The Washington Times carries a story that is especially amusing given the “Bush is an extremist” argument made by many of the Democratic contenders:

President Bush is beginning to anger certain hard-line conservatives, particularly over fiscal issues, the way his father did in the year before he lost to Bill Clinton in 1992.

It’s not clear how deep the dissatisfaction goes, and whether it will translate to damage at the polls in November.

“I’m hearing a lot of anger,” says Richard Viguerie, the guru of conservative political direct mail. “I’m beginning, for the first time, [to hear] people talk about ‘it would not be the worst thing in the world if Howard Dean were president,’ because the size of government would stay still rather than increase 50 percent under a second Bush administration.”


Pat Buchanan, whose challenge of President George Bush in 1992 is credited by some conservatives as leading to the Clinton presidency, says that if it weren’t for the ongoing war the current president would be facing a primary challenge.

I agree with Buchanan and Viguerie and share their frustrations. But, unlike them, I understand that one can’t be a pure ideologue and succeed as president. For one thing, governing in a Republic is partly representative, and the American people as a whole are neither particularly ideological nor overwhelmingly conservative. While most Americans don’t want to pay high taxes, they do seem to have an near-unending appetite for governmental programs. Furthermore, as a practical matter, the Republicans don’t control the Senate. The Democratic minority is an effective check on any impulse Bush would have toward radical conservatism.

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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 says:

    Not to mention that it simply wouldn’t be the csae that the government would “stay still” under a Dean administration. Further, Bush has substantial cover on the fiscal front that his father did not have: massive tax cuts.

    I would amend Buchanan’s remarks and state that had it not been for 911 and all the aftermath (including Iraq), that there might have been a challenege. Truth is, the world would be radically different sans those events, so who knows if there would have been a challenge or not?

    For that matter, sans the Iraq war, Dean probably wouldn’t be the front-runner for the Deams.

  2. The Brookings Institute concluded that “the era of big government is back,” thanks to the Bush Administration. The think tank released a study which found that the “number of full-time employees working on government contracts and grants has zoomed by more than one million people since 1999, bringing the overall head count to more than 12.1 million as of this past October.”

    The study contends the expansion is both stealthy and permanent. The use of grant and contract employees (rather than civil servants) “reflects a deliberate strategy by both Congress and the president to disguise the true size of government.”

    A growing number of conservatives dismayed about such growth under the Republicans’ watch: “We are now seeing the biggest expansion in government since Lyndon Johnson was in the White House,” Mr. Moore said. “It is pretty much an across-the-board mushrooming of government. We have the biggest education, foreign aid and agriculture bills in history, and bigger expansions are on the agenda.”

    Mr. Mitchell called the growth of government under Mr. Bush “very troubling for conservatives.”

  3. James Joyner says:

    Well, Bush has only been in office since 2001, so any trend starting in 1999 isn’t all his. And, of course, we’re fighting a massive war at the moment, which is rather expensive. I don’t disagree that he’s contributed to an expansion of the welfare state, but most of the spending is for the GWOT and related nation-building activities.

    And the use of grant and contract employees rather than permanent bureaucrats is a good idea if the increase is to be temporary, no?