[T]he only problem Republicans ever had with George W. Bush was his low approval rating. They always loved his policies and his governing style — and they want them back. In recent weeks, G.O.P. leaders have come out for a complete return to the Bush agenda, including tax breaks for the rich and financial deregulation. They've even resurrected the plan to cut future Social Security benefits.The Republicans' renewed embrace of Bush would be hilarious, if it weren't so dangerous for the country, given their absurd attempts to distance themselves from him starting around 2006. He was radioactive during the 2006 midterms—none of the House Republicans, nor the Senate Republicans up for reelection, wanted him anywhere near their campaigns—and laughable pieces like Jeffrey Hart's "He's a right-wing ideologue, not a true conservative" in the LA Times were all the rage, making tortured arguments about how Bush wasn't really a conservative and had run the true conservative movement off the rails.
But they have a problem: how can they embrace President Bush's policies, given his record? ... You know the answer. There's now a concerted effort under way to rehabilitate Mr. Bush's image on at least three fronts: the economy, the deficit and the war.
...Republicans aren't trying to rescue George W. Bush's reputation for sentimental reasons; they're trying to clear the way for a return to Bush policies. And this carries a message for anyone hoping that the next time Republicans are in power, they'll behave differently. If you believe that they've learned something — say, about fiscal prudence or the importance of effective regulation — you're kidding yourself. You might as well face it: they're addicted to Bush.
It was bullshit then, and it's bullshit now.
Bush was the Platonic Ideal of the Modern Conservative, the Golden Boy of the current incarnation of the Republican Party—a corporate shill with the demeanor of a country bumpkin, who could hold together the unholy alliance between Big Money and Big Religion, standing at the altar and giving the blessing to the grim marriage between the gullible bigots who pledged to march in lockstep with anyone who promised to protect the children from illegals and feminazis and kissing boys, and the business interests who sought to get rich off those rubes before sending their jobs overseas. Bush didn't just give good speech on Neocon dreams and working class nightmares; he believed that shit. And with a GOP-led Congress and a never-ending stream of media mouthpieces willing to demonize anyone who dared to dissent, he tumbled headfirst into fulfilling every last one of the conservatives' wishes, like a malevolent genie pulled out of a bottle in oil-soaked Texas.
He wrapped himself in the flag and told America to follow him down the Yellow Brick Road. He went to war, and he made his conservative cronies rich. Rich like whoa. And they cheered him all the way, over every last golden cobblestone. Then the nation started getting itchy—and all of a sudden the greatest beneficiaries of President Toad's Wild Ride wanted to pretend they never knew what was there. Why, we had no idea who was behind the curtain! Please.
Bush was a conservative president with no checks and balances, left to pursue every conservative wet dream with abandon. The certain destination for the wanton and unfettered quest for a conservative utopia was always going to be the revelation of the ugly ideology underwriting it all.
It was just embarrassing when conservatives pretended to be shocked by what Bush's policies wrought. And then to claim he wasn't a conservative!
Conservatives believe the free market and privatization is the solution to all our problems. Conservatives believe in social Darwinism. Conservatives believe in defense, defense, and more defense. And maybe, once upon a time, conservatives believed in privacy rights, but once they invited the Gun-Toting Jesus Brigade into their Big Tent to give their corporate agenda the momentum it needed in the voting booths and supported the notion of a unitary executive, they relinquished their claim to privacy rights forever and ever, amen.
There were more than twice as many billionaires in America when Bush left office as there were when the Supreme Court escorted him in, and in the time of their making, we saw soldiers die, felt our rights be stripped away, experienced widespread joblessness and food insecurity, watched an entire American city drown—saw those for whom conservatives have the greatest contempt turn to their government for help in a time of crisis and quite literally be left stranded by the callousness of conservative philosophy. And all the while conservatives wailed about how hard they've got it, and when the hoi polloi turned against Bush and his unfettered pursuit of conservative policies, conservatives wailed some more that their principles were betrayed by the very man they tasked with building their own El Dorado.
But Bush didn't part ways with conservatism; Bush realized its destiny. And in the great tradition of so many martyrs who have gone on before them, that was conservatives' cross to bear, no matter how much they tried to distance themselves from him by retreating into some retro definition of conservatism that hasn't been operable since controlling women became more important than protecting their privacy and bodily autonomy.
But, now, hilariously, after championing a redefinition of conservatism when it suited them to distance themselves from Bush, they're trying to rewrite his presidency and turn it into a legacy of success.
As if the indelible images of the Bush administration aren't just a series of catastrophic failures for anyone who wasn't already wildly successful.
It's breathtaking in its temerity, but it is also terrifying, for the reason Krug says: Republicans aren't trying to rescue George W. Bush's reputation for sentimental reasons; they're trying to clear the way for a return to Bush policies.
Bush policies. Shiver. Like taking this nation to war on false premises; creating millions of refugees; playing class warfare with gilded tax cuts; letting an American city drown; outing one of our own spies; playing wedge issue politics; demonizing immigrants, people of color, LGBTQIs, women, atheists, liberals; promoting avarice above social conscience; relegating philanthropy and empathy to little more than cute, clichéd memories; holding in contempt compassion for those in need; delighting in ignorance; reveling in xenophobic nationalism; pillaging natural and philosophical resources in the acquisition of more wealth; selling We the People piece by piece in massive government-underwritten giveaways to Big Pharma and Big Oil and Big Energy and Big Agriculture; writing more than 1,000 signing statements and using countless National Security Letters to undermine the rule of law; casting aside habeas corpus like day-old bread; treating the Geneva Conventions and our Constitution like suggestions...
Ugh. And braying, thunderously and incessantly, that this country is the Almighty's gift to the world, even though its policies are objectively and demonstrably hurtful for many people in the world, and even despite the reality that it's a still a really shitty place to live for lots of struggling people, and sneering, callously and ceaselessly, that those people are always, only, to blame for their troubles, and that there's something wrong with anyone who doesn't wrap their hands around the throat of American Dream and wring every last bit of life out of it to their own benefit.
Ugh. And calling people who disagree with conservatives America-haters, wrapping themselves in the flag and declaring themselves the True Patriots, the "Real Americans," so it's all but impossible for dissenters to express their abhorrence of conservatism without seemingly attacking America itself, so it's easier for conservatives to do what they really want to do—turn America into a place the people they call "America-haters" really, genuinely do hate, by ridding it of everything that we love.
That's Bush conservatism. That's modern conservatism, no matter what they were saying four years ago. And that's to what they want to return; that's their feverish inspiration for rehabilitating Bush.
Bush, the consummate conservative.