Principle Over Politics?: The Domestic Policy of the George H. W. Bush Presidency by Richard Himelfarb (Praeger Publishers) Cabinet members, journalists who covered Washington, and scholars who have been reassessing the George H. W. Bush presidency detail his domestic policy. The key areas covered include the economy, the budget, the disabled, civil rights, health, science and technology. In addition, the volume examines his emphasis on volunteerism.
President George Herbert Walker Bush's domestic policy stands in vivid contrast to his foreign policy. While Bush's stewardship in the latter area won him praise and popularity, many of his decisions in the domestic sphere brought criticism from both the left and right and proved politically disastrous, playing a key role in his 1992 election defeat.
Although some accuse Bush of disengagement and disinterest in domestic affairs, the prevailing opinion voiced by conference participants in this volume (many of whom served in his administration) is that the president's policies here were characterized by a deep commitment to principle and pursuit of the public interest, even at the expense of political considerations. Indeed, many argue that the Bush administration pursued policies that were both well intentioned and ultimately successful, but failed to communicate them successfully to the public. While some of the blame for this lies with a hostile news media and simple bad luck (especially the economic downturn beginning in 1991), much of the responsibility appears to rest with President Bush himself, a man reluctant to tout his successes and sully himself in partisan political combat. Thus, the picture that emerges of George Bush is that of a decent, principled man whose accomplishments in the domestic arena were unfairly devalued and widely misunderstood.
The first two parts of this volume concern the most significant domestic controversies of the Bush administration, those involving the federal budget and economy. In each of these areas the central issue concerns the degree to which Bush was a victim of unfortunate circumstances (including a Democratic Congress, a sizable structural budget deficit, and economic recession) or politically inept (as in his decision to renege on his "no new taxes" pledge). In addition, chapters 1—5 and
panelists address the question of whether Bush's policies in these areas, although politically painful in the short run, proved successful in the long term.
The Americans with Disabilities Act is the topic of Part III. Much of the discussion here deals with the origins of the legislation and President Bush's central role in its passage. Parts IV and V focus on a collection of other social policies of the Bush administration, including civil rights, drugs, education, and health care. While panelists address each of these substantive issues in detail, much of the de-bate concerns one major question: Were Bush's achievements in these areas mostly rhetorical and symbolic or were they substantively important but misunderstood and/or misinterpreted by the public and the media?
President Bush's effort to promote volunteerism through his "Points of Light" program is discussed in Part VI. Chapters and panelists examine the origins of Bush's efforts here, placing particular emphasis on his Yankee upbringing, his commitment to public service, and his desire to engage in less-partisan political discourse than his predecessor, Ronald Reagan. In addition to examining the operation of the Points of Light program and its significance, panelists also address why media reporting on the program was scant and largely derisive.
The final two parts address the Bush administration's record in a pair of policy areas that receive relatively little public attention: science and technology and energy and the environment. Again, these panels are notable for the presence of former administration officials and supporters who argue that President Bush's accomplishments in these areas were significant and beneficial, if also overlooked and unappreciated.
In sum, much (though certainly not all) of this volume is dominated by the efforts of Bush admirers to argue that his tenure be seen as more than simply a "third Reagan administration" or that of a one-term presidency sandwiched between a pair of more dominant and significant men. Stated another way, it is the hope of many of President George Bush's defenders that history will judge his domestic accomplishments more favorably than did the 1992 electorate.
The President of Good and Evil: The Ethics of George W. Bush by Peter
(Dutton) From provocative ethicist and author Peter Singer, whose books have
sold more than 700,000 copies: a chilling exposé of George W. Bush’s moral
failure on dozens of hot-button issues.
More than any president in recent memory, George W. Bush invokes the language of good versus evil and right versus wrong. Controversial professor of ethics Peter Singer has put his spotlight on President Bush’s moral claims. The results are required reading.
Examining public pronouncements that have rarely been subjected to ethical analysis, on topics from stem-cell research and tax cuts to
His position on stem cell research, which stressed the absolute sanctity of
life, even in the form of frozen embryos, sits ill with his cavalier attitude
toward capital punishment, in which innocent people are not infrequently sent to
their death, and with his ready acceptance of "collateral" civilian casualties
in time of war. The protection of the legal rights of American citizens abroad
who are accused of crimes, even to the point of rejecting the legitimacy of the
International Criminal Court, is flatly inconsistent with the policy of
detaining terrorist suspects for long periods without access to a lawyer and
without being charged -- not to mention the use of coercive techniques of
interrogation (i.e., torture). Free trade is extolled, but then massive
subsidies are handed out to the farming industry, with catastrophic effects on
struggling farmers in the developing world, and prohibitive tariffs slapped on
the import of foreign steel. States' rights are to be respected, except when gay
marriage is at issue.
Singer makes these points carefully and effectively, with full documentation.
None of this, however, is particularly new or rises above the level of
conscientious journalism; indeed, most of it is based on newspaper reports.
Where the book strikes a fresh note is in the last chapter, which tries to
penetrate to the heart of the Bush moral outlook. His policies show that he is
neither a believer in the inviolability of individual rights nor a consistent
utilitarian. Nor can the teachings of Christianity be used to support his
various positions, since these can be interpreted in several ways, and many of
his policies have no biblical basis. Singer suggests, plausibly and scarily,
that a brand of Manichaeism best represents his religious outlook -- the idea of
a force of evil in the world, with an apocalyptic Second Coming imminent and
But when it comes to his actual moral views, it seems to be a matter of what the
Bush gut has to report today, as the president himself admits. Hence his
tendency to adopt conflicting moral positions and an unwillingness to consider
how the conflicts might be resolved; he finds it hard to see why he can't have
it both ways. Singer speculates that the president might well be stuck at what
the developmental psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg called the level of
conventional morality, characteristic of teenagers, in which simple moral rules
constitute one's moral outlook, and the idea that such rules might conflict
hasn't sunk in (as the rules "Don't lie" and "Don't cause harm" can conflict if
a murderer asks you the whereabouts of his next victim). Bush does seem sincere
enough in his moral opinions, contrary to an entirely cynical interpretation of
his words and actions, but there is an impression of callow simple-mindedness in
his moral sentiments; at the least, he has not thought through the complexities
of the issues he is called upon to deal with.
The conventional view of George W. Bush is that, while he is a man of marked intellectual limitations, he is governed by a consistent set of deeply held moral convictions. Singer's book refutes this comforting myth. Bush is a man of sporadically good moral instincts, perhaps, as with his AIDS initiative, but he sways inconsistently and opportunistically in the political breeze, and has no idea how to make his beliefs fit coherently together.
The President of Good and Evil follows in the bestselling traditions of Stupid White Men and Lies . Singer has never shied away from controversy, and now enters the most visible arena of his life, with powerful arguments that throw new light on
Excerpt: Whether he really
believes in the fine phrases and lofty rhetoric that he uses, or is consciously
using it to win public support, it is clear that Bush has no real interest in
the policy details needed to achieve the aspirations he has voiced. He has
failed to follow through on most of the commitments he has made to work for a
better, more just society. He has said that deep, persistent poverty is unworthy
Bush's own moral character stood up well to the test ofhigh office. Handicapped
by a naive idea of ethics as conformity to a small number of fixed rules, he has
been unable to handle adequately the difficult choices that any chief executive
of a major nation must face. A person of good moral character who takes a false
step will admit it, seek to understand what went wrong, and try to prevent
something similar from happening again. When Bush's use of misleading
In the end, it is impossible to be sure how genuine Bush and those who advise him are about the ethics that he advocates. This book can therefore be seen as an attempt to cover all the possibilities. When Bush speaks about his ethics, he is either sincere or he is insincere. If he is insincere, he stands condemned for that alone. I have started with the opposite, more generous assumption: that Bush is sincere, and we should take his ethic seriously, assessing it on its own terms, and asking how well he has done by his own standards. Even if that assumption should be false, the task has been worth undertaking, for we now know that, sincerely held or not, Bush's ethic is woefully inadequate. He now trails behind him a string of broken promises and reversed policies, from his claim that he would champion the rights of states against the power of the federal government, to his pledge to bring the American dream to the poor, and his opposition to "nation-building." Instead of ushering in "the responsibility era" of which he often spoke, his tax cuts have pushed the budget further into the red, piling up problems for future generations. If what's needed in a president is, as Bush himself said in November 2000, a consistent message, then George W. Bush is a conspicuous failure.
Howard Dean: A Citizen's Guide to the Man Who Would Be President by Dirk Van
(Steerforth Press) Evenhanded reportage makes these essays by home-state
journalists politically savvy generally useful for getting an idea about who
Dean is and what his main take on the policies are.
Less than a year
ago, Howard Dean was the most obscure candidate in a crowded field of aspirants
for the Democratic nomination for president of the
Howard Dean: A Citizen's Guide to the Man Who Would Be President
sets out to answer "Who is Howard Dean?" What do his
life experiences and, maybe more importantly, his performance as Vermont’s
governor for nearly twelve years tell us about what he believes, how he
operates, his strengths and weaknesses as a chief executive and campaigner, and
what kind of a president he might be? And what do those who really know him
Reported by nine journalists whose experiences range from the Vermont Statehouse
to past presidential campaigns,
Howard Dean: A Citizen's Guide
is filled with fresh information and keen new insights. Separate chapters cover
Dean’s boyhood and college years, his time as a doctor and legislator, his
record on the environment, health care, and budgets, and his revolutionary use
of the Internet as a grass-roots organizing tool. For readers looking to
determine whether Dean can go the distance and how to cast their votes in 2004,
this book is indispensable.
Made In Texas: George W. Bush and the Southern Takeover of American
Politics by Michael Lind (Basic Books) A scathing
expose of the political and cultural legacy of
Everyone knows that President George W. Bush is from
Widely praised as an iconoclastic and brilliant political observer,
Lind, a fifth generation Texan, chronicles the unique ethnic clash that
produced modern Texas, the well-known plundering of the state's natural
resources at the hands of the elites, and finally the deep strain of
"Old Testament religiosity" which, having originated in Texas, now
reaches all over the globe in the form of Bush's foreign policy.
Lind delves deep into the president's home state, and his record in
office, provoking us to consider the history of the state of
insert content here