What George W. Bush and Barack Obama have in common: the same agenda
Ross Douthat says that the Iraq debacle energized the left and made it possible for them to take over the government and usher in all the liberal policies the country is now living under.
I would quarrel with him just a bit and point out that Iraq was only the last of three catalyzing events that energized the left: the first two were also Republican overrreaches in the form of an idiotic impeachment of a president and the subsequent installation of George W. Bush by a narrow conservative majority of the Supreme Court. The Iraq war was just one of a piece. The Republicans were overdue for an electoral setback. 9/11 just delayed it.
But I couldn't help but chuckle at this funny little passage:
[O]nce Bush’s foreign policy credibility collapsed, his domestic political capital collapsed as well: moderates stopped working with him, conservatives rebelled, and the White House’s planned second-term agenda — Social Security reform, tax and health care reform, immigration overhaul — never happened.So Bush's failure in Iraq led to an end to his centrist agenda of Social Security Reform, tax and health care reform and immigration overhaul and paved the way for the left's takeover of American politics. That's very interesting considering that Obama began his first term with this agenda:
This collapse, and the Republican Party’s failure to recover from it, enabled the Democrats to not only seize the center but push it leftward, and advance far bolder proposals than either Al Gore or John Kerry had dared to offer. The Iraq war didn’t just make Obama possible — it made Obamacare possible as well.
Jan 10, 2009 2:25pmHere's how he characterized his agenda for his second term in October 2012:
I asked the president-elect, "At the end of the day, are you really talking about over the course of your presidency some kind of grand bargain? That you have tax reform, healthcare reform, entitlement reform including Social Security and Medicare, where everybody in the country is going to have to sacrifice something, accept change for the greater good?"
"Yes," Obama said.
It will probably be messy. It won’t be pleasant. But I am absolutely confident that we can get what is the equivalent of the grand bargain that essentially I’ve been offering to the Republicans for a very long time, which is $2.50 worth of cuts for every dollar in spending, and work to reduce the costs of our health care programs.
And we can easily meet -- “easily” is the wrong word -- we can credibly meet the target that the Bowles-Simpson Commission established of $4 trillion in deficit reduction, and even more in the out-years, and we can stabilize our deficit-to-GDP ratio in a way that is really going to be a good foundation for long-term growth.
Now, once we get that done, that takes a huge piece of business off the table. Now we're in a position where we can start on some things that really historically have not been ideological. We can start looking at a serious corporate tax reform agenda that's revenue-neutral but lowers rates and broadens the base -- something that both Republicans and Democrats have expressed an interest in."
Now, it's true that he didn't mention immigration reform in all that but it is certainly on the list now. Health care reform has been checked off but beyond that, his second term agenda still differs very little from George W. Bush's second term agenda.
Perhaps it might be time for someone, somewhere, to rethink this centrist wish list. In peace and war, in economic good times and bad, it remains unpopular with the American people. So unpopular that they are unable to pass it due to opposition within both parties. Since this is supposedly a democracy, it would be nice if our representatives paid attention to that, especially considering that there are many more important issues that must be dealt with.
Immigration and health reform would be a fine centrist legacy. Maybe the government should just drop the rest of it for the time being, particularly the obsession with austerity in the guise of "reform." There's been enough turmoil for a while.