Category Archives: George W. Bush

The changing face of public service

There was a largely unnoticed piece today in The Hill about former Bush White House staffers running for office in the 2010 elections. It made me think about the changing nature of public service, the professionalization of the political class, and the competing claims of what constitutes an ideal model of a public servant.

Ever since I was old enough to think about politics, I have had an attachment to the citizen statesman. The man or woman who serves out of a sense of duty,  brings years of real world experience to the job, and returns home after the job is done. I still believe in the concept of the citizen politician, and probably always will.

However, in recent years I have had to consider whether I hold a somewhat romanticized notion of what marks the idealized elected official biography. While a background outside of government may indicate that the person has pursued goals other than political power, and hopefully has impressed upon that person that government can not and should not attempt to manage all aspects of society, an individual with extensive political experience could certainly be a superior candidate in some cases.

This is particularly true today due to the massive scale of government and resulting specialization and professionalization of its functions and human resources. This is not a good thing of course, but it is a reality, at least at the federal level and to a certain degree among the states as well.

Some have argued that this reality makes the case against term limits as well – that institutional memory held by long-serving politicians is necessary to the effective functioning of government and its multitudinous extensions. Of course, an argument against term-limits is closely related to an argument against the widespread necessity of citizen politicians.

While on the whole I believe legislative term limits are healthy for republican government, the aforementioned massive scope, specialization and professionalization of government also would seem to suggest that seasoned politicians certainly have something special to offer in some cases. To an extent, this would apply to career political aides and operatives who eventually throw their hat in the ring themselves.

Admittedly this is something of a sprawling, inside baseball kind of discussion today. Why does it matter? Well, we’re talking about the people to whom we are entrusting our country and our freedoms.

Bottom line is that while I still hold to the ideal of the citizen statesman, I am open to the idea that political professionals in some cases – the elected variety and those behind the scenes – may be well suited to serve. As this trend continues however, we must be vigilant in ensuring that candidates accustomed to working within government are not also acclimated to the idea of its inevitable expansion.

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Filed under George W. Bush, People in Politics, Philosophy and Ethics

How will the the Obama movement’s image change?

Recently a young president came into office and immediately launched a charm offensive. He spoke of bi-partisanship and promised to “change the tone” in Washington. That president, of course, was George W. Bush, who left office last week the object of widespread unpopularity and intense media ridicule.

President Barack Obama has soared to high office on the wings of hope and change. He promises to transform our small politics into something bigger. His supporters believe that together we can make America and the world a better place. Yes We Can.

So, how do you start doing that? Naturally, by accosting the outgoing president in the rudest of ways, in the most inappropriate setting. Sherman Frederick of the Las Vegas Review-Journal writes about Obama supporters booing President Bush at last week’s inauguration.

This bit of news might seem a bit old hat by now,  but I think it is an interesting occurrence to examine through this lens: how will the image of Obama and the movement he inspired change during the course of his presidency?

Obama supporters pride themselves on bringing change to Washington, on moving beyond old political divisions and promoting a spirit of cooperation and bi-partisanship, yet in their first appearance in Washington, their actions are nothing less than acrimonious.

As far as Obama’s personal image, well, that is also sure to evolve. Will his cool personal vibe be revealed as less than the total picture, something short of a wholly precise depiction of the man?

On Thursday, Obama visited the press corps and became irritated when a journalist asked him a question, as reported by The Politico. The episode was reminiscent of Obama’s seeming frustration during the campaign when he was asked by reporters during press conferences about topics he did not want to speak about. It will be interesting to see how such incidents, should they continue, affect Obama’s public image moving ahead in his presidency.

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Filed under George W. Bush, Obama, Obamamania

Bush pushes limits on presidential authority

 

When President Bush gave $13.4 billion in loans to failing auto companies on Friday, he was not acting with any specific authority granted him by Congress. By constitutional design, the legislative branch holds the power of the purse, and in this case, Congress had already considered and rejected such assistance in the last several weeks. In an attempt to justify his decision Bush claimed that “Congress failed to act,” but what he really meant was that Congress did not act as he pleased.

Does Bush's bailout violate the Constitution? Article I, Section 9 states "No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law." Article I, Section 8 declares that Congress - not the President - has the power to tax and spend.

Does Bush's bailout violate the Constitution? Article I, Section 9 states "No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law." Article I, Section 8 declares that Congress - not the President - has the power to tax and spend.

Acting through the Treasury Department, Bush tapped into funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to give GM and Chrysler enough cash to extend operations through the end of March. TARP was created by Congress to address problems in the financial markets by purchasing troubled assets from struggling banks and other institutions. By targeting the financial industry legislators hoped to ease the credit crunch impacting the economy as a whole. It was never intended as a corporate welfare slush fund.

Republicans Bush’s usurpation of legislative prerogative has angered conservative activists and many congressional Republicans, who would do well to loudly condemn the president’s actions. Final judgment on Bush’s decision may come when it becomes clear that this loan will either not be repaid or that the companies eventually seek bankruptcy anyway. Whatever happens, we know what already has: a highly questionable use of executive power and an absolute abandonment of free market principles.

Initial accounts of the bailout from some of Principally Political’s preferred business news outlets:

Forbes: A Bailout For Detroit

Investors Business Daily: GM, Chrysler To Get $17.4 Bil In Loans To Sputter Into ’09

Wall Street Journal: U.S. Throws Lifeline to Detroit

US News & World Report: Bush Offers Chrysler, GM $17.4 Billion Bailout – With Strings

Opinion pieces:

George Will: Bush Stretches Executive Powers Again

Heritage Foundation: Bush’s Awful Auto Bailout

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Filed under Bailouts, George W. Bush, Statism