Risky business

Peggy Noonan asks a great question: When George W. Bush first came on the scene in 2000, did you understand him to be a liberal in terms of spending? My answer to that precise question is the same as Noonan’s — no. However, I did assume a risk that Bush, who billed himself a compassionate conservative, would be liberal on spending. And I assumed a substantial risk that he would not be conservative.

I assumed that risk, as I suspect many conservatives did, because I doubted that we could elect an old-fashioned fiscal conservative in 2000, given the popularity of President Clinton’s form of liberalism.

Ramesh Ponnuru says “we should have known that [Bush] would be a big spender [but] perhaps we can legitimately claim to be surprised at how much of a big spender he would be.”

JOHN adds: Earlier today, Best of the Web linked to an article in the Guardian by David Boaz of the Cato Institute, titled “Why Do Conservatives Like Bush?” Boaz suggests, with tongue in cheek, that liberals could best erode the President’s support by applauding his liberal tendencies:

So here’s your challenge, lefty bloggers: If you don’t like the tree-chopping, Falwell-loving, cowboy president – if you want his presidency fatally wounded for the next three years – then start praising him. One good Paul Krugman column taking off from that USA Today story on the surge in entitlements recipients under Bush, one Daily Kos lead on how Clinton flopped on national health care but Bush twisted every arm in the GOP to get a multi-trillion-dollar prescription drug benefit for the elderly, one cover story in the Nation on how Bush has acknowledged federal responsibility for everything from floods in New Orleans to troubled teenagers, and maybe, just maybe, National Review and the Powerline blog and Fox News would come to their senses. Bush is a Rockefeller Republican in cowboy boots, and it’s time conservatives stopped looking at the boots instead of the policies.

There are, of course, answers to the question posed by Boaz, several of which he supplies: 1) tax cuts, 2) the war, and 3) religion. Boaz’s fourth answer is that conservatives like Bush because liberals hate him. There is, I suppose, a certain amount of truth to that observation. An obvious comparison here is Richard Nixon, who wasn’t a conservative but was hated by liberals anyway, and therefore earned the support, often grudging, of conservatives. But I think that most conservatives genuinely like George W. a lot more than they liked Nixon.

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