Brooks on Bush and Bartlett:

David Brooks has sympathy for Bruce Bartlett, "a man of immense intellectual integrity." Brooks begins his latest NYT column (only available on Times Select) observing:

In an era when many commentators write whatever will affirm the prejudices of their own team, Bartlett follows his conscience and has paid a price. He was fired by his conservative think tank for being critical of President Bush.
But Brooks' sympathy only goes so far, as he rejects Bartlett's charge that Bush has betrayed conservativism. According to Brooks, "Bush hasn't abandoned conservatism; he's modernized and saved it." As Brooks tells the story, "conservatism was adrift and bereft of ideas" until President Bush came along.
Almost single-handedly, Bush reconnected with the positive and idealistic instincts of middle-class Americans. He did it by recasting conservatism more significantly than anyone had since Ronald Reagan. He rejected the prejudice that the private sector is good and the public sector is bad, and he tried to use government to encourage responsible citizenship and community service. He sought to mobilize government so the children of prisoners can build their lives, so parents can get data to measure their school's performance, so millions of AIDS victims in Africa can live another day, so people around the world can dream of freedom.

"Government should help people improve their lives, not run their lives," Bush said. This is not the Government-Is-the-Problem philosophy of the mid-'90s, but the philosophy of a governing majority party in a country where people look to government to play a positive but not overbearing role in their lives.

I agree with Brooks that President Bush never embraced a limited government agenda, but I think it is a bit much to suggest Bush has "recast" conservatism and, as Brooks goes on to suggest, laid the predicate for a new governing majority. I would further suggest that the Administration's repeated embrace of big government policies, from new entitlements and No Child Left Behind to the explosion in federal spending and campaign finance "reform," has more to do with political opportunism than a coherent governing philosophy, "conservative" or otherwise. The question for conservatives is: At what point do such actions outweigh whatever commitments to conservative policies the Bush Administration can still be expected to keep. For Bruce Bartlett that line has been crossed, and I am not far behind.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Defending NCPA:
  2. Brooks on Bush and Bartlett:
  3. Tanked for Thinking:
dk35 (mail):
Other than rehashed supply-side economics (which we know is harmful economic policy based on the tragedy of the Reagan years), and attempts to force Christianity onto the American populace ("Faith-Based" initiatives, anyone?), what has this President offered us in terms of domestic policy?

3 yrs. and 3 mos. and we're done with him.
10.24.2005 3:10am
Shelby (mail):
For Bruce Bartlett that line has been crossed, and I am not far behind.

Eh, I may have got there ahead of him. I voted for Bush, with deep reservations, and all my misgivings (but few of my hopes) have been met. The man's a disaster, in part because he's so anti-intellectual. Which brings us to...

"conservatism was adrift and bereft of ideas" until President Bush came along

So Bush brought direction and ideas to conservatism? What a crock. I'll grant that he and his crowd (mostly the crowd) brought direction to the Republican Party, though hardly new ideas. They cherry-picked the blandest, most big-government ideas floating around Republican circles, and found ways to push them hard. Some of them were even good for the country, e.g. tax cuts. (Which admittedly aren't big-government -- coincidence, that?)

If I were a conservative I'd probably be just as upset with Bush as the real me is -- but for different reasons. He is at least finally becoming a uniter not a divider -- we're all against him!
10.24.2005 4:02am
Josh Jasper (mail):
But Bush did recast conservitavism. As pure pork barell coronyism. From his tight chummyness with Ken Lay (some suggested him as secretary of energy, to the inept crony jobs at FEMA, to pretty much anyone who's working under him who disagrees getting the axe, to Miers.

This is the face of modern consrvativism.
10.24.2005 4:09am
ANM (mail):
Those damn small-government conservatives' victory in 1994 must have been a conspiracy. After all, America CLEARLY supports big government conservatism. End sarcasm.

I remember only McCain and Bush as the main contenders for the Republican nomination in 2000. Keyes was reportedly inexperienced. Why the absence of conservatives?

The label conservative is so broad as to be meaningless. Libertarianism is diametrically opposed to conservatism, philosophically speaking. For every yes or no question there are diverging answers within conservatives.

Could a libertarianish candidate, ie. social liberal, fiscal conservative, ever become president? If only the political parties were libertarians v. statists.
10.24.2005 4:19am
This sounds like some of the liberal attacks on Clinton.

Bush's secret to success is that he has fooled the Religious Right into ignoring the fact that his only real goal is helping his friends, mainly people who kept bailing him out of his failed businesses, but also people who have served him loyally.

Bush will speak the language of the religious right only when needed to advance his main goal. He'll talk about fiscal sanity, but he won't do anything about it unless it's needed to advance his main goal.

His second goal was to get the guy who took a shot at his pappy. Mission accomplished.

What's interesting about the Harriet Miers controversy is that many conservatives have discovered that Bush is not worthy of trust. You're five years late, but welcome to the club.
10.24.2005 6:22am
Nikki (www):
"conservatism was adrift and bereft of ideas"

I'm not even much of a conservative, and I think that's, well, crap, to put it bluntly if impolitely.
10.24.2005 8:43am
Let's say Bush has recast small-government conservatism into big-government conservatism. Why the hell is he always trying to cut taxes?
10.24.2005 9:39am
Anderson (mail) (www):
Mark Kleiman's rant on Brooks's column is well worth a look.
10.24.2005 10:32am
tefta (mail):
Brooks and Bartlett: Birds of a feather who "grew" into liberals.
10.24.2005 10:44am
Josh Jasper (mail):
AF: It's certainly not to pay for his unprecedented increase in government agencies, spending and waste.

Somehow, to Team Bush, 'conservative' became synonymous with deficit spending. It's a good thing I don't ahve any kids, because they're the ones who'll ultimatley pay for this mess. Living above your means on credit cards is a fun thing for a while. I made the mistake once in my life. Ten years later, it's paid off.

Bush, on the other hand, has been using the government as a super platinum visa with an expanding APR, and he keeps telling us not to worry, that the bill won't come due. Ever.

I've met people who spend like that in real life. Usualy either mummy or daddy bail them out, or they loose a house, car, and job.

Do you think Bush Sr. is going to bail out the country?
10.24.2005 10:58am
dk35 (mail):

The funny thing is that we had a fiscal conservative/social liberal candidate in 2000, and he (Gore) actually did quite well in the election.

Part of the reason that we're stuck with Bush now is the age old mistake of libertarians to side with the Republicans, reason be damned. Many people were screaming out that Bush was simply going to redirect government power to support certain corporate interests (i.e. expand government, not hold it in check) while in the meantime, to maintain sufficient support, align himself with the Christian fundamentalists to trample over individual rights. But, sadly, the libertarian types didn't listen.
10.24.2005 11:55am
B. B.:
We're also stuck with Bush because the Democrats couldn't find even a marginal candidate to oppose Bush. The warnings went unheeded because given the choice between a bad incumbent and a bad opposing candidate, the people went with the devil they knew.

I hope to God we have some people actually worthy of voting for in 2008. I was in the "anyone but Bush" camp in '04, since I felt another four years of a virtually unaccountable Bush would be far worse than 4 years of Kerry, who would have been checked by the GOP-controlled Congress and also had to consider reelection hopes.

But hey, that ~51% gave Bush a "mandate" in his own mind to nominate a crony to the SCt, to cut taxes more and increase spending more, etc. The only thing that will stop him now is either a shift in the balance in one or both houses of Congress, or a revolt in his own party. There seems to be rumblings of the latter but I wonder if there are enough in Congress and elsewhere to actually stand up to the Rove/Bush/Delay/et al cabal. Libertarians, where art thou?
10.24.2005 12:23pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Those damn small-government conservatives' victory in 1994 must have been a conspiracy. After all, America CLEARLY supports big government conservatism. End sarcasm.

The problem is that after President Clinton shut down the federal government in 1995 and the MSM blamed the Republican Congress*, Republicans lost ground in 1996, 1998, and 2000 which made Republicans gun shy to run as the anti-Big Government party any longer. Bush after all was picked as the nominee largely because he didn't have the particular baggage and was (rightfully) seen as an electable moderate governor.

Considering that Gore was the alternative and how insane he's shown himself to be by embracing the lunacy, we still got off lucky.

* In contrast during the 1980's when there was a government shut down because of a dispute over the federal budget, the MSM then blamed the Republican President rather than the Democrat Congress.
10.24.2005 1:43pm
spencere (mail):
In modern times only one president has reduced the size of government and slashed welfare spending. Of course he did it with the help of the opposition party, but what is wrong with that?

That President was Clinton.
10.24.2005 2:08pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
In modern times only one president has reduced the size of government and slashed welfare spending. Of course he did it with the help of the opposition party, but what is wrong with that?

That President was Clinton.

A claim which is an utter lie since (a) the federal government grew every year that Clinton was president as did (b) spending on welfare.
10.24.2005 4:15pm
Randy R. (mail):
But the RATE of increase of spending declined under Clinton, whereas under Bush II, it has increased far more than most any other president in modern times. Also Clinton reformed welfare, which helped drive down the increase on welfare spending.

What has Bush II done to decrease any spending in any areas? Oh, they are talking now of cutting Medicare. And he DID cut the budge of the Veteran's Administration. While we are at war, naturally.
10.25.2005 2:04am
Randy R. (mail):
But yeah, I laughed when I read the Brook's column. Brook's couldn't be more out of touch with what is going on. Bush a conservative? He has ruined true conservatism for at least a decade. He's just a guy who does what he likes to do, without any governing philosophy at all. After all, isn't that why so many people voted for him? He's jus' folks, right? A Washington outsider who was going to do common sense, not what the chattering class wants. He'll "get the job done."

These people were had. And the joke is on all of us.
10.25.2005 2:07am