Sunday, February 12, 2006

Kicking Bush in the Bottom Line

[[B O O K S]] * Here’s a book guaranteed to generate buzz in the coming days. Called Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy, it’s provocative not only because it contends that the prez has damaged the U.S. economy for his own short-term political gains, signing off on an orgy of Republican pork-barrel projects and a costly Medicare prescription drug bill, but because the author is Bruce Bartlett, a former domestic policy adviser in the Reagan White House who went on to work for George H.W. Bush’s Treasury Department as a deputy assistant secretary for economic policy.

As William Neikirk explains in the Chicago Tribune’s excellent national politics blog, The Swamp, Bartlett makes the case in Impostor that “Bush has put the country in such a financial position that taxes will have to be increased substantially sooner or later.” Bartlett further insists that, although the White House portrays the prez as a true conservative with a conservative agenda, Bush is simply a partisan Republican, anxious to improve the fortunes of his party ... but perfectly willing to jettison conservative principles at a moment’s notice to achieve that goal.” Neikirk continues:

Bartlett faults Bush’s tax cuts, calling them ill-designed. He finds his trade policy too dotted with protectionist moves, adding that he has the worst policy on free trade since Herbert Hoover. The Medicare prescription drug bill is “the worst legislation in history” because of its massive future costs, he says, and he has not vetoed a single bill as he increased the size of government. Two of the unkindest cuts in the book: Bill Clinton had a better record on controlling the deficit, he says, and Bush has ... many of the same kinds of policies as Richard Nixon.

Indeed, he notes, Nixon expanded government and regulation, not to mention his adoption of wage-price controls. Nixon is regarded as one of the worst presidents in history, he writes, and Bush could be well on his way to that same status when the reckoning day comes for his fiscal policies. ...

There is great concern among conservatives that Bush’s policies will cause the Republicans to lose the presidency in 2008, he says. Bartlett added he hopes that a “serious conservative challenger for the Republican nomination emerges soon” and that the party does not have to suffer a crushing defeat “before its current leadership is sufficiently discredited to allow new faces, voices and ideas to emerge. Historically, both parties have found people to fill this role when their backs were against the wall. But, sadly, they sometimes had to have their backs against the wall.”

The appearance of Impostor would probably have been bad at any time during Bush’s Oval Office tenure. But it’s coming out a point where the prez’s job performance ratings are near their lowest ebb, voters are frustrated if not angry with the bungled Iraq war, Bush has just announced the largest budget deficit in American history--more than $400 billion--and scandals plague the administration and its Republican water carriers on Capitol Hill. No doubt the GOP is already lining up loyalists to rebut Bartlett’s charges against the man he casts as a failed Reagan successor.

READ MORE:An Outspoken Conservative Loses His Place at the Table,” by Elisabeth Bumiller (The New York Times); “Do Bush Followers Have a Political Ideology?” by Glenn Greenwald (Unclaimed Territory).

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