As more and more conservatives looks for ways to distance themselves from George Bush, I’ve heard many statements to the effect that “He’s not really one of us because he’s a ‘big government conservative’ who believes in running up huge deficits, and who pursues an aggressive foreign policy; while we ‘true conservatives’ believe in balanced budgets and strengthening our economy at home through deregulated markets and the elimination of government programs.”
Paul Krugman described the phenomenon well in last week’s NYT column (available free here), in which he points out the irony of Bruce Bartlett’s new book, "Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy" in light of scathing comments Bartlett has made about Krugman specifically for opposing the same Bush agenda against which he now rails.
Krugman’s point is that the current crop of “fiscal conservatives” now bashing Bush and claiming some sort of moral high ground are largely responsible for his election in the first place, while those who were observant enough to oppose Bush from the beginning are still considered shrill and unpatriotic.
In other words, those conservatives who are only now distancing themselves from Bush have an even greater responsibility than the Democrats to do something to mend what Bush has done to the countries’ economy and to its standing in the world – because they helped put him in power! It’s not enough to be born-again budget balancers speaking out against an irresponsible administration. They had better come up with a plan to fix things, or they shouldn’t suddenly expect to garner political support for their brand of “traditional fiscal conservatism.”
And what would their brand of fiscal conservatism suggest to repair the damage that Bush has wrought? How would they improve the financial health of the country, and regain respect and moral authority in the international community? Lets see . . . they don’t like to increase taxes, so I guess they would have to cut spending on just about everything in order to eliminate deficit spending. Presumably this would include programs to actually rebuilt Iraq, or to pour money into a seemingly endless stabilization effort.
There would be no consideration for anything resembling a “Marshall Plan” abroad. There would be no stimulating the economy with another form of “New Deal” at home. These are the big government programs they despise, although these very programs have been successfully implemented by Democratic administrations.
From what I can guess, since they aren’t telling, the so-called “fiscal conservatives” now running from the Bush legacy have nothing to offer to fix the damage but what I can only describe as “cutting and running!” That is, cutting spending and running away from Iraq! Until the new conservative Bush bashers can come up with a specific plan that promises to clean up their own mess, their newfound claims of outrage at the fiscal irresponsibility of Bush’s policies are a bit hollow!