In Part I, we looked at some aspects of the Bush Administration’s foreign policy, but, more important, we acknowledged how difficult it is to play historian when dealing with current events. Historians have enough trouble with past events where one can at least see some of the implications of policies that may have looked good or bad at the time but later turned out to have unintended consequences.
In addition, one’s personal bias filters judgments – objectivity is futile, which is why I freely admit to my somewhat liberal approach while also expressing my frustration with many liberal approaches to public policy.
Therefore, one has to approach this exercise with caution and humility. A sense of humor is also useful.
Compassionate Conservatism: It was never clear what that meant, but it had a nice ring to it. The recent Washington Post series on Dick Cheney makes it clear that the compassionate word means little to him, and given his unusual power and political skill, he’s managed to turn the phrase into just that – nice words. There’s very little indication of compassion in the Bush administration track record, save for the wealthy, and lots of examples of quite the opposite. (Grade: F)
No Child Left Behind: Another great sound bite that has shown some results but has also forced schools and teachers into becoming training grounds for standardized test taking as opposed to learning. I would argue that, while the concept is excellent, the approach taken is clumsy and counter-productive. And the budget cuts in education to pay for Iraq and military expansion have made it even more difficult to turn the slogan into reality.
To be fair, the public education system in American has been a mess for years, so one can’t blame Bush for all the problems, particularly when competing ideologies and a bunch of Congressional Neanderthals seem incapable of keeping the focus on the real issue: the nation’s children. (Grade: D)
Faith-Based Initiatives: I have not seen the data on this, but a friend who filed an FOI request years ago and has been dogged about getting the information relates that virtually 100% of the money has gone to evangelical Protestant groups—none to mainline Protestant, Catholics, Jews, or, gasp, Muslims. Very scary if true. More important, what business does the government have even supporting these kinds of activities? (Grade: F)