Jules Witcover writes in the New York Times about the perils of an ideological presidency. With insight into U.S. presidencies since Jimmy Carter and a mention of JFK, Witcover makes the point that
The most successful administrations are those in which their principles set a general course but not a restricting road map for achieving a president’s objectives.
Witcover goes on to say
There’s nothing wrong with a president having an ideology to live by, as long as he doesn’t become a fanatic about it.
Well I think you know where this is going... Quoting Witcover:
Reagan, the senior Bush and Clinton all gave more lip service to ideology than action. It was not until the junior Bush entered the White House in 2001 that a consistent ideological course was followed, and it didn’t manifest itself until the terrorist attacks of September 11 provided the framework and opportunity for one.
In his first seven months in office, he had bumped along under the benign banner of “compassionate conservatism,” which to many liberals seemed an oxymoron. Overnight, the 9/11 attacks gave purpose and direction to his new administration, justifying the invasion of Afghanistan to hunt down Osama bin Laden and the other Al Qaeda perpetrators. Self-defense, rather than any ideological engine, powered the military assault.
But the neoconservatives who had followed Vice President Dick Cheney into the administration, and their ideological braintrust led by Paul Wolfowitz at the Pentagon, quickly seized on the notion of invading Iraq as well.
What has resulted from Bush’s decision to invade Iraq is a sectarian civil war that was far from the intent, with U.S. forces smack in the middle. Such has been the bitter fruit of an American presidency originally sold to the voters on a promise of compassionate conservatism.
Read the entire article here.