Dodd Harris has a good post on the “Bush is betraying the right” meme that’s been circulating of late. Yes, he’s proposing a lot of silly, expensive programs that violate the tenents of Goldwater-style small government conservatism. Yes, this is annoying to some in the base.

Whether these programs reflect the “compassionate” side of compassionate conservatism or are mere pandering really doesn’t matter in this context. And the fact that it’s unlikely to actually work is merely ironic. The fact is that the vast majority of the public–and even of the smaller subset that turns out to vote–actually want big government. That’s just a reality of American politics.

What’s especially ironic is that, while the base is angry that Bush is being too conciliatory and leftist, the Democrats continue to believe Bush is a right-wing ideologue. Brad DeLong, challenging Matt Yglesias’ assertion that perhaps Bush is not evil incarnate,

Yes, there are bound to be Republican presidents. But there is a big difference between a Republican president whose foreign policies are those of Brent Scowcroft and whose domestic policies are those of Paul O’Neill, and a Republican president whose foreign policies are those of Richard Cheney and whose domestic policies are those of… well, it’s not clear who is making domestic policy: Bozo the Clown?

Remember, it’s not just Democrats who are out here in the Gamma Quadrant. Paul O’Neill, Brent Scowcroft, and James Baker are out here too.

As I note in Brad’s comments section, the Bush-Bozo domestic policy is rather strikingly like Bill Clinton’s.

Update (1354): Craig Henry argues that Clinton looked moderate because he had to deal with a Republican Congress. True enough. The fact that Bush is advocating so many social spending programs is even more noteworthy given that the GOP has majorities in both Houses of Congress, albeit a razor thin majority–and a filibuster prone minority–in the Senate.

Update (1459): Dean Esmay weighs in as well.

FILED UNDER: 2004 Election, , , , , , , , ,
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. OF Jay says:

    Doc, I’ve just come to terms with the idea that The Bush Extravagance that many to the right of myself are angry about isn’t half as bad as the Extravagance that a Dem president would have.

    Now, what I wonder about is whether the “Bush is a RW Ideologue” meme folks do it because they want more (or everything) or if it is because it’s Bush in the office.

  2. McGehee says:

    I’m thinking “both.”

    I’ve never heard a liberal complain about too much spending except in the Pentagon. And when the Cold War ended where did liberals want the “peace dividend” (savings from reduced defense spending) to go?

    Those who guessed “the taxpayers”, please toggle SARCASM OFF. Leaving it on is kinda like not turning off your turn signal on the highway…

  3. Brad DeLong says:

    Bush’s domestic policy is not so much ‘left’ or ‘right’ as simply incompetent. The deficit provides perhaps the best register of the degree of incompetence, after all.

    I am not by nature tremendously partisan: I could get very enthusiastic about, say, a broaden-the-base-and-lower-the-rates tax policy. I could get enthusiastic about a “privatization” of Social Security that would stop Congress treating Social Security revenues as the equivalent of general revenues to be spent on today’s programs.

    But that’s not what we have on offer, is it?