Administration Skips Bush Bash Fest

Dana Milbank writes that, “If the ancient political wisdom is correct that a charge unanswered is a charge agreed to, the Bush White House pleaded guilty yesterday at the Cato Institute to some extraordinary allegations.”

Apparently, the libertarian Cato Institute, which Milbank admits has “always been the odd men out of the Bush coalition,” invited Bruce Bartlett, who is hawking a new book entitled, Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy and Kerry supporter Andrew Sullivan, author of the forthcoming The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It; How to Get It Back to give a talk. When they invited “a few members of the Bush economic team,” none took them up on the offer.

Shocking. Why, exactly, would one expect otherwise? What would they have to gain by coming to a hostile forum that would otherwise be virtually ignored (save for this odd A2 placement in the Post)?

It appears to have been the right move. Bartlett “called the administration ‘unconscionable,’ ‘irresponsible,’ ‘vindictive’ and ‘inept.’ Sullivan “called Bush ‘reckless’ and ‘a socialist,’ and accused him of betraying ‘almost every principle conservatism has ever stood for.'” This is a forum that senior White House officials were supposed to dignify with their presence?


Update: Ed Morrissey agrees and is “not sure why Milbank expresses such surprise” or “why the Post headlines this event as a ‘conservative forum.'”

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Steven Plunk says:

    While the invited guests may have used strong words to describe the administration the hosts should not be condemned for providing the forum.

    Cato provided a chance for the administration to defend some of it’s policies to people who are knowledgeable and somewhat sympathetic to conservatives. Getting the message out has been one of the weak points of this administration. Why would they not at least send someone to get that message heard?

    The conservative-libertarian alliance should be strengthened since it will serve both well. Healthy debate of the issues will clear the air and allow that relationship to progress.

    It’s like siblings who fight a lot, they should remember they are from the same family.

  2. Steve Verdon says:

    While some of the rhetoric might have been over the top, personally I’m not all that convinced given the lack of context and Bartlett’s past ability to marshall lots of data to support his case, Bartlett’s claims strike me as being somewhat apt. Bush is an imposter, he is really a Democrat in terms of fiscal and economic policy save for taxes (and heck I think one could make a case by pointing to things like the Kennedy tax cut) and a conservative only on social issues. If the Dems hadn’t put up such a lousy candidate I wouldn’t have voted for Bush.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Steve: I don’t disagree that Bush is a disappointment to fiscal conservatives. When was the last president who wasn’t? Eisenhower, maybe? (And please don’t tell me about Clinton’s balanced budget, which was purely a function of the dot com windfall rather than spending restraint.)

    The truth of the matter is that, while conservative intellectuals (myself included) want spending discipline, the average voter doesn’t.

  4. legion says:

    Well, it was a ‘conservative forum’ hosting an actual conservative… it’s just that he’s a conservative who’s persona non grata with the current administration. The story is not that nobody from the White House was interested in coming (to paraphrase James: “Duh”), the story is the major differences in the term ‘conservative’ and the seams that are showing in the once-united right-wing front.

  5. James Joyner says:

    Legion: I think it’s partly that. Mostly, though, it’s the differences between the Republican party-in-government versus the conservative intelligensia. It’s a lot easier to be true to your principles if there’s no cost.

  6. Tom says:

    Milbank thinks it’s significant that the Cato Institute put on a discussion about Bush and no Bush supporters appeared in defense. Hahahahahaha. Is it any wonder that the tin-foil hat wearing kook is a darling of uber-conspiracy theorist Keith Olberman?

  7. Tom says:

    Milbank thinks that Andrew Sullivan is a “conservative”? Hahahahahahahahaha. No doubt, Milbank considers Ann Stone, David Gergen, John McCain, Lincoln Chafee, Arlen Spector, …, “conservative”.