There are some who are thinking strategically about the election in November and beginning to lay the groundwork for the candidate of their choice. Bruce Bartlett and others have hit upon a strategy that they hope will produce success this fall.
They understand that hanging their hats on Bush is a losing strategy. So what to do? Ban Bush from the circle of "true" conservatives, claim he was unfaithful to the cause, then promote someone, a McCain perhaps but there are others, as an alternative who embodies true conservative values. The reason I think this is a clever strategy is that liberals are willing participants in it. Those on the left side of the fence are very willing to jump onto the conservative Bush-bashing bandwagon.
As Krugman has noted McCain is solidly within the right-wing of the party (The Right's Man), and as McCain's recent praise of Bush makes clear, there is little difference between Bush and McCain on key policy points. While liberals have an overflowing plate when it comes to talking about the shortcomings of this administration, care should be taken to ensure that it is clear that Bush is part of, not separate from, the club of true conservatives.
Here's the latest example of the attempt to throw Bush out of the club, Bruce Bartlett's Washington Times commentary, "Less Than Fully Conservative":
Less Than Fully Conservative, by Bruce Bartlett, Commentary, Washington Times: In every administration, there is always one journalist that the White House trusts above the others ... In this administration, it is Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard magazine.
Whenever you read one of Mr. Barnes' columns, you know that you are getting an inside perspective. ... Now Mr. Barnes has produced a book about George W. Bush, "Rebel-in-Chief," ...
Early in the book, Mr. Barnes concedes Mr. Bush lacks a "conservative governing temperament." ... Mr. Barnes admits that he is "no libertarian or small government conservative," ... Mr. Bush "pays lip service" to limiting government, Mr. Barnes says. "More often than not," Mr. Barnes goes on to say, "he relies on a bigger federal government and billions of taxpayer dollars" to achieve his goals.
Mr. Barnes says Mr. Bush has no sympathy for federalism... "He's favorably disposed to federal power in education and health care," Mr. Barnes tells us. In foreign policy, Mr. Barnes says Mr. Bush's policies are most like those of Democrat Woodrow Wilson...
Mr. Barnes also admits Mr. Bush's governing philosophy ... is incoherent. "Proposing to reduce Social Security's unfunded liability, as Bush has, just after ballooning Medicare's with a prescription drug benefit is hardly coherent," Mr. Barnes writes. "Nor does it make sense to sign a lavish farm subsidy bill, which Bush did, while advocating fiscal restraint." ...
Toward the end of the book, Mr. Barnes more clearly says Mr. Bush is no conservative. "George W. Bush isn't one of them," Mr. Barnes says. On the contrary, he appeals to the "liberal instincts" of his supporters.
In his conclusion, Mr. Barnes compares Mr. Bush to Ronald Reagan on a three-point scale, with Reagan getting a full point on taxes, foreign policy and social values. Mr. Barnes gives Mr. Bush a full point only on values, with just half a point each for taxes and foreign policy. That makes Mr. Bush two-thirds of a real conservative, which sounds about right to me.
Bash away boys, but he's still one of yours.