Warner Todd Huston
The George W. Bush Institute: free markets, small government... since when
By Warner Todd Huston
November 15, 2009

Get ready because I am going to slap George W. Bush around a little bit. Now, don't get me wrong, it isn't like I hated him. After all I voted for him twice. There was a lot that Bush did that I supported, mostly on the security and war fronts. But, I really stood against his domestic agenda almost completely. I was against no child's behind left alone — er, I mean no child left behind — I was against the bailouts and against the drug benefit for seniors program. I disagreed with his "compassionate conservatism" narrative because it really was just an excuse for a little less big government than what the Democrats full-blown socialism would have been. About the only thing he wanted to do that I supported, the privatization of Social Security, he never pushed hard enough to implement.

With that in mind, George W. Bush made his first major appearance before the general public today in a speech announcing the George W. Bush Institute, a new public policy think tank to be housed in the Bush Presidential Library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

Mr. Bush wants his new institute to foster free market policies, small government thinking, education, global health and "human freedom"... to which I have to ask, so where were you for eight years on these things Mr. Bush?

During his speech, Bush said that with the $700 billion bank bailout he implemented in the waning days of his presidency he "went against" his free-market instincts. He said it was one of the "most difficult" decisions of his presidency. I'd say he failed the test. Juxtaposing his bailouts with the free-market, small government policies that he wants his new institute to push causes one to raise an eyebrow, of course. How do past actions jive with his future policy ideals?

To be sure, Bush will have a lot to live down in this vein. Mr. Bush's newly appointed executive director of the G.W. Bush Institute, James K. Glassman, recently found this out first hand in what one might have thought would have been a friendly environment for him.

Glassman appeared as a guest speaker at a breakfast meeting at the State Policy Network's 17th Annual conference held earlier this month in Asheville, North Carolina. SPN is a sort of trade organization for conservative state policy think tanks. Glassman was there to speak on Internet freedom (as opposed to net neutrality) but after his address not one question was asked about his ideas on the Internet. Every question thrown his way had to do with the Bush's bad decision on TARP and what the audience considered his bad drug benefit program and his disastrous education policies.

Glassman saw his subject overwhelmed by the distaste a conservative audience had for his boss's policies. I think this will be a harbinger of things to come for the projects that the Bush Institute tries to implement, at least until people stop being so angry about his presidency.

Now, let's be clear about a few things. The Bush administration was pretty good on free markets. His work with emerging markets like India and Colombia, not to mention long-time trade partners like Canada, Mexico, et all, was great. But his bank bailouts went completely against free market principles.

As to education, a real conservative would rather see policies that denudes the federal government of all powers in this area. With no child left behind, it was plain that Bush felt that the federal government had a legitimate and growing role in education.

Still, I hope that the new George W. Bush Institute is successful in fostering only the best, conservative ideas and policies and helps the country and the world move more toward self-reliance, the free-market, and the like. It remains to be seen if his new organization will do that. But we can hope.

© Warner Todd Huston


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Warner Todd Huston

Warner Todd Huston's thoughtful commentary, sometimes irreverent often historically based, is featured on many websites... (more)

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