Uncomfortable but True

04.29.13

George W. Bush, Visionary

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images ()

Reihan Salam, for his Reuters column, writes on the legacy of Bush 43. It's a less than fawning assesment that identifies the chief challenge for post-Bush Republicans:

One of the ironies of the Bush presidency is that for all its failures, it was rooted in a clear-eyed diagnosis of the challenges facing Republicans. The end of the Cold War and the success of the Clinton-era Democrats’ centrism had badly undermined the GOP, which by the late 1990s risked irrelevance. Newt Gingrich’s efforts to shrink government were successfully countered by President Bill Clinton’s protean progressive centrism, and so George W. Bush, as governor of Texas, identified an alternative way forward.

During his first presidential run, Bush famously lambasted congressional Republicans for “balancing their budget on the backs of the poor,” and he touted his various efforts to raise literacy and math scores for black and Latino students in Texas. Bush recognized that Republicans needed to be seen not as opponents of government but rather as its reformers, and his moderation was essential to his razor-thin, hotly contested 2000 victory.