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Free Liberal: Coordinating towards higher values

Free Liberal

Coordinating towards higher values

The Bush Legacy: The Reincarnation of Imperialist Socialism?

by Micah Tillman

Because of term limits, we all get to watch Presidents end their lives twice. As they become lame ducks, they shift into "legacy building mode." They do crazy things, launch large projects, talk to reporters about "how they want to be remembered," insist on their own achievements, etc.

Then they spend the rest of their lives trying to do it all over again. They write books, start foundations, go on missionary expeditions, build houses, and so on. The point is to achieve immortality, to create something (blandly called "a legacy") that will outlast them.

(FWIF: I think what we call the "legacy building" phase(s) of a President's life, actually cover(s) the two final stages in Erik Erikson's theory of life stages: "Generativity vs. Stagnation" and "Ego Integrity vs. Despair.")

Until recently I was sure Bush's legacy would be the War on Terror (and everything that goes with it: Iraq, WMD/CIA, Patriot Act, etc.). The only question was whether people who didn't live through it would like it. In other words, the question was what the "Judgment of History" would be.

(Oh, History! That godlike being for whom everyone is a prophet.)

If you're not a Republican, you know what History will say: History will declare Bush an imperialist dictator. History is on your side, because you are on the side of justice.

If you are a Republican, you know what History will say, as well: History will declare Bush a heroic liberator. History is on your side, because you are on the side of freedom.

Personally, I think the non-Republicans are right, since History is written by Academics, and Academics are, if I understand correctly, mostly non-Republican.

So, Bush's legacy will be one of imperialism.

But the recent economic issues (reporting on which is starting to remind me of the Dark Days of the Iraq War, when every day's headline was the same) have added a twist I didn't see coming.

Bush's legacy will also be one of socialism.

Ralph Z. Hallow reports that "Republican Party officials say they will try next month to pass a resolution accusing President Bush and congressional Republican leaders of embracing 'socialism'."

Republican repulsion over Bush's continual prodigality has finally been brought to a head by "The Bailouts." And it's found an epithet through which to express itself: "socialism." If this sticks, and I think it will, Bush's chances of being remembered as a liberator are dead.

Republicans, the only ones (in America, at least) who read Bush's legacy as one of liberation, were willing ("in the long run") to overlook his prodigality. They were resigned to giving it the status of, "Ultimately-Irrelevant Qualification," tagged to the front of every Bush eulogy.

(For example: "Sure, he was 'an insult to drunken sailors', but look at all the good he did for freedom! That's what's really important. Prodigality is forgivable; spinelessness isn't.")

But Bush has gone beyond prodigal with The Bailouts. It's one thing to be prodigal. It's another thing to push it, promote it, champion it.

It's one thing to do the drunken sailor routine. It's another thing to do so in order to help other drunken sailors stay out of debtor's prison.

It's one thing to grow the Federal Budget. It's another to start directly messing with the budgets of private businesses.

The Bush legacy, therefore, will be declared by History to be imperialist, and by his own people to be socialist. Bush will represent the reincarnation of Woodrow Wilson.

(I knew the "W" stood for something. I just didn't know there should have been two.)

And I find that ironic.

Yet, perhaps this was the destiny of that confused doctrine known as "Compassionate Conservatism" all along.

Micah Tillman is a lecturer in the School of Philosophy at The Catholic Universit of America.

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Some very good points. The Woodrow Wilson reference caught me by surprise but the more I think of it the more sense it makes. Also, I've been long bugged that he bought congressional cooperation for his plans by allowing their pork barrel spending to run amok.

# posted at by Bruce

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