Before the Supreme Court handed down its Obamacare decision, Matt Lewis asked if a reversal would enhance George W. Bush's conservative legacy. He wrote of Bush's appointment of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Court, "For this reason alone, it might be that Bush ends up having done as much to advance the cause of limited-government conservatism as other, more celebrated, conservative presidents."
Since then, Roberts sided with the liberal justices and saved the individual mandate from itself. But other conservatives have made a variation of Lewis' point before, even while Bush was still in office. The Medicare precription drug benefit and No Child Left Behind may have been bad, but they were necessary to get Bush reelected. Without that second Bush term, no Roberts or Alito.
Those are arguable points, to say the least. (See this post for pushback.) And absent conservative pressure, Bush may well have nominated Alberto Gonzales and Harriet Miers instead. (He did in fact choose Miers before Alito.) But yesterday's decision illustrates the folly of hoping conservative judges can compensate for big-government conservatism. Bush had a good record on judicial appointments. Nevertheless, even seemingly good judges have a way of disappointing us.
Bush was in control of whether he was going to grow government without paying for it, first in cahoots with a Republican Congress and later with a Democratic one. He can't control how his judges will eventually rule. And without some of Bush's failures in office, we would not have gotten such large Democratic majorities or perhaps even an Obama presidency in the first place.
At least we still have Sam Alito.
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