Forced to the ramparts to defend Rush Limbaugh against spurious, low-down attacks from the Obama White House and assorted Obamedia, conservatives, in their understandable zeal to defend a salient voice of conservatism, are letting the real enemy slip away unnamed. Who would that be? The answer is George W. Bush, whose stealthy political legacy stands as taking what is popularly known as "conservatism" on a disastrously leftward lurch.
A shocking statement, maybe. But I came to believe long ago -- at some point after the insipid limpness of former President Bush's theories of world democracy, delivered in his second inaugural address, had sunk in -- that it most likely would have been better for conservatism, and therefore the country, had John Kerry won in 2004.
To be sure, it would have been a long, possibly dire four years. But four Kerry years of rampant liberalism would likely have invigorated the right. Eight Bush years of rampant compassionate conservatism have left it confused and feckless. Post-Bush, conservatism -- small government, low tax, strong defense and country-proud conservatism -- isn't resonating as a concept partly because of its champions: conservatives who simultaneously claim George W. Bush as their own.
I started picking up on this conservative confusion as the Obama cabinet began taking shape, and a number of conservative commentators responded by praising the Clintonian retreads (Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emanuel) and Scowcroftian non-cons (Robert Gates, James Jones) amidst the new administration. Indeed, there was a strange rapture on the right over what many touted as the "centrist" Obama cabinet -- evidence, I maintain, of conservative disorientation over the shape and span of the political spectrum itself. Only if the right has shifted left might the Obama cabinet be labeled "centrist." Such ideological dislocation is the result of two Bush terms of ever-expanding government, still-open borders, nation-building galore, politically correct policies toward "extremism," and, of course, the Bush rush to socialize the U.S. economy -- all of it tagged with the "conservative" brand.
The resulting chaos -- crisis, in fact -- is exactly what President Obama, our new collectivist-in-chief, has seized on, not in order to change America's direction, but to accelerate its leftward motion. It is the degree of continuity with Bushism that most conservatives completely miss.