they’ve spent the past decade demonizing would vanish at the stroke of midnight.
By way of contrast, back in May 2003 Congress enacted the cuts by the slimmest of margins, 50 to 50 in the Senate (with Vice President Dick Cheney casting the tiebreaking vote) and 231 to 200 in the House. Among Democrats, the Senate ratio was 46 to 2 against, while the House ratio was 198 to 7 against. Ten years later, despite an election that improved their party balance in both the Senate and House, as well as a re-elected President and a Republican party in disarray, Democrats sought only a tax hike on a tiny portion of Americans.
Thus, ten years of supposed liberal ascendancy has come to mean almost complete permanence of Bush tax cuts that originally faced nearly unanimous Democratic opposition.
Events in Syria provide additional vindication for President Bush.
Alarmed by the sudden possibility that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad might use chemical weapons, Obama warned, “If you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences, and you will be held accountable.” Considering that Assad already faces brutal execution from his own officials if he attempts to flee Syria, and from opponents should they topple his regime, Obama’s weak admonition probably doesn’t top his list of concerns.
Nevertheless, as Foreign Policy Initiative Executive Director Jamie Fly observed this week in The Wall Street Journal, Obama’s “lead from behind” manner has left the U.S. reactive rather than proactive toward the sudden Syrian WMD threat:
“When the regime of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi fell last year … thousands of conventional weapons proliferated because of American and European unwillingness to back an external stabilization force. The Obama Administration, failing to learn the lessons of Libya, is reportedly planning for a light-footprint approach should the Assad regime fall.”
As a result, according to Fly, the threat lies not in use by Assad, but by other agents if he falls. In other words, precisely the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, who had used WMD on multiple occasions against domestic and external foe alike.
So far, however, there is little ridicule of Obama for assuming the presence and potential threat of Syrian WMD. Weapons, by the way, that may have arrived via Iraq. Accordingly, ominous threats in that theater provide a new context through which events ten years ago are viewed.
Of course, Obama’s vindication of Bush hardly ends there. Guantanamo Bay remains open. The Patriot Act was recently extended. The Iraq troop surge was repeated in Afghanistan. Budget deficits that Obama labeled “unpatriotic” while campaigning in 2007-2008 have been quintupled. And so on.
Meanwhile, Bush’s public likability rating continues to ascend.
Expect that to sustain as Obama’s second term proceeds.