People will be arguing about George Bush's politics for a long time. He's certainly not a conservative or a libertarian, but the fact that he has been identified more or less as such for eight years has greatly damaged the reputation of those two philosophies. He's really not a liberal, either. He calls himself a "compassionate conservative," but what does that make him? Not a populist, exactly, but:
In other words, compassionate conservatism is less a political philosophy than a romantic cult of sensibility. It responds to “suffering situations” but lacks mechanisms for preferring one project to another or for setting an overall limit on government. Thus it liberated the president to “move” when “somebody hurts” without first calculating the consequences.
But isn't that how most voters feel? Political scientists often point out that most voters believe the same things — but also that those beliefs change, often quite rapidly, in response to events. Except for the political extremes, Americans lack an ideology that forces them to restrain their impulses, reconcile conflicting values, or maintain a stable policy. And being generous people, when somebody hurts, they move.
If a government acts on the same basis, its policies will be a patchwork quilt of left and right measures. And, to paraphrase Errol Flynn on his own economics, its net income will be insufficient to cover its gross habits.
As his record shows, Bush is simply the ordinary American writ powerful.
That sounds about right. "Compassioate conservatism" acts on impulse, the kind we all have. But since we have our impulses at different times, it's not surprising he ends up disliked by so many people.