Although it is old news now, I have a question inspired by that special congressional election in Mississippi that was the third special election in a row won by a Democrat.
Does not the unpopularity of Republicans show what a disaster George Bush's policies (supposedly thought up by Karl Rove) have been? Bush let Kennedy write the education bill; he passed the prescription drug bill, the biggest welfare state handout since Johnson's Great Society; he expanded government regulations, such as outlawing the incandescent light bulb; he increased steel tariffs; he sent spending through the roof. The theory behind all this is the very old mixed economy program of spending money to buy votes from various pressure groups. You might call it the Republican version of Clinton's "triangulation," or defeating the enemy by joining it.
What has this orgy of big government bought Bush and the Republicans? Bush is now hated by both the left and the right. Bush could have spared us the massive explosion in spending and regulations -- and who knows, he might have ended up more popular than he is today. I think even many Republicans will agree that Bush's presidency must count as a failure and a tremendous waste of treasure. His is not the template for future Republican presidents.
When a party spends money to buy votes, the least it should get is more votes. If they're too incompetent to get even that, then they deserve to lose. (So much for the myth of Karl Rove's genius.)
So why did Bush pursue a program so damaging to the Republican Party? Because it is a program of altruism. Bush, a committed Christian, thought all that government spending was the right thing to do. Bush was not primarily motivated by partisan advantage, but by morality. When people pursue their morality, they will follow it even it ends up destroying them.
This brings us to the lingering war, a huge factor in Bush's unpopularity. It took us four years to defeat the Germans and Japanese in WWII. Seven years after 9/11 we are still mired in the Middle East, as taxpayer money and military lives go to bring a state of semi-freedom to Muslims who have never known freedom. We are establishing a program of permanent American sacrifice in the Middle East because we no longer have the confidence and boldness to wage a serious war to destroy our enemies.
Politicians tend to take the easy way out instead of showing leadership and taking risks. It might be hard to understand at first, but Bush's war policy is the pragmatic, easy way out. Waging serious war in America's self-interest would incur the wrath of the world, the intellectuals, the media and the State Department. It would take a President with a spine of titanium to stand up to all that altruist opprobrium. More precisely, it would take a President with a philosophic understanding that America has the right to defend itself and to demolish its enemies. Poor little George Bush, who holds Jesus as his favorite political philosopher, is hopelessly incapable of such an understanding. Instead of waging serious war, he has package-dealed war with setting America up as the nanny state of the Middle East. Bush could not conceive of America reducing a nation to rubble without also spending trillions to clear the rubble and rebuild the buildings.
By the standards of altruism Bush is a moral, noble, great president. Unfortunately for America, the morality of sacrifice can lead only to failure and death in this world.