Bushies and Ideologues

Columnist David Ignatius writes this morning that “ideologues” are running rampant in the Bush administration, firing U.S. attorneys right and left. Writing about the emails that the administration released, he says

What interests me about the Justice e-mails is that they are a piece of sociology, documenting the mind-set of the young hotshots and ideologues who populate the Bush administration.

But there are few if any ideologues in this administration. What would their ideology be? Certainly not any previously known variant of conservatism. “Compassionate conversatism”?! Right. Country-club Republicanism? Maybe, but I think that’s a mindset at best, not an ideology.

The famous email about which U.S. attorneys should be fired said they would keep the “loyal Bushies,” not “the conservatives.” I don’t think “loyal Bushies” are loyal to compassionate conservatism or country-club Republicanism; they’re personally loyal to George W. Bush, for some reason that passeth my understanding.

Consider a similar term: “Reaganite.” I’m sure people in the Reagan administration asked one another if a job candidate was a Reaganite. And many people in the administration were personally loyal to Ronald Reagan. But they loved him most for the values he enunciated: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” The Republican Party should “raise a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors.” America has a “rendezvous with destiny; that we will uphold the principles of self-reliance, self-discipline, morality, and — above all — responsible liberty for every individual that we will become that shining city on a hill.”

When someone says he’s a Reaganite, he means that he adheres to the principles of lower taxes, less regulation, traditional values, and a strong national defense. When a Justice Department staffer asks if someone is a “loyal Bushie,” he means something entirely different.

I think Ignatius actually knows this. Later in the column he writes:

The Bush political operatives have become the people the Republicans once warned the country against — a club of insiders who seem to think that they’re better than other folks. They are so contemptuous of government and the public servants who populate it that they have been unable to govern effectively. They are a smug, inward-looking elite that thinks it knows who the good guys are by the political labels they wear.

But that’s not an ideology. That’s just partisanship. Us vs. them. Red vs. blue. “We need those people out, We need our people in,” as the previous First Lady put it. It’s pull and power and personal loyalty.

Ideology gets a bad name sometimes. But a commitment to a set of political principles is more deserving of respect than a regime of pure politics.