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Late Night: The Real Bush Doctrine

The Bush Doctrine, as defined by Wikipedia:

The Bush Doctrine is a phrase used to describe various related foreign policy principles of former United States president George W. Bush. The phrase was first used by Charles Krauthammer in June 2001 [1] to describe the Bush Administration’s unilateral withdrawals from the ABM treaty and the Kyoto Protocol. The phrase initially described the policy that the United States had the right to secure itself against countries that harbor or give aid to terrorist groups, which was used to justify the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.[2]

The Real Bush Doctrine, of course, is the principle that once you are in power, you don’t actually have to give a tinker’s damn about what the public wants.

Bush was unpopular for years. In polls and in the streets, people said they thought he sucked, and his war sucked, and his ass face sucked, and lots of them went marching to tell him so over and over. And he sat in his big white house, and he held his parties, and he didn’t give a damn.

Because he didn’t have to.

See, we had this silly idea, didn’t we, that if enough of America turned on the president, that he’d have to listen? That if his poll numbers tanked enough, he’d somehow feel pressure to change his ways, to be more moderate, to “reach out” and touch the souls of his opponents or something?

Isn’t that what we hear now, about how divided our country is, how much Obama needs to keep in mind the 30 percent of people who will hate him no matter what, and try to make them feel loved? That public opinion conveys some sort of imperative to act, or change one’s actions, in order to respond to or placate one’s critics.

Yeah, Bush just said screw that, I’mma do what I wanna anyway, because they can’t do anything to me. They can march and yell and tell pollsters how much I suck, but here I am in my chair the next morning.

It has its roots in Nixonian redefinitions of the law to mean “anything I feel like doing,” but Bush perfected it, and Scott Walker, in Wisconsin, quite clearly took a lesson.

People by the tens of thousands came to his door and told him they thought his budget was a cynical abomination, and he shrugged. Editorials denounced him (with varying degrees of politeness), a member of his own party deserted him, national Republicans threw up their hands and said no, man, we’ve never even MET that dude, and not only did he “stay the course,” he thew some more coal on the fire.

When his actions were challenged in court on Friday, his legal team even trotted out the defense that the Wisconsin courts lacked jurisdiction to enforce Wisconsin open meetings law.

I hope George W., somewhere, is noticing how well his mini-me is doing. I hope he’s proud.

The real difference in Wisconsin is that Democrats, in power and out, aren’t willing to let that stand. While Congressional Democrats at first fought to see who could snuggle Bush more lovingly and then tried to oppose him but not, like, in a hippie way, Democrats in Wisconsin have thrown their lot in with the 70 percent of people in their state who think Walker’s ideas blow.

And recall elections may prove that governors, unlike presidents, can’t simply create their own reality and then refuse to leave it.


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Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel is a 10-year veteran of the newspaper business. She publishes First Draft, a writing and politics blog, with her partners Holden, Jude and Scout. She is the author of the books Chicago's Historic Irish Pubs (2011, Arcadia Publishing, with Mike Danahey) and It Doesn’t End With Us: The Story of the Daily Cardinal, about a great liberal journalism institution (2007, Heritage Books). She also edited the anthology “Special Plans: The Blogs on Douglas Feith and the Faulty Intelligence That Led to War” (2005, William, James & Co.) Her work has appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Daily Southtown, Sirens Magazine, and Alternet. She lives in Chicago with her husband, two ferrets, and approximately 60 tons of books.