This week's column is a question, a brief one addressed with honest curiosity to Republicans. It is: When George W. Bush first came on the scene in 2000, did you understand him to be a liberal in terms of spending?
The question has been on my mind since the summer of 2005 when, at a gathering of conservatives, the question of Mr. Bush and big spending was raised. I'd recently written on the subject and thought it significant that no one disagreed with my criticism. Everyone murmured about new programs, new costs, how the president "spends like a drunken sailor except the sailor spends his own money." And then someone, a smart young journalist, said, (I paraphrase), But we always knew what Bush was. He told us when he ran as a compassionate conservative. This left me rubbing my brow in confusion. Is that what Mr. Bush meant by compassionate conservatism?
That's not what I understood him to mean. If I'd thought he was a big-spending Rockefeller Republican--that is, if I'd thought he was a man who could not imagine and had never absorbed the damage big spending does--I wouldn't have voted for him.
Good Lord. And then, her column written, Noonan peers dizzily at those around her, having been on the alien spaceship for so very long, and asks people if Hanson is still considered "cool". Where the hell ya been, Peg?
I didn't understand Mr. Bush's grand passion to be cutting spending. He didn't present himself that way. But he did present himself as a conservative, with all that entails and suggests. And as all but children know, conservatism is hostile, for reasons ranging from the abstract and philosophical to the concrete and practical, to high spending and high taxing. Money is power, more money for the government is more power for the government. More power for the government will allow it to, among many other things, amuse itself by putting its fingers in a million pies, and stop performing its essential functions well, and get dizzily distracted by nonessentials, and muck up everything. Which is more or less where we are.
But here's the thing: that's clearly hokum. Just like Noonan's self-preen at the top of her column that Bush is "a liberal" in terms of spending, her notion that "conservatism is hostile" to high spending and high taxing is simply more self-promoting bullshit.
Those giant deficits, and that giant spending, can't be blamed solely on George W. Bush. There's a conservative Republican House and conservative Republican Senate that have had their hands on those same reins, every step of the way, and they not only accepted the conservative administration's budgets and proposals, they at almost every turn made them more bloated, more deficit-busting, more irresponsible, and more transparently pork-filled. You can't pretend that Bush was sitting on a hill handing down edicts of crapulescent irresponsibility, because these policies have been part and parcel of conservative legislative action every step of the way.
This isn't a Bush-based fiscal disaster. The Republican Party owns it lock, stock and barrel. They're the ones driving the Hummer here. And here's the record, as it stands:
- Tax cuts for the rich, and an increased tax burden on the poor and middle class.
- Cash giveaways of historic proportions to selected industries.
- A stifling and public condemnation of science.
- Record deficits.
- Rampant nepotism and cronyism.
- Decreased civil liberties.
- Pork by the barrelful.
And that's the record.
Aside from all of that, I'm not even exactly clear what it is Noonan is complaining about, because all of that -- those record deficits, that record spending, the same transparently false and saccharine hokum about "compassion" in conservatism -- is all taken largely part and parcel from her own great personal hero and savior, Ronald Reagan, who practiced the same voodoo-based tax policies and deficit-busting fiscal priorities that have supposedly just now worked themselves up as an irksome blood clot in Noonan's brain.
Get a grip, Peggy. This is conservatism, as a movement. You're soaking in it. During those periods in which elections of your personal peeps are on the line, you're just as gung-ho to sell that fanciful unicorn fart of oxymoronic conservative progress as all the other hacks. Then when things go sour, you're just as eager to put on a momentary face of contemplation and pretend that golly, this isn't what we meant to do at all. Vote for us again, and we'll fix it for sure, next time.
I'll say it again: this is conservatism. You've gotten the power you wanted, and implemented exactly what you wanted. Don't expect us to treat these brow-furrowing pundit walkbacks as anything but the transparent stream of self-marketing drivel that they are.
Give us all a gold-plated, party-hopping, headshot-having, Signatures-restaurant-brunching, speech-grubbing break, here. How many more of these silly Busha-culpas are we expected to suffer through, from the exact same pundits who praised these same incompetent, buffoonish figures as practically new American gods?