In an exhaustive C-SPAN interview airing this morning (and available online), President Bush discusses Iraq, his presidency, and his legacy. This exchange made me wonder if it was April Fool’s Day yet:
Q But I’m talking about ideology. You have Reagan Republicans today. Are there — will there be Bush Republicans, and can you define the ideology of a Bush Republican?
THE PRESIDENT: Compassionate conservatism, the use of government to help people in the private sector advance compassionate goals, like the faith-based initiative….
If President Bush can’t see that abject failure, if he truly believes that this is his legacy, one is left to seriously consider his grip on reality. I have no doubt that he means what he says in the interview and that he really, truly believe this will be one of his great legacies. That is what makes his quote frightening. That he continues to believe this against despite the bottomless gulf between what he believes and reality is really frightening.
As I documented in Tempting Faith and wrote here for Beliefnet in 2005, Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” and the faith-based initiative have been among the great charades of the modern presidency. The effort’s failures have been so vast (promises of $8 billion a year targeted to help faith-based and secular ‘community’ organizations have resulted in less 10% of that over the last six years; cuts of more than 100 domestic policy programs; scores of billions in funding cuts for anti-poverty programs; Katrina) virtually no objective observer in Washington calls the efforts a success, let alone something that would inform an ideology. It isn’t a close call. That he can’t – or won’t – see that does not bode well for the rest of his presidency and should motivate us to pray ever harder for him as our president.