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Any conservative who ever believed Bush was going to enlist in small-government causes, however, simply wasn’t paying attention. He did not run as a budget-cutter in 2000. Instead he proposed new programs and criticized Gingrich-style Republicans for trying to “balance the budget on the backs of the poor.” Bush has only railed against big government while in the process of criticizing Democratic general-election opponents.
Most conservatives were willing to overlook Bush’s softness on spending (among other issues) in the hopes that he would deliver on taxes, free-market entitlement reform, and judicial nominations. After 9/11, national security through the war on terror was added to that list.
It’s always been an uneasy bargain, which is why conservatives have been outraged at times when Bush appeared to fall short. Think of the right’s response to Harriet Miers (a sign of wobbliness on judges) and the Dubai Ports World Deal (perceived wobbliness on national security).
Bartlett dabbles in criticism of Bush on many fronts, ranging from Iraq to the president’s management style, with varying degrees of effectiveness. But he is strongest when he argues that the Bush bargain hasn’t paid off for economic conservatives. Social Security reform is stalled; Medicare’s financial picture has been worsened; even the tax cuts are in danger if spending levels continue their dizzying ascent.
We have been here before. The failure to curb federal spending during the 1980s eroded public support for the Reagan tax cuts and contributed to their partial reversal. The problem is even more acute today since Bush’s tax cuts are scheduled to expire unless Congress acts to extend them.
The book is not without flaws. As George Will wrote in the New York Times, “Bartlett is angry as a hornet but, like a hornet, he stings indiscriminately.” Pointing out that the tax cuts could have been better crafted with fewer credits and deeper marginal rate reduction, he fails to acknowledge evidence that the cuts have nonetheless had some salutary economic effects. Congress is criticized but doesn’t receive its fair share of blame for Washington’s spendthrift ways. And the chapter promoting the value-added tax complicates Bartlett’s brief against big-government conservatism.
But big-government conservatism, as much as George W. Bush, is Bartlett’s real target. Indulging in fiscal recklessness has made the rest of the Republican domestic agenda, from tax cuts to Social Security reform, less tenable. Which is the third thing that sets Impostor apart from the average anti-Bush book — conservatives would do well to read it.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?