"Doctor Zero" is one of the most articulate contributors to the Green Room group blog at Michelle Malkin's Hot Air site. Referring to the uproar over the Justice Department report on alleged Bush-era CIA abuses, Doctor Zero writes today:
Apparently Obama and his accomplices decided to distract their liberal base from the fiery Hindenburg crash of socialized medicine, by offering them a relaxing cruise on the Titanic of leftist foreign policy. . . .
A weary public allowed itself to be badgered into electing the first black president, after they ran out of patience waiting for John McCain to explain why they shouldn't. Normal people don't define their relationship with the government by taking pleasure in the humiliation of political figures they dislike. We're six months past the point where American voters can be kept quiet by suffocating them with the pillow of Bush hatred.
OK, so far, so good. One of Bill Clinton's most insightful mantras was that successful politics is always forward-looking. A politics that spends its time arguing over the past is, by definition, a losing proposition. So the attempt of the Obama administration and its allies to score points by discrediting post-9/11 counterterrorism policy is a guaranteed loser, politically.
However, having made that valid point, Doctor Zero then adds:
We're about a month past the point where anyone capable of independent thought believes Obama is a better president than Bush was.
This is a bad argument, setting up an unnecessary comparison which does nothing to bolster the opposition to Obama. Furthermore, one can easily argue that George W. Bush was a very bad president and that one of the worst aspects of his presidency was that Bush confused people about the meaning of "conservatism" in a way that damaged the Republican Party and made possible Obama's election.
In this regard, I am fond of quoting our publisher, Al Regnery, who told me last year in an interview:
"You look back in the earlier times, there were no opportunities, so there were no opportunists," Regnery says, noting how liberals heaped abusive epithets on Buckley, Goldwater, and other early conservative leaders. "Later on, you have all these people who figure it's probably a pretty good political thing to do. And so they start talking about being conservative when they're running [for office], but they really aren't. So when they get to Congress or wherever they go, they're pretty easily dissuaded."
Insofar as the Obama administration is a political failure, that failure will damage the Democratic Party and the progressive cause with which Democrats are identified. Whatever harm to the national interest is inflicted by that failure, it is a harm for which Obama's opponents cannot be blamed.
If we believe that the success of conservatism is synonymous with the good of the nation -- as every conservative certainly ought to believe -- then the damage to the reputation of conservatism for which the Bush administration was responsible is, ultimately, more harmful than whatever short-term damage to the nation Obama's (hopefully brief) misrule may cause.
We ought not engage in a backward-looking politics, but we should study and benefit from the lessons of failures past. It must be recognized the extent to which the Bush administration was a failure, or we risk further damage from future repetitions.
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