R.I.P. Richard Darman

Bush II = Bush I – Richard Darman

Of course this only gets at part of the truth. Differences in character and intellect between the two presidents also accounts for a lot. But efforts to marginalize people like this

Mr. Darman’s goal was solving problems, not pursuing ideology. When a Washington Post reporter asked about his politics, Mr. Darman he replied: “Okay. In my case the pattern conforms more with what many people associate with Republicanism. Period. And, as it happens, I am a registered Republican. But the starting point for me is never party.” He paused. “Period.” Then shrugged. “That will get me in trouble, but it’s true.”

was clearly part of the problem. I realize this sounds glib, and I’m as critical — more critical — of lazy centrism as any of you. I’m just saddened by the unremitting hostility directed against Darman by conservatives, and I wonder what the world would have looked like had the first President Bush’s pragmatism, as embodied in Darman and others, been rewarded by reelection. Perhaps he would have failed to take the steps necessary to spark the so-called Clinton boom. I doubt it. But it certainly would have had an effect on the character of the party, and it may have prevented what Christopher Caldwell memorably called the southern captivity of the GOP.

David Frum’s Dead Right paints a decidedly unflattering portrait of the 1992 Republican National Convention, which is remembered for culture war fireworks but in fact enshrined a leftish party platform. It seems clear that Bush compromised his integrity in a desperate bid for reelection, one of the more undignified episodes in recent American political history. And yet under slightly different circumstances his reelection could have spared us not only the Clintons but also his eldest son.

Incidentally, whatever happened to Jeb? I haven’t heard his name mentioned in connection to the Florida primary. I find it hard to believe that Charlie Crist has already eclipsed him in popularity among primary voters. I assume interest has waned as Jeb has made it clear he’ll play no direct role. Somehow we need to get Jeb a new surname.