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January 16, 2009



I guess I'll just mention again that I never took "change" to mean "radically different policy" - I took it to be "radically different approach." And Nathan has pointed out exactly what the real change is - from ideological to pragmatic. Nathan believes this to be a bad thing, since Bush's underlying ideology tied together his actions into a coherent whole, while I think it's a good thing because Obama's approach is more careful and leaves him more latitude to build a team out of people who don't necessarily agree with him or each-other.

Nathan Smith

If Nato is talking about domestic policy, I disagree. If Bush is "ideological" on foreign policy, what is his ideology? I think he's ultimately a free-market conservative, but not at all a doctrinaire or ideological one; on the contrary, he's willing to make lots of compromises, to experiment a bit, and play politics. More a pragmatist than an ideologue, to the extent that the distinction makes any sense, though to some extent that's a little bit like distinguishing between people who have destinations and people who are more interested in finding the best route. Obama seems to have a casual interest in finding the best route, but no real grasp of the ideological, "where to?" question. To the extent that he does have an answer to that question it's a warmed-over, milk-and-water paleoliberal wish-list.

If Nato is talking about foreign policy, I'd agree. Bush was guided by a powerful, visionary, overarching ideology, whereas Obama is inclined to be more "pragmatic," which will probably mean doing whatever plays best at home in a sort of myopic way.

Maybe the ultimate meaning of a pragmatic politician is one who can think of nothing better to do than try to get a good rating in the polls. That's not the worst thing that could happen to us.


I feel I should mention that if the Bush administration of ~2008 been governing 2001-2007, I would feel like I was dissatisfied with Bush mostly on ideological grounds. I've been mostly satisfied with the *craft* of how they've handled things overall. For example, I think they need to lean on Israel more, but I can understand why they don't. They handled the SOFA stuff pretty well, giving ground when they needed to. And so on. I personally feel that Bush et al have made leaps and bounds in the last year, to the point where I think if given a choice between the Bush Cheney administration and a McCain/Palin administration, I'd actually chose the former - not something I'd remotely have said this time last year. So, while I still have a quite low opinion of Bush's presidency, I would actually say that as his approval rating plummeted, my personal appraisal of the administration has improved.

Nathan Smith

My approval of Bush's job performance has pretty varied inversely with the public polls through the past eight years. Indifference before and immediately after 9/11 gradually turning to strong support.

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