am writing this column to one particular sort of reader. I want as many
people as possible to read my column, of course, but this week's essay
is geared toward those who insist that President George W. Bush - a man
I supported and voted for - is advancing the cause of freedom.
Don't be influenced in your thinking about the president by the odd
gyrations of America's leftists, who are consumed by Bush-spite. They
despise him and embrace kooky ideas about him. You know it as well as I
do: the "selected, not elected" ranting; the "Bush is bombing Iraq to
benefit his oil buddies" libel; the "Bush knew about 9/11 in advance"
material. It's almost enough to make one rally to the president's
defense, but we shouldn't.
The enemy of our enemies is not necessarily our friend. Especially
when the president, even though I believe him to be a decent man, is
busy expanding government power at a pace that would have been
unthinkable even under Bill Clinton's horrible administration.
We need to be hardheaded and evaluate this president in the same way
we evaluated Clinton, Jimmy Carter and other presidents. I remain a
Republican, because over my lifetime, Republicans have been the only
party with a winning chance that has come close to advocating, however inadequately, principles of limited government.
Watching the Republican Party at the national level over the past
three years is causing rethinking on my part. I want other Americans of
right-leaning persuasion to hold the president and the
Republican-majority Congress accountable for their deeds, rather than
their occasional fine-sounding words.
The U.S. Constitution means what it says. It does not live and
breathe, which is a liberal euphemism for stretching the Constitution
to say whatever it is liberals want it to mean at any particular time,
usually in service to some modern, government-expanding idea.
Government must be limited. Growth in government is not good,
because government is based on coercion. Individuals do a better job
spending their own hard- earned money than government, which lavishes
its ill-gotten gains on special interest groups and constituencies that
whine the loudest. Government should protect the national defense and
do some basic, clearly delineated tasks, but defense means defense, not
offense. American civil liberties must not be endangered by
never-ending wars with constantly shifting endposts.
Compared to this ideal, President Bush is a disaster. Even compared
to other modern conservative politicians, he has been a huge
disappointment. In fairness, the president has been good on tax cuts,
has appointed some decent people to judicial posts and has resisted
some of the worst proposals from the left, such as the Kyoto global
But mostly it has been one sellout after another.
Writes the Cato Institute's Doug Bandow in a cover story in the
American Conservative magazine: "Despite occasional exceptions, the
Bush administration, backed by the Republican-controlled Congress, has
been promoting larger government at almost every turn. Its spending
policies have been irresponsible, and its trade strategies have been
destructive. The president has been quite willing to sell out the
national interest for perceived political gain, whether the votes
sought are from seniors or farmers. The terrorist attacks of 9/11
encouraged the administration to push into law civil-liberties
restrictions that should worry anyone, whether they are wielded by a
Bush or a Clinton administration."
It's hard to argue with this.
This president has not vetoed a single bill, which means he has
signed into law every big-spending project that has come down the pike.
Federal spending, even on non-military matters, has soared. His
nation-building experiments are downright Wilsonian, a far cry from the
"humbler" foreign policy he promised when he ran for office.
These are criticisms from the right, so save the "you stinking
Democrat-loving pinko" e-mails for someone else. I argued for
libertarians to vote for Bush in a column before the election,
believing that his calls for limited government and restrained foreign
policy were far superior to Al Gore's quasi-socialism, nutty
environmentalism and love of Clinton-style nation- building. (Note: The
Register doesn't endorse candidates, but one week we featured columns
by each editorial writer explaining our personal choices for president.)
But look at what we've got, with the largest entitlement increase in
decades pushed forward by the president (prescription drugs), and it's
hard for me to know what to say. The right words are coming to mind:
"I'm sorry." I'm sorry to my readers for suggesting such a choice. I'm
sorry to my libertarian colleagues, who warned me there wouldn't be any
noticeable difference between a Bush and Gore administration.
U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, writing last week for LewRockwell.com,
agrees: "The unfortunate truth is that the Bush administration, aided
by a Republican Congress, has increased spending more in three years
than the previous administration did in eight. Federal spending has
grown by more than 25 percent since President Bush took office." As
Paul explains, the president no longer even uses conservative rhetoric.
He doesn't just act like a social democrat, but he talks like one.
Yet so many conservatives continue to celebrate this president as a
conservative champion. At least under the Clinton administration - and
I did and still do resent the former president's liberal policies and
deceptions - the Republican Congress fought back. Now pure partisanship
pushes the GOP to endorse policies it opposed under Clinton.
Cato Institute Executive Vice President David Boaz explains in a
recent Washington Post column that under President Ronald Reagan,
non-defense discretionary spending fell by 13.5 percent but increased
by nearly 21 percent under Bush II. How is that for a contrast?
Pointing to vast federal expansions in education, medical care and
other areas under Bush and the Republican Congress, conservative
columnist Cal Thomas wrote on Nov. 30: "We are moving rapidly, under
Republican 'leadership,' past the nanny state and the welfare state to
what might be called the state as family. ... Is it time for another
revolution yet? Who's got the tea?"
Tough stuff. But if you still refuse to listen to these conservative
and libertarian leaders, then pay attention to one of Republicanism's
great modern heroes, former President Reagan.
Here are words from his famous 1964 speech supporting Barry Goldwater's presidential run:
"I am going to talk of controversial things. I make no apology for this. ...
"It's time we asked ourselves if we still know the freedoms intended for us by the founding fathers. ...
"Are you willing to spend time studying the issues, making yourself
aware, and then conveying that information to family and friends? Will
you resist the temptation to get a government handout for your
community? ... We are faced with the most evil enemy mankind has known
in his long climb from the swamp to the stars. There can be no security
anywhere in the free world if there is no fiscal and economic stability
within the United States. Those who ask us to trade our freedom for the
soup kitchen of the welfare state are architects of a policy of
America's enemy has changed, but the principles are still the same.
It's time for those who had supported the president to make their
criticisms heard. If it puts us in league with some scary left-wing
loonies, don't worry. Our arguments make sense, and theirs are crazy.