Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The State Of The Union: Things Left Out

I'm not anti-Bush and I don't have an axe to grind against him personally. I would gladly have him preside over the USA over and against John Kerry, Al Gore or Hillary Clinton. Of course, that isn't saying too much. And then again, I think the best option would be an emphatic: NONE OF THE ABOVE.

Since I'm an evangelical Christian and a capitalist, some may assume I've loved his presidency. But that is not the case, I have some very serious concerns about a number of things he's done in office. He's done SOME good things. However, his legacy has some serious problems and it turned out considerably worse than I originally thought it would be.

Here is a list of some areas of major concern, especially from my perspective as a libertarian. As a non-American, I concur that I may not have all my facts right. But I've done my best to ascertain these facts. If anything here is incorrect, I'd appreciate corrections, preferably with citations (so I can become more informed).

(I must at this point also note that various branches of government are also responsible for each of these problems, so the blame clearly doesn't merely fall on the President)

1. Bush's government attacked and took over two countries. In Afghanistan, the initial mission was to go after Bin Laden, but got sidelined in an exercise of nation building. Suddenly Bin Laden took the background. And in Iraq, Bin Laden was suddenly forgotten. The war in Iraq proceeded with a blatant disregard for the constitution. This is a foreign policy which is neither sustainable nor in America's best interests. Bush was elected on a humble foreign policy rejecting Clintonian interventionism, but that changed very quickly. And I believe that Bush has continued to maintain bad foreign policy in other places, such as Cuba and the ongoing rhetoric on Iran.

2. At the end of the day, the war on terror has been expanded to what is effectively a war on the liberties of U.S. citizens. The Patriot Act makes many Americans consider the following axim: "Osama Bin Laden is ostensibly a free man. But are you? ". Liberties long cherished by Americans are disintegrating. The act dramatically increases the shroud of secrecy revolving around government investigations. It dramatically expands the ability of states and the Federal Government to conduct surveillance of American citizens. The federal government becomes able to execute wiretaps without judicial oversight. And the violations of privacy filter down to the Internet and libraries. And it doesn't limit these powers for use on suspected terrorists. It is a dramatic plunge towards an Orwellian police state, and it was taken under the rhetorical banner of "the war on terror". How else would you get people to swallow this? And, in general, the ability to live free without government intrusion is declining. This leads some American citizens to wonder: Why are we trying to "export" freedom to other lands when we aren't doing a good job of keeping our own land and people free?

3. The Bush government in many ways was NOT fiscally conservative. I've seen different figures, but it seems clear that there is a HUGE deficit. Clearly, budget spending has been tremendously high. Clearly there is much "residual prosperity", but there is a clear decline and there are many factors to that. One thing is clear--the Bush government hasn't been very conservative in their economics. In the words of David Boaz from the Cato institute: "The Bush administration has delivered massive spending, centralization of education, expansion of entitlement". And in the words of Douglas Wilson: "The first round of compassionate conservatism under George II seems to have consisted of nothing more than widening the national rat hole so that we could throw more tax dollars down it:"

4. To go along with the last point, the Bush government has been steadily increasing the size of government in a way that would have Democrats drooling. This was one of the must un-Reagan Republican governments ever.

5. And really, besides all the rhetoric about "family values", what has the administration done for "family values"?

A Democratic party candidate would probably not do any better, and in many ways worse. Mainline Democrats and mainline Republicans have their disagreements: but they are agreed on authoritarianism and statism. Sometimes for devious reasons, perhaps, but often through good ol' fashioned neglect. In fact, former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry admitted to not even reading the Patriot Act. And he voted FOR it! And that's a 'civil liberties issue' which the Democrats CLAIM to be champions of.

It is common for Christians to get all defensive about the Bush government. I think we should evaluate it fairly (not pandering to overly-sympathetic rhetoric nor overly-critical rhetoric). Those who think it is an offense against Christianity to have second thoughts about the Bush legacy ought to consider the following: What would you think if a Democrat-party president did the following: observed Ramadan in the White House, conducted a polytheistic worship service in the National Cathedral, offered reverence in a Shinto shrine in Japan, etc.? Well, Bush did all those things (as noted by Douglas Wilson). Isn't it sort of a double-standard to hammer Democrats for doing the very things that Bush is doing?

Sorry, George, I'll take "sensible" libertarianism over "compassionate" conservatism any day. I think the surprising explosion of support within the Republican party for Ron Paul is just one small ruffle in the leaves that may suggest that many conservatives have had their dose of "compassionate conservatism" and are just about ready to go "cold turkey".

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