Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Policy Incompetency is Generally Bad Politics

I understand the Bush years as a failure of competence. The executive himself was a fairly incompetent individual, which seemed to have a spillover effect onto the executive branch, and government regime, as a whole. Warning signs of the 9/11 attacks were missed, major pieces of spending legislation were push though without fiscally necessary pay-fors, the housing market bubble was allowed inflate unabated and the market was left to "solve" over-the-counter derivatives without oversight. In the last approval rating poll Gallup conducted, 34% of respondents approved of former Pres. Bush's job performance. The biggest drivers of our projected federal budget deficits continues to be Bush era policies and crises.

Today, Daniel Larison probes Mitt Romney's potential attack lines against now-surging Rick Santourm:
On role of government and fiscal issues, Romney could criticize Santorum for his votes for NCLB and Medicare Part D. Santorum is in many respects the embodiment of so-called big-government and “compassionate” conservatism, and this was especially true during his second term in the Senate. In other words, he represented everything that conservatives now think went wrong during the Bush years. Hammering Santorum on Bush-era fiscal irresponsibility hits Santorum where he is weakest with conservative Republicans, and it does so without forcing Romney to risk the backlash of any party faction.(emphasis mine - JMG)
Now, we can certainly sit around and debate how "conservative" or "unconservative" the George W. Bush presidency really was. Partisans on both sides do not need much time to find ways in which policy failures are not the "true" interpretation of their party's governing philosophy. But that's not the real issue here. As I see it, Pres. Bush's policy solutions failed to adequately address the problems they were approaching, or left budgetary time-bombs for later administrations to solve. Rick Santroum, who faithfully carried the administration's agenda while a Senator, could now pay the price for the general failure of the administration's policies.

This is why competency is so important when you're an elected leader, and especially the President. The specifics of No Child Left Behind or Medicare Part D are not as important as the perception of them, and more specifically the association they have with the (now politically toxic) Bush Presidency.

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