Why Republicans Are Running from Bush At Election Time
By Joshua Holland
Bush's White House is going down in flames, and the Republican machine is doing everything it can to keep "conservatism" from burning along with it.
So-called "principled" conservatives -- the faux libertarian voices of the Big Business elite that's always been the real base of the Republican Party -- are in full flight from the flaming wreck the Bush administration has become.
Former Bush I and Reagan official Bruce Bartlett lambasted the administration earlier this year with his book "Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy," which was soon followed by longtime conservative activist Richard Viguerie's "Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause." There are a dozen of them churning out columns and op-eds condemning Bush's profligate spending and pillorying his "compassionate," "Big Government" conservatism. Even former congressman Joe Scarborough -- MSNBC's cut-rate version of Bill O'Reilly -- got into the act, devoting a segment of his show to the fundamental question, "Is Bush an idiot?" and writing that he'd prefer "an assortment of Bourbon Street hookers running the Southern Baptist Convention to having this lot of Republicans controlling America's checkbook for the next two years."
And Christopher Buckley -- son of William F. and probably the funniest right-winger alive -- recently called Bush's governing philosophy "incontinent conservatism," and asked:
Who knew, in 2000, that "compassionate conservatism" meant bigger government, unrestricted government spending, government intrusion in personal matters, government ineptitude, and cronyism in disaster relief?
These "rebels" are enjoying a symbiotic relationship with the national media; writers love the intra-party feud -- usually the stuff of Democratic politics -- and the rogue conservatives get to brandish their "principles" and portray themselves as tip-toeing above the gutter of petty partisan politics in which the rest of us wallow.
But make no mistake: Underlying their dissent lies a massive deceit. Read between the lines, and you'll find that what really motivates them is a desperate attempt to save modern "conservatism" itself from going down with this administration. All of the libertarian rhetoric about limited government has always been a grand fraud; truly limited government is an anachronism. Perhaps it was appropriate in a time when small stakeholders toiled away in an agricultural economy, but it's simply impossible to govern a complex, modern, populous society like ours without a lot of staff.
Everybody knows it. The real question isn't about the size of government but whose interests it advances. Just consider that 42 of the 53 senators in the party of "limited government" voted for the bloated prescription drug bill that's now projected to cost $720 billion over the next ten years. It's a crappy, liberal-looking entitlement that was always just a giveaway to insurance companies and Big Pharma.
Judd Gregg, R-N.H., chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, says on his website that he's proud to have promoted "responsible federal spending" during his tenure, but after voting to increase the country's debt ceiling to $9 trillion, he said sheepishly: "It's hard to understand what a trillion is. I don't know what it is."
Political scientists have known for a long time that while people respond positively to the idea of limited government in the abstract, when it comes to specifics people love big government and most, if not all of what it does. They want a government that will educate their children and put out forest fires and pay for their million-dollar cancer treatments and make sure that big chemical companies aren't poisoning their water and keep them from having to eat cat food after they've busted their asses working for 50 years. They expect cheap student loans and meat inspections and smooth highways, and even the lowest of "low information" voters know they're not going to get that stuff from the private sector.
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