-- Bush's extraordinarily poor choices for high-level government positions. The choice of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court was perhaps his worst decision -- rectified only because conservatives finally protested one of his decisions en masse and forced him to choose the vastly more qualified Samuel Alito instead. But since then we have witnessed the gross incompetence of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in the continuing scandal over the unnecessary -- and still unexplained -- firings of several U.S. attorneys; the comically inept actions of former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown during the Katrina disaster; and the forced resignation of Paul Wolfowitz as president of the World Bank, a position for which he was totally unqualified in the first place and which was given to him purely as a reward for obsequious loyalty to the president. Space prohibits listing many other such examples.
-- The incredible ineptness with which Bush has pursued conservative goals such as Social Security reform, while he has brought to bear every ounce of power at his disposal to ram though Congress an immigration bill that is viewed as abhorrent by most conservatives. If it becomes law, it will only be because of heavy support from Democrats, who correctly view the addition of millions of new Hispanic voters as a major boon to their party. Meanwhile, Bush gives short shrift to his conservative critics, just as he did in the Miers incident. This has led many of his formerly fervent conservative supporters to conclude that he essentially views them and their concerns with total contempt.
All of this has made the Republican soil highly fertile for a dissident campaign based on a genuine conservative message, such as that being offered by Ron Paul. I still don't think he can win the nomination, but he may end up playing a role not dissimilar to that played by Eugene McCarthy in the Democratic nominating process in 1968. He didn't win, either, but forced Lyndon Johnson to retire and ultimately shaped the direction of the Democratic Party for decades to come.
Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.
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