The Spectacle Blog

Not So Fast, Pete Wehner

By on 1.30.14 | 2:42PM

As Ronald Reagan said to Jimmy Carter: “Well, there you go again.”

There goes Pete Wehner again (and again and again and again.)

This time the target is Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Over at Commentary Wehner leads with a Cruz quote thusly:

“I understand that there are a lot of folks in the media that love to talk about the shutdown from four months ago.”

“What we ought to be talking about is the fact that we have the lowest labor force participating in 30 years since 1978, that Obamacare has taken away more than 5 million people’s health insurance plans, that people are hurting, that income inequality has increased under the Obama agenda and that there is an abuse of power and lawlessness. So that’s what we ought to be talking about. Efforts that distract from that conversation, I think, are deliberate efforts of smoke and mirrors distracting from the questions coming from the American people.”

This Cruz remark sends Wehner into yet another case of the moderate dithers.

Scolds Pete: 

Of course it’s clear to every sentient human being that the Cruz & Co. gambit badly backfired. It achieved nothing useful. It deflected attention away from the awful rollout of the ObamaCare website. And it damaged the reputation of the GOP. The public, in overwhelming numbers, didn’t like the government shutdown—and by overwhelming numbers voters blamed Republicans for it.

Clear to every sentient conservative is that Ted Cruz drew a Reaganesque line in the sand that made clear to Americans Obamacare was a looming disaster and everything possible should be done to stop it in its tracks.  The tactic succeeded.  While Establishment Republicans in the Senate sabotaged Cruz and Company, now that millions of Americans have lost their health insurance there is no doubt whatsoever that Cruz was doing the right thing to crisply identify the GOP as the party that tried to keep those millions from losing their health care.

But there is that interesting part of Wehner’s sentiments that actually should be applied to Wehner himself.

What part? This part.

So here’s my recommendation: Unless and until Senator Cruz admits the errors of his ways—unless he is willing to concede how flawed his judgment was and explains to us what he’s learned since then—the press should keep asking the junior senator from Texas about the shutdown. Again and again and again.

If Ted Cruz thinks it was such a terrific idea, let him claim ownership of it at every conceivable opportunity.

Let’s rewrite these Wehner comments this way:

So here’s my recommendation: Unless and until Pete Wehner admits the errors of his moderate ways—unless he is willing to concede how flawed his judgment and that of the Bush administration was and explains to us what he’s learned since then—the press should keep asking the ex-Bush staffer about that administration’s record in expanding government. Again and again and again.

If Pete Wehner thinks it was such a terrific idea, let him claim ownership of it at every conceivable opportunity. 

Specifically, we await Pete claiming ownership “at every conceivable opportunity” of these facts as cited by the always perceptive Dan Mitchell over at a post on International Liberty. 

Dan’s headline:

Compared to the Reagan Era, the Bush-Obama Years Have Been a Fiscal Nightmare

He goes on to write….and has the inevitable charts to back him up:

As you can see in this chart, Reagan managed to limit average domestic spending increases to less than one percent per year. These figures, which are adjusted for inflation, show that spending has grown more than five times as rapidly during the Bush-Obama years.

The comparison is even more dramatic if we examine the average annual increase in inflation-adjusted domestic spending. In other words, we’re looking at how much spending increased each year, not the percentage change. During the Reagan years, overall domestic spending grew less than $10 billion per year, while spending has soared more than $100 billion per year during the Bush-Obama era. Remember that we’re using inflation-adjusted dollars, so this is an apples-to-apples comparison.

….Last but not least, don’t forget that FY2009 began October 1, 2008, nearly four months before Obama took office, and the bad numbers for that fiscal year generally should be attributed to Bush. Yes, Obama added to FY2009 spending with an omnibus appropriations bill and the faux stimulus, but I’ve estimated that 96 percent of that year’s spending was the result of Bush Administration decisions.

Moving from Dan’s point, there’s this list over here detailing some of the Bush government expansion: 

  • No Child Left Behind Act of 2002
  • Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003
  • American Dream Down Payment Act of 2003
  • Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002
  • Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002
  • Homeland Security Act of 2002
  • Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2005
  • Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2007
  • Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007
  • Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008
  • Economic Stimulus Act of 2008
  • Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2008
  • Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008
  • Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008
  • Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008

To be clear.

In a discussion like this it is necessary to say that in this corner we are not Bush-haters. To the contrary, President Bush 43 did a magnificent job in responding to 9/11. And Bush 41, in whose administration I served over there in Reaganville, the Kemp crew at HUD, is a genuine war hero and wonderful classy man. 

These are political differences that have to do with the proof-of-the-pudding failure of moderate Republicans. An idea that both Bushes subscribed to and were in fact not alone — far from alone — in so doing.

In Steven Hayward’s first volume of The Age of Reagan: The Fall of the Old Liberal Order 1964-1980, there is a small but telling story.

Back in the Nixon days, President Nixon, advised by his domestic policy guru, the liberal Harvard professor and future New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, stunningly signed on to the idea of a guaranteed annual income. 

Who stepped forward to oppose what became known as the Family Assistance Plan? That would be California Governor Reagan, who sent out a letter to Republicans in Congress (who in the day were in the minority in both House and Senate) saying the program would cost $15 billion and open the door to endless increases in a new entitlement.

Most Republicans in Washington sent Reagan a perfunctory acknowledgment of his letter. One GOP Congressman, however, took Reagan on. That would be Texas Congressman George H.W. Bush, using classic moderate logic that is at this moment being employed on immigration, logic that was employed in both the Bush 41 and Bush administrations.  Congressman Bush argued that Reagan’s figures were wrong — the actual cost number was not $15 billion but $4 billion. FAP, argued Bush, was actually cheap and in fact could serve conservative ends by providing a work requirement, remove incentives for family break up and so on. Reagan fired back, informed by a prominent Senate Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee  (Harry Byrd of Virginia) that in fact Reagan’s estimate was low and that indeed costs would soar on a brand new entitlement.

In short, the man who would become Bush 41 was making the same argument in an earlier form that moderate Republicans make today. Expand the government, just do it cheaper, and it helps the GOP politically. This was exactly the Bush 43 logic on No Child Left Behind as explained by Karl Rove in Rove’s memoirs. Tellingly, in 1970, when Congressman Bush ran against Lloyd Bentsen for a Texas seat in the US Senate, Bentsen pummeled Bush for supporting “big welfare” — and Bush lost the Senate race. Just as years later, on his own in the White House after campaigning as Reagan’s heir, Bush 41’s moderate instincts got him in trouble over raising taxes, losing him re-election with a mere 37% of the vote.

So to conclude.

Not so fast, Pete Wehner. To repeat:

So here’s my recommendation: Unless and until Pete Wehner admits the errors of his moderate ways–unless he is willing to concede how flawed his judgment and that of the Bush administration/GOP Establishment  was and explains to us what he’s learned since then–conservatives should keep asking the ex-Bush staffer about that administration’s record in expanding government. Again and again and again.

If Pete Wehner thinks it was such a terrific idea, let him claim ownership of it at every conceivable opportunity.

In truth?

One suspects he will.

Which illustrates the GOP’s problem exactly.

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