Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Really-Existing Conservatism: Bush's Calamities

I might fault Austin Bramwell on semantics here:

Bush’s idealism, in short, means that he’s not just indifferent to the evil consequences of his actions but positively welcomes them as proofs of his commitment to idealism. In Bush’s mind, the our very failures in Iraq have shown how he has gloriously withstood the test of leadership. For all that other presidents have also claimed the mantle of righteousness, an idealism as fanatical as Bush’s has never been seen before.
I would substitute ideology and ideologue where Bromwell uses idealism and idealist, but that's a quibble. Either way, I take this reading of Bush as the most back-handed of praise; either way, it expresses the fact that Bush makes a mistake that is parallel to the one many left-ish academics make: they read Nietzsche's aphorism that "to be great is to be misunderstood," and they proceed to try to make themselves great by making themselves impossible to understand (cf. the Sokal Affair). Similarly, Bush sees the example of Lincoln standing firm in the teeth of calamity and proceeds to foment and embrace calamity after calamity.

But I have more than quibbles with this comment on Bromwell from Secular Right's David Hume (not to be confused with the real David Hume):
One of the main points which my liberal friends have a hard time grasping is the conservative anger at George W. Bush for not being a conservative. Faith and hope are important human traits, and pure rationality leads to a sterile and indecisive existence (as evidenced in António Damásio’s work). But all things in modest measures. One can not know the mind of a man, but on many an occasion I have wondered as to the similarity between the cosmic visions of liberal audacity and George W. Bush’s belief that if he believes it is so, it is so.
Not that this is the first time I've heard it, but audacity is not the same thing as liberalism, and Bush has borne the standard of conservatism through every one of his calamities. To whatever extent he has defiled that standard, it does not change the standard; and it certainly does not change the fact that Bush worked his calamities with the enthusiastic support of other self-labeled conservatives in Congress, the courts, business, the news media, and beyond.

The Bush legacy is what it is, and it has been conservative from day one. Conservatives own it, notwithstanding the fact that some of them -- some -- have come around to detest aspects of it. To whatever extent liberals deserve blame for the last several years of national disgrace, it is for opposing conservatism too weakly in the name of centrist accommodation.

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