Even George W. Bush's biggest fans will concede that their president isn't much of a political philosopher. So the thinking has been, especially among Bush's critics on the right, that the administration won't have a lasting impact on conservative ideas. Once this presidency comes to a close in January 2009, innovations like the Bush Doctrine and “compassionate conservatism” can be safely filed away alongside the “I Like Ike” memorabilia and bumper stickers advocating nuclear freeze.
p>Think again. Even if the president himself goes quietly into Crawford, members of the Bush brain trust are already working to define conservatism for the next generation. And both conservative institutions and the mainstream media have been eager to give them platforms from which to do so.
p>Karl Rove has
made his debut
as a 2008 campaign commentator for
, alongside the liberal blogger Markos Moulitsas. (An odd pairing, to be sure — how many successful presidential campaigns have been run by Daily Kos?)
p>Rove will mostly offer the kind of expert analysis usually provided by savvy insiders, but if his first column is any indication much of his advice to Republicans will be to follow some variation of the Bush model: Be authentic; grab domestic-policy issues away from the Democrats; court minorities; stay the course in Iraq.
p>If Republican candidates follow Rove's advice — do they have consultants on their own payrolls who can boast of better electoral track records? — the style of conservatism the
's John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldrige dubbed “Bushism” will have a longer shelf life than the Bush administration itself.
p>Other Bush alumni are more explicitly interested in systematic ideology as opposed to grand political strategy. When Peter Wehner ran the White House's office of strategic initiatives, he was as prodigious an e-mailer as any Viagra pitchman, though his target audience was Washington journalists and policy wonks. (Fred Barnes is a
of the missives.)