Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Bush as Nixon? Pashaw.

So we've had Bush as Reagan, Bush as Bush, Sr. Bush as Truman, Bush as Carter...I suppose it was inevitable that we'd get around to Nixon. And so Jonah Goldberg has, in his most recent column . However, Jonah's own recitation of Nixon's liberal bona fides doesn't square too well with this argument. Most of the bureaucratic innovations (Homeland Security) have been thrust upon an unwilling White House rather than instigated by it. Bush's two big 'liberal' policies--the prescription drug benefit & "No Child Left Behind"--when compared to the massive projects of the New Deal & Post-New Deal eras pales considerably. Bush hasn't held the line on spending...but then again, neither has the Republican Congress. Reagan talked the talk on spending cuts but hardly walked the walk. He gets a pass for Cold War expenditures and a Democratic Congress. Why not Bush, who has fought two very hot wars and finds a Congress just as willing to spend its way to re-election?

Rhetorically, Jonah has a point. Bush hasn't talked the Reagan talk on the enemy being government nearly as much (if at all) as Reagan did. However, Bush has talked from the beginning about the importance of keeping money out of Washington. He has preached about the fact that money is almost always best used in the hands of taxpayers rather than the tax-recpients in Congress. And he has put the government's money where his mouth is by pushing through and getting tax cuts.

Furthermore, Jonah's conclusion that it is Bush's 'cut taxes and spend' philosophy that sees his poll numbers so anemic is dubious at best. Bush is in the poll doldrums because of high gas prices (masking a robust economy) and the Iraq war (which most folks think is going badly...whatever the reality on the ground). If Bush were at 60% (which I believe he would be absent those two factors)...would that represent a repudiation of limited government principles by the American Right? I don't think so. Nor do I think his 35% poll numbers represent a rejection of Bush for a failure to pursue limited government.