Yesterday Kevin Drum had a post about another rat abandoning the USS George Bush. As Kevin says, “The line of former supporters who now understand that (a) Bush is incompetent and (b) Cheney is a serious loon is getting mighty long.”
Now, I’ll leave the Cheney-is-a-serious-loon-issue for another day, and focus on Bush’s incompetence. I’m trying to think of what GW did that a Republican would not have expected in 2000? Of the big items, two come to mind.
1. Much of the whining is that GW spends like, well, Ronald Reagan. But is that really a surprise? GW promised from the beginning to increase spending on the military (remember the proposals for land-, sea- and space-based missile interceptors, including planes and satellites carrying lasers? What, this stuff was going to be free? So what was he going to cut? A revenue positive (at least now) item like Social Security?
2. Iraq. Well, gee, surprise. He associated himself with a bunch of folks from the Project for the New American Century, and their “policy of military strengths and moral clarity”, he hires Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz who back in the 1990s had urged Clinton to invade Iraq, and Iraq comes out of the blue? He brings on Rumsfeld’s boy as his Vice Presidential candidate, and Iraq is a complete surprise?
So here’s what I think. Bush simply has done what he said he was going to do, and the results were predictably different than what he said they were going to be. He told us we’d have tax cuts and a growing surplus. He told us his economic policies would lead to growth on a par with that in the Clinton era. And he promised a less arrogant America. In each case he failed, but the failure was not intentional. He didn’t set out to create a huge deficit. Its just that his prescriptions for achieving them, classic Republican prescriptions, failed. And they failed because they simply cannot work.
So the rats that are abandoning the ship now, the rats that are claiming the problem is GW’s incompetence – they’re worse than GW is. They want to blame the failure for their policies on GW, and then turn around and try the same prescriptions again.
As an aside… they’ve done it before. They did it with Ronald Reagan. But with Ronald Reagan, the nation was lucky. The USSR was already collapsing, and Volcker was a competent Fed Chairman. So the disaster that Reagan created, the debt as far as the eye can see, was mitigated by a few accomplishments achieved by others.
Update. None of the above is intended to imply I don’t think GW is massively incompetent. I imagine a more competent individual with the same policies might have done a better job in Iraq, but we’d be in the same place when it comes to the economy. So perhaps part of competence is being able to recognize policies that will inevitably lead to failure, which is a skill many of the ship-jumping rats clearly lack.