A Point of View on Bush

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Harding University is aptly being referred to as Fox News University; if you are associated with this highly conservative school or know much about its right-wing values, this point does not shock you. It appears that Harding enjoys educating the masses on how not to be balanced when it comes to various points of view. Let me be clear here: I am speaking of its prestigious American Studies Institute, a quasi think tank that hosts a speaker forum that has included the likes of former Soviet Union premier, Mikhail Gorbachev…whom I had the chance to hear speak. However, they have also brought in or invited the likes of ideological pundits who offer very little to intellectual discourse such as, Laura Ingram, Ann Coulter, and Sean Hannity. I am not speaking about all members of the faculty at HU. There are a number that encourage students not to hold true to certain values because they appear to be ubiquitous or institutional.

Keep in mind, they have brought in speakers that add some semblance of value to the academic cultivation of thinking. This past April George W. Bush was the speaker; I most recently used him as an example of how parties can shift one’s ideology too far in one direction. Case in point: the Republican Party has become known as an ideological right-wing party that caters to its base: white, religious Christian, upper middle class, and anti-federal government. The same can be said of the Democratic Party that caters to those who favor taxing the wealthy, expanding social reforms to the masses, and employing a system of greater pluralism.

There are two things Bush did during his speech that impressed me:

1. He stated that he would not take punches at Obama — which of course the highly right-wing audience wanted him to do (see video here).

2.When asked about religion and politics, Bush stated “I think it’s really important for the United States of America never to lose the vision that we can worship any way we want to in America. You can be a Jew, Christian, Muslim, nothing, and you are equal. That is vital freedom, an essential freedom, to the future of this country.”

Point #2 is a great point; it is one that speaks to the beauty of American pluralism. Bush realizes that he can be a leader and speak to the processes of America without fear of “others” pushing him farther to the right. In the end, the United States is a liberal nation; if one disagrees with this, I recommend reading the Bill of Rights.

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13 thoughts on “A Point of View on Bush

  1. I’m not sure, either, Jason but I haven’t heard the man speak since he left office (mostly because precious little he said IN office made me want to hear more. Ever).

    I agree that the U.S. is a liberal nation – one need only look to the writings of some of the Founders to see that – yet it has become an environment that is increasingly hostile to people with liberal leanings. It’s a tension I haven’t quite figured out yet…

  2. Chili: It does seem that those who hold conservative views believe that the rest of the country should also old those views; i find this most troubling seeing that we should all respect various point of views. I try to do my best in terms of being objective; however, why lie about who you really are.

  3. Bush advocated a lot of government spending, especially in his second term, which, by definition, is Liberal. Furthermore, he was influential force behind the PATRIOT Act and other homeland security initiatives that increased government control over peoples’ personal lives, which is also technically Liberal.

    I would argue that both GW and Clinton were actually moderates. While they both campaigned on far right and far left ideology, respectively, they both ended up being quite moderate in office. President Obama is shifting more and more towards the center as well, as most Presidents seem to do once in office. Then again, the argument can be made that, on a Global scale, most American presidents are very moderate.

    Mrs. Chili – I would not go far as to say that the U.S. is a Liberal nation…I think center-left is a bit more accurate.

  4. Dillon, I think you’re right, particularly if we look at the way the government was set up in its infancy. As it has evolved it has moved, I think, a little farther left, particularly after the Great Depression.

  5. The US is most definitely a center-right nation. All the polls I have ever seen on this indicate that a higher percentage identify as conservative than liberal and a greater percentage as moderate than liberal. This Gallup poll from 2009 showed 40% conservative, 35% moderate and 21% liberal. The backlash is coming this November, mainly from the moderate/independent voters who put Obama into office and are now realizing they were sold a bill of goods. Anyone that followed the election and Obama’s record should have known that he was a liberal and that he would govern as a liberal, especially with Democrat control of the House and Senate.

    In my opinion, Bush was a moderate. He may have taken a conservative stance on national security, but when it came to the fiscal side of things, he was no limited government conservative.

  6. Brandon:

    You stated: “2009 showed 40% conservative, 35% moderate and 21% liberal. The backlash is coming this November, mainly from the moderate/independent voters who put Obama into office and are now realizing they were sold a bill of goods”

    It is not the poll that I have an issue with; I just do not think the average American fully understands ideology and the extent of how it reflects core Constitutional values. I know I sound pretentious here, but give me a second to explain. Most people will classify themselves along a liberal-conservative continuum, but few will reflect true ideological thinking in public opinion survey polls. People who lack a consistent set of political attitudes and beliefs rely on their self-interest, limited information, and belief schemas…or existing constructs that might not be wholly accurate nor clearly defined.

    In a traditional fashion, we are liberal when it comes to granting rights. However, there is that Puritanical quality that makes Americans more economically conservative than their European counterparts. Thus, I do think we lean to the left mathematically in that we are granted so many rights; our Constitution has allowed its citizens to evolve over time.

  7. Brandon –

    I think there are major problems with the poll you referenced. Whether or not someone identifies themselves as conservative/liberal depends on their environment. For example, someone who states that they are liberal in South Carolina would probably actually be considered moderate, or even conservative, in Massachusetts. Similarly, a conservative in New York City would most likely be fiscally conservative yet socially liberal, yet still identify themselves as conservative. I am obviously making generalizations here, but they are accurate for the most part. I would probably identify myself in such a poll as “liberal,” while in reality I am probably considered very liberal; my parents would identify themselves as moderate while they are actually probably liberal. How someone identifies them self is far less accurate than examining opinions on particular issues. For example, in 2009, 72% of Americans favored an increase in government control over healthcare. 77% supported an increase in government funding for alternative energy research; 54% favored infrastructure building over tax cuts as a way of stimulating the economy. Based on these statistics, America is definitely center-left.

    I have a huge problem with your statement that “moderate/independent voters who put Obama into office and are now realizing they were sold a bill of goods.” Any voter that did not gather that Obama was very Liberal based on both his election platform and his Senate voting history. There was no deception involved. All one has to do is google “barack obama senate voting record” to see that he was the most Liberal member of the Senate. His liberalism is blatantly obvious in all of his writings and speeches. You can not put the Obama campaign, or any elected official, at fault the ignorance of voters. That’s how the game is played.

  8. Dillon –

    I completely agree with you that voter ignorance played a huge role in Obama’s election because his liberalism was clear to anyone that conducted a minimal amount of research. It is a shame that voters continue to make choices without actually becoming well informed about the candidates. However, his campaign was not characterized by much discussion of the issues but was all about high-minded platitudes and catch phrases. The worst thing for his campaign would have been for him to be tagged as a liberal, as John Kerry was in 2004. His was a campaign focused on Obama himself and what voters wanted to project on to him.

    To mention problems with polls, I take much issue to how many of the questions are phrased which I believe can give the impression that the country is more center-left than it actually is. I realize your example isn’t an exact quote, but what exactly does an “increase in government control” mean? It is so vague and could mean many things to the person who answers. If the country was so center-left I do not believe you would see the backlash that is now occurring. People would be ecstatic about Obamacare, they would want another “stimulus” bill and would be really mad that a cap and trade bill has not made it through Congress yet.

    Eddie –

    I see what you are saying. I think we are looking at a definitional issue as far as what liberalism actually means today, which is different than the classical liberalism reflected in the Constitution. At least as far as discussions go about how individuals classify themselves.

  9. It’s easy to complain about politics and government. Really easy. My turn.

    Like Chili, Bush’s presidential record doesn’t make me too interested in what he has to say out of office now (though, I did vote for him during one of his presidential campaigns…I’ll let you guess which one…). However, reading Carson’s post reminded me of something that is often lost amongst all of the latter day Bush Administration shenanigans:

    (1) Bush ran as a moderate in 2000. His record in Texas, as I recall, was moderate. He espoused “compassionate conservatism” — a funny little phrase that insinuates that real conservatives don’t have a heart…haha. However, in the wake of 9/11 and the Iraq and Afghanistan debacles, and out of a need to defeat Kerry in 2004, Bush ran right. I think we saw the exact same thing in 2008 with McCain. Why is it that the so-called “Maverick” of the GOP ran hard right in 2008? To energize the base, so I am told.

    (2) Remember that GWB had one of the highest approval ratings of all-time in the days following 9/11. His message was clear and consistent: Return to business as usual, don’t hate on all Muslims for what a select few have done, be good Americans. Though he was criticized by folks like Tim Robbins, I happen to think this was exactly what the US needed to do.

    Switching gears…

    I think we have some serious definitional issues. Why is it that “liberal” now means “more government control”? Shouldn’t it be the opposite? I’m studying my Latin roots here…

  10. Several of you have hit on the problem with this discussion, and it is definitional. Liberal and conservative are relative terms, and so don’t mean a lot either way in a discussion such as this.
    The bill of rights is about individual protection, which is neither a liberal nor conservative term (and at the same time, both liberal and conservative).

    The only thing that matters in using those terms is when comparing two positions and labeling. Speaking of one thing (such as the electorate) and using either term is almost meaningless, because anything can be described as either one depending upon what you choose to compare it to.

  11. dutro:

    I agree; we have seen terms get thrown around not realizing they have changed meaning, much like both major parties. One must and do compare it in a modern context, though not all liberals are liberals one every issue. That is the challenge.

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