Today's Blogs

Revisionist History?

Bloggers are debating President Bush’s contentious Veterans Day speech on prewar intelligence and a radical set of policy proposals put forth in the Weekly Standard for the future of the Republican party.

Revisionist history?:An outspoken President Bush slammed critics of the Iraq war in a Veterans Day speech today, emphasizing that Democratic leaders examined the intelligence before authorizing the use of force. “While it’s perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began,” he said.

“Let’s hope this augurs the beginning of a strong and concerted administration pushback against the scurrilous charges being leveled by many of his political opponents,” writes Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom. “Bush used the term ‘some Democrats’ to label those opponents—a designation that I believe is important, because it signals that the partisan gloves are about to come off, and that Democratic leaders who have been making strong public accusations questioning the honesty and good faith of the administration (I’m looking at you Harry and Howard and Nancy) are about to be forcefully challenged on those claims.”

Others on the right agree. “The White House needs to go on the offensive here in a big way – and Bush needs to be very plain that this is all about Democratic politicans pandering to the antiwar base, that it’s deeply dishonest, and that it hurts our troops abroad,” writes libertarian law professor Glenn Reynolds, unusually quarrelsome, at InstaPundit. “And yes, he should question their patriotism. Because they’re acting unpatriotically.”

Liberal Left Coaster Steve Soto suggests the speech might not carry much weight with the public, considering recent poll results. “Bush left himself wide open with these charges today, and Kennedy rightly responded immediately in kind,” he writes. Other liberals believe that the president is shifting responsibility for the war off his own shoulders and onto those of compliant senators. “Bush Said Stand With Me, Now Blames Those Who Did,” writes Dave Johnson at Seeing the Forest. At Think Progress, contributors are lining up to dispute Bush’s argument that Senate Democrats examined the same intelligence as the White House. At The Agonist, graduate student Sean Paul Kelley thinks the president is digging his party’s own grave with his allegiance to that story.

Read more about the speech.

Real compassionate conservatism:“President Bush’s domestic policy looks less and less like a visionary twist on traditional conservatism, and more and more like an evolutionary dead end,” Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam write in a Weekly Standard cover story assessing the future of the post-Bush GOP. “Isn’t it time the Republicans did something for their voters?” Noting that the GOP is becoming the party of the working class, they suggest that Republicans pursue a popular agenda of “big government conservatism” and propose an innovative batch of policy initiatives: Greatly increase the length of maternity leave and child tax credits to promote a family culture; deliver health-care reform without significantly increasing government expenditure; actively promote self-help and job-training programs for immigrants and native poor; and rethink the party’s bedrock assumption that Republicans should always pursue tax cuts despite diminishing political returns.

Many observers read the essay as a sign that committed ideological conservatives are jumping ship on the president and his party. “You can tell a President is in trouble when the post-mortems start while he still has 3 years left in office,” writesProfessor Stephen Bainbridge, who teaches corporate law at UCLA. Lifelike Pundit Aaron, a conservative government analyst, says the essay is part of a “coming crackdown” on the GOP. “I am not counting Bush out, but he is starting to look, walk and quack like …”

“I certainly don’t agree with everything in it,” writes Southern-fish-in-northern-water Barry Campbell at Enrevanche, “but the straight talking, clear-eyed assessment of the current situation in the GOP is as bracing as a shot of overproof rum.” Many other conservatives have a similar, cautiously intrigued, response. “I am a small-government Republican, but since it seems that most of the country wants a somewhat-large government it makes sense to think about how to make the best of that situation,” writes computer science graduate student Michael Williams.

“While some of the proposals are of questionable merit, they are shrewdly targeted to appeal to middle class families,” observes the Rooseveltian progressive behind Bull Moose. “It is the next step in big government conservatism. It is a ‘Disraeli’-type conservatism that recognizes that government should help relieve the economic anxiety of its social conservative base.” At Marginal Revolution, economist Tyler Cowen doubts that intelligent thinking could transform the message of any political party.

Washington MonthlyPolitical Animal Kevin Drum applauds, in particular, the somewhat bleak assessment of the current health-care system. “Unfortunately, because they’re conservatives, Ross and Reihan are unwilling to take the obvious next step and endorse some kind of sensible national healthcare plan, even though they provide a synopsis of the issues involved that would do justice to The Nation.” Their essay, Drum believes, does suggest a winning PR message for those hoping to reform or even nationalize health care: that an insurance-based system cripples those who are covered as well as those who are not.

Liberal stalwart Matthew Yglesias would like to endorse Douthat and Salam’s proposal but can’t: “These are all at least okay ideas,” he writes at progressive salon TPMCafe. “But they all cost money. The government has, at the moment, $0.00 to spend on new program. Indeed, that’s a substantially overestimate. It has negative dollars to spend…. If you want (as Ross and Reihan seem to want) to both be serious about policy and see some new program implemented, then you need to want to see tax revenues enhanced by rather more than the cost of your proposed new spending.” He also questions the writers’ banner proposal for mandatory health insurance, calling it a “mirage.”

Read more about the essay here.

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