March 10, 2006
Earlier this week, former Reagan administration adviser Bruce Bartlett spoke about his new book Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy (Doubleday) at the CATO Institute. David Boaz, who introduced the speaker, echoes my general opinion of Bush: He's not really disappointed in the President because he did not really have high hopes for Bush in the first place. Anyone who voted for Bush believing that he "trusts the people," in contrast to the Democrats who trust the government, however, has every right to be disappointed. The CATO event was reported by the Washington Post. Bartlett may have an axe to grind, and I would hesitate to accept at face value his contention that the Bush White House is "vindictive," but many of his criticisms seem to be well founded. What worries me most is his [contention that the White House lacks] "anybody who does any serious analysis" on policy issues. What really sticks in Bartlett's craw, as he put it, is the fact that Bush has not vetoed any spending bill passed by Congress, even though he complains about pork barrel spending and says he wants to have line-item veto power. What for? The last president not to have vetoed any bills was James Garfield, who served for less than a year.
In his comments on Bartlett's book at the CATO gathering, renowned blogger and new TV pundit Andrew Sullivan opined that the ultimate consequence of the Bush (II) administration will be a vast increase in the size of government at all levels, which he believes is a great tragedy. He also called Bush a "Christian Socialist," using government to promote a sectarian religious agenda. He later clarified on his blog that he meant that only in a particular context. It is a pretty explosive charge, nonetheless. It parallels his allusion to Bismarck he made in September 2004. I agree 100 percent with Sullivan's low opinion of Karl Rove, who has said that deficits don't matter because voters don't care about deficits, and to him, winning elections is all that matters. Such a grotesquely irresponsible attitude, if that is what Rove really believes, would be paving the way for the collapse of the conservative coalition.
For those who place loyalty to party leaders above all else, such dissent is tantamount to treason. In my view, vigorous debate and exchange of different viewpoints is a healthy sign of a party that is confident of winning elections. To my surprise, there is a lot of dissent fermenting over at GOPUSA.com, where Bobby Eberle has been criticizing Bush in blunter terms lately. He calls for a "new message" as the 2006 midterm elections approach. Who in the Party of Lincoln will emerge to articulate that message?
UPDATE: Re-reading this piece made be think about the White House flap over policy adviser John DiIulio, who got the boot in the autumn of 2002 and later derided his former colleagues as a bunch of "Mayberry Machiavellis" who didn't care a whit about policy substance. See my blog post of Dec. 3, 2002. I guess it's not like we weren't warned...