So what IS this Woodrow Wilson thing all about?
Well let’s think it through. Here’s a president who took the United States into a very controversial war, ailment ending in an unsatisfactory peace. In response to a domestic terrorist threat, try culminating in a deadly attack in lower Manhattan, this president adopted draconian domestic security policies. Oh – and his administration concluded with an abrupt plunge into severe recession.
Any parallels come to mind?
What’s taking place on Glenn Beck’s show is a coy conservative self-conversation. Maybe it’s because I’m in China now, but it reminds me of the way Chinese intellectuals in the late 1970s would discuss the first Qin emperor, as a way of debating – and denouncing – Mao Zedong without explicitly mentioning a sensitive subject.
In the case of George W. Bush, however, this elliptical approach to the subject is not only unnecessary, but distorting.
For all his faults, George W. Bush did try to develop a conservatism that could actually win elections and govern successfully in the 21st century. He did not succeed. Yet the problem he identified remains with us, and conservatives must solve it.
The dominant conservative point of view on George W. Bush was that his failures can be explained by lack of willpower. If only he’d been tougher on spending, all would have been well. But that only opens the conversation. George W. Bush was plenty tough, and accepted a more than usual number of political risks. He avoided this one. Why? An answer to that question is the essential precondition to greater Republican success next time.
To achieve greater success will require great realism about both opportunities and constraints. Which means the Bush issue has to be addressed head-on, and in a full way. Conducting the conversation in code is not very helpful, especially when the code contains so much garble.