THE SHIFTING BUSH...

THE SHIFTING BUSH C.W. Peggy Noonan has a very interesting column up on The Wall Street Journal website offering her take on George W. Bush's approach to the presidency. It's interesting, primarily, because it's exactly the sort of thing you heard all the time from liberals about two or three years ago -- Bush doesn't listen to dissent, combines disengagement and dogmatism in an unproductive way, doesn't talk to a sufficiently wide range of people, etc. Since the Bush administration, long a giant substantive failure, is now looking destined to be a political failure as well, I think we can expect this kind of narrative to spread more in conservative circles. But as this bit of CW entrenches itself on the center and the right, I think it's important for liberals to start trying to transcend it.

Not that there's no truth to Noonan's account. But, in addition, it's worth saying and reiterating that, to a substantial extent, we're just seeing failures of conservative ideology here, not failures of public sector management. If you adopt the ideas of big-time tax cutting on the domestic front and rogue state rollback on the foreign policy front, this severely constrains your possible options for thinking creatively about public concerns. There's genuinely not much point in listening to a wide circle of innovative thinkers or being prepared to tack this way and that as things do or don't work out.

--Matthew Yglesias

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