Noonan om Bush, barbecue-sovs & "the Bridge to Nowhere"

En af mine absolut mest yndede skribenter er den fænomenale amerikanske taleskriver, Peggy Noonan, som over de sidste +20 år har skrevet nogle af de mest velformulerede taler i amerikansk politik nogensinde.  Og det siger ikke så lidt.  Blandt talerne er Reagans farveltale, hans VE-Day tale og Bush Srs. “Read My Lips, No New Taxes”, og til Republikanernes konvent sidste år havde hun skrevet en tale til guvernør George Pataki, der næsten fik ham til at lyde interessant.

Damen skriver også som kommentator ved Wall Street Journal, og her er lidt af hendes kommentar til George W. Bush; hun opfatter ham, modsat Berlingske Tidendes Poul Høi, ikke som repræsentant for “nulstats-konservatisme”, men kalder ham det, han er, “big spender”, og nu er mor sur på og træt af ham.  Hun skal nok ikke regne med at blive inviteret tilbage til Det Hvide Hus som skribent lige med det samme, efter den svada hun her leverer:

“In his Katrina policy the president is telling Democrats, “You can’t possibly outspend me. Go ahead, try. By the time this is over Dennis Kucinich will be crying uncle, Bernie Sanders will be screaming about pork.”

That’s what’s behind Mr. Bush’s huge, comforting and boondogglish plan to spend $200 billion or $100 billion or whatever–“whatever it takes”–on Katrina’s aftermath. And, I suppose, tomorrow’s hurricane aftermath.

George W. Bush is a big spender. He has never vetoed a spending bill. When Congress serves up a big slab of fat, crackling pork, Mr. Bush responds with one big question: Got any barbecue sauce? The great Bush spending spree is about an arguably shrewd but ultimately unhelpful reading of history, domestic politics, Iraq and, I believe, vanity.

This, I believe, is the administration’s shrewd if unhelpful reading of history: In a 50-50 nation, people expect and accept high spending. They don’t like partisan bickering, there’s nothing to gain by arguing around the edges, and arguing around the edges of spending bills is all we get to do anymore. The administration believes there’s nothing in it for the Republicans to run around whining about cost. We will spend a lot and the Democrats will spend a lot. But the White House is more competent and will not raise taxes, so they believe Republicans win on this one in the long term.”

Mere effektive til at administrere en større offentlig sektor–lyder det ikke bekendt?

“As for vanity, the president’s aides sometimes seem to see themselves as The New Conservatives, a brave band of brothers who care about the poor, unlike those nasty, crabbed, cheapskate conservatives of an older, less enlightened era.

Republicans have grown alarmed at federal spending. It has come to a head not only because of Katrina but because of the huge pork-filled highway bill the president signed last month, which comes with its own poster child for bad behavior, the Bridge to Nowhere. The famous bridge in Alaska that costs $223 million and that connects one little place with two penguins and a bear with another little place with two bears and a penguin. The Bridge to Nowhere sounds, to conservative ears, like a metaphor for where endless careless spending leaves you. From the Bridge to the 21st Century to the Bridge to Nowhere: It doesn’t feel like progress.

A lot of Bush supporters assumed the president would get serious about spending in his second term. With the highway bill he showed we misread his intentions.

The administration, in answering charges of profligate spending, has taken, interestingly, to slighting old conservative hero Ronald Reagan. This week it was the e-mail of a high White House aide informing us that Ronald Reagan spent tons of money bailing out the banks in the savings-and-loan scandal. This was startling information to Reaganites who remembered it was a fellow named George H.W. Bush who did that. …

Poor Reagan. If only he’d been strong he could have been a good president. … At any rate, Republican officials start diminishing Ronald Reagan, it is a bad sign about where they are psychologically. In the White House of George H.W. Bush they called the Reagan administration “the pre-Bush era.” See where it got them.

Sometimes I think the Bush White House needs to be told: It’s good to be a revolutionary. But do you guys really need to be opening up endless new fronts? Do you need–metaphor switch–seven or eight big pots boiling on the stove all at the same time? You think the kitchen and the house might get a little too hot that way?”

Og så rejser hun et tema, som danske borgerligt-liberale også kender til: Selvretfærdiggørelsen med henvisning til, at “de andre” er langt værre:

“The Republican (as opposed to conservative) default position when faced with criticism of the Bush administration is: But Kerry would have been worse! The Democrats are worse! All too true. …  But saying The Bush administration is a lot better than having Democrats in there is not an answer to criticism, it’s a way to squelch it. Which is another Bridge to Nowhere.”

Bushs mest grundlæggende fejl er, siger Noonan, én, som danske borgerligt-liberale også vil kunne genkende:

“First and foremost Mr. Bush has abandoned all rhetorical ground. He never even speaks of high spending. He doesn’t argue against it, and he doesn’t make the moral case against it. When forced to spend, Reagan didn’t like it, and he said so. He also tried to cut. Mr. Bush seems to like it and doesn’t try to cut. He doesn’t warn that endless high spending can leave a nation tapped out and future generations hemmed in. In abandoning this ground Bush has abandoned a great deal–including a primary argument of conservatism and a primary reason for voting Republican. And who will fill this rhetorical vacuum? Hillary Clinton. She knows an opening when she sees one, and knows her base won’t believe her when she decries waste.”

Og denne strategi er kortsigtet, siger Noonan–og igen kan vi nikke fra vore hjemlige erfaringer:

“… Mr. Bush seems not to be noticing that once government spending reaches a new high level it is very hard to get it down, even a little, ever. So a decision to raise spending now is in effect a decision to raise spending forever. …

Money is power. More money for the federal government and used by the federal government is more power for the federal government. Is this good? Is this what energy in the executive is–“Here’s a check”? Are the philosophical differences between the two major parties coming down, in terms of spending, to “Who’s your daddy? He’s not your daddy, I’m your daddy.” Do we want this? Do our kids? Is it safe? Is it, in its own way, a national security issue? …

I never understood compassionate conservatism to mean, and I don’t know anyone who understood it to mean, a return to the pork-laden legislation of the 1970s. We did not understand it to mean never vetoing a spending bill. We did not understand it to mean a historic level of spending. We did not understand it to be a step back toward old ways that were bad ways.

I for one feel we need to go back to conservatism 101. We can start with a quote from Gerald Ford, if he isn’t too much of a crabbed and reactionary old Republican to quote
. He said, “A government b
ig enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.” “

Og igen er der en parallel til hjemlige forhold:

“The administration knows that Republicans are becoming alarmed. Its attitude is: “We’re having some trouble with part of the base but”–smile–“we can weather that.”  Well, they probably can, short term. Long term, they’ve had bad history with weather. It can change.”

Noonan opfordrer den amerikanske højrefløj til ikke stiltiende at acceptere en så dramatisk omlægning af de idealer, man tidligere har haft:

“Here are some questions for conservative and Republicans. In answering them, they will be defining their future party.
If we are going to spend like the romantics and operators of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society; If we are going to thereby change the very meaning and nature of conservatism; If we are going to increase spending and the debt every year; If we are going to become a movement that supports big government and a party whose unspoken motto is “Whatever it takes”; If all these things, shouldn’t we perhaps at least discuss it? Shouldn’t we be talking about it? Shouldn’t our senators, congressmen and governors who wish to lead in the future come forward to take a stand?

And shouldn’t the Bush administration seriously address these questions, share more of their thinking, assumptions and philosophy?

It is possible that political history will show, in time, that those who worried about spending in 2005 were dinosaurs. If we are, we are. But we shouldn’t become extinct without a roar.”

Hvad gør dinosaurerne i de danske politiske partier?  Brøler de som løver, eller mæh’er de som lam?

2 thoughts on “Noonan om Bush, barbecue-sovs & "the Bridge to Nowhere"

  1. Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard

    Ouch, ouch, ouch … Skal man bedømme, hvorledes det går George W. Bush på, hvordan udviklingen i synet er på ham blandt hans mest solide støtter, så er det vist på tide, at han begynder på genrejsningen. Hvis Noonans ovenstående klumme fra forleden var hård, så er det næsten ingen ting imod, hvad der de seneste dage er sket endnu tættere på hjemmet. På C-Log–den konservative web-log portal leveret af amerikansk konservatismes højborg, Heritage Foundation, har hele tre ekstremt negative klummer:- Jonah Goldberg fra “National Review” har skrevet klummen “Is this the end of ‘compassionate conservatism’?” ( Her hedder det bl.a. “Here’s my silver-lining hope this hurricane season: George W. Bush’s compassionate conservatism gets wiped out like a taco hut in the path of a Cat. 5 storm. Outside of people inside the administration, I’ve never met anyone who really likes the president’s “compassionate conservatism.” To the extent conservatives praise it at all, they celebrate the fact that compassionate conservatism got Bush elected. … [What]’s the problem? First, as a political slogan, compassionate conservatism was always a low blow. Almost by definition, people who claim to be compassionate conservatives are suggesting that other kinds of conservatives aren’t. Conservatism, rightly understood, never needed the adjective. The second problem is that compassionate conservatism necessarily demands government activism. If normal conservatives are either too cheap or too uncaring to spend billions of dollars of other peoples’ money on dubious social improvements, then compassionate conservatives must feel and do otherwise.”- Jacob Sullum piller præsidentens og kongressens kastrofale fiskal-katastrofe politik fra hinanden ( Mona Charen, kommentator, som arbejde for Reagan og siden for Jack Kemp, skriver disse hårde ord (”A little over a month ago, when House members were departing for the August break, the Republican leadership circulated a flyer listing 12 “Ideas for August Recess Events.” Among these were, according to The Washington Post, “stop by a military reserve center to highlight increased benefits,” “visit a bridge or highway that will receive additional funding,” or “talk up the new prescription drug benefit for seniors.” That sound you hear (is it a ka-ching?) is the sound of Republican principle melting in the hot sun of Washington, D.C. Gone is the heady talk from the days of the Republican Revolution in 1994, when whole departments and agencies were to be eliminated. Today, the corpulent state gobbles up taxpayers’ money, and it is Republicans who declare that no “offsets” can be found for the new spending natural disasters will require. Nonmilitary and non-homeland security spending increased by $303 billion between 2001 and 2005, according to the American Conservative Union. Only eight members of the House of Representatives and 11 senators voted against the $286.5 billion transportation bill in August, the most lavish public works bill in U.S. history. The Washington Post reports that the mammoth bill contains 6,376 earmarked projects including “a $2.3 million grant for the beautification of the Ronald Reagan Freeway in California; $6 million for graffiti elimination in New York; nearly $4 million on the National Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio, and the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich.; $2.4 million on a Red River National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center in Louisiana; and $1.2 million to install lighting and steps and to equip an interpretative facility at the Blue Ridge Music Center, to name a few.” And now President Bush, whose greatest sin in his first term was failure to wield the veto pen, has joined enthusiastically in the legalized looting of the taxpayer. …President Bush’s Sept. 15 speech from New Orleans, while graceful and touching, contained no hint of humility about the reach of federal power or the capacity of government to get things done. “We’ll not just rebuild,” he declared, “we’ll build higher and better.” This is not a conservative perspective. The people of the region need immediate help and comfort, but why must we rush headlong into a rebuilding program, particularly one funded and controlled from Washington? The president pronounced that “Americans have never left our destiny to the whims of nature, and we will not start now.” That sort of hubris can get you into trouble. Governments don’t know how to build cities. Besides, one might have thought that Katrina had just taught a bitter lesson about thumbing one’s nose at nature. Would it really be unthinkable for Baton Rouge to take New Orleans’ place as the most important city in Louisiana? Finally, there is the Democrats’ favorite topic — the perennial matter of race. Suddenly, Republicans seem to have suffered an attack of amnesia. The president attributes poverty in New Orleans to a history of racial discrimination and proposes, as Stephen Moore coined it in The Wall Street Journal, a “GOP New Deal.” In truth, as conservatives have patiently argued for 25 years, poverty in America today is primarily a matter of culture, not race. It is the result of family disintegration above all. Republicans have reduced poverty in America dramatically — especially that of black children — by welfare reform. There is more to be done on that front, but not by adopting the liberals’ mantra about racism. Republicans seem to be forgetting not just their principles but their own past successes — and that is an invitation to failure.”Ouch, ouch, ouch … Lad mig gætte på, at Bushs nominering til US Supreme Court bliver en _meget_ ideologisk, konservativ kandidat …


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