that is now dawning on many movement conservatives is that George
W. Bush is not one of them and never has been. They were allies
for a long time, to be sure, and conservatives used Bush just
as he used them. But it now appears that they are headed for divorce.
And as with all divorces, the ultimate cause was not the final
incident, but the buildup of grievances over a long period that
one day could no longer be overlooked, contained or smoothed over.
conservative point of view, the list of grievances is a long one,
dating back to the first days of the Bush administration.
-- One of
President Bush's first actions in office was a vast expansion
of education spending with little real reform in return. To conservatives,
it has always looked like a transparent effort to buy off the
so-called soccer moms. But rather than buy peace with the education
lobby, it has simply led to continuous calls for still more education
spending, despite the paucity of evidence correlating spending
all conservatives view campaign finance reform as a blatantly
unconstitutional abridgement of the First Amendment, the Supreme
Court's endorsement notwithstanding. Now it may end up being used
to suppress blogs and other new media that have been critical
for conservatives in breaking the liberal monopoly of the mainstream
-- It is
the rare conservative who has a kind word for the Bush immigration
policy. Most conservatives think that he has been woefully weak
on protecting our borders. Among the grassroots of the Republican
Party, there is active hostility to administration plans to allow
illegal immigrants to have guest-worker status. Most see this
as a form of amnesty that will further encourage illegal immigration.
-- Even leaving
aside national defense and homeland security, government spending
has exploded during the Bush years. Although the vast proliferation
of pork-barrel spending, which President Bush steadfastly refuses
to veto, has gotten most of the attention, far more worrisome
has been the expansion of entitlements, especially the extraordinarily
ill-conceived Medicare drug benefit. In future years, Republicans
will rue the day they passed this legislation, because they are
eventually going to have to cut it, thereby losing all the political
benefits they thought they would get among the elderly.
regulation got a big boost from passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley
bill, which Republicans rushed through Congress to deflect criticism
over the Enron scandal. But the fact is that nothing in the legislation
would have prevented Enron's financial abuses -- a fact proven
by a new scandal involving stockbroker Refco, which appears to
have engaged in Enron-style financial shenanigans that are now
being investigated by authorities.
go on, but the point is that George W. Bush has never demonstrated
any interest in shrinking the size of government. And on many
occasions, he has increased government significantly. Yet if there
is anything that defines conservatism in America, it is hostility
to government expansion. The idea of big government conservatism,
a term often used to describe Bush's philosophy, is a contradiction
intellectuals have known this for a long time, but looked the
other way for various reasons. Some thought the war on terror
trumped every other issue. If a few billion dollars had to be
wasted to buy the votes needed to win the war, then so be it,
many conservatives have argued. Others say that Bush never ran
as a conservative in the first place, so there is no betrayal
here, only a failure by conservatives to see what he has been
this doesn't say much for the conservative movement. At best,
conservatives were naive about Bush. At worst, they sold out much
of what they claim to believe in.
nomination has led to some long-overdue soul-searching among conservative
intellectuals. For many, the hope of finally turning around the
judiciary was worth putting up with all the big government stuff.
Thus, Bush's pick of a patently unqualified crony for a critical
position on the Supreme Court was the final straw.
W. Bush demonstrated more fealty to conservative principles over
the last five years, he might have gotten a pass on Miers. But
coming on top of all the big government initiatives he has supported,
few in the conservative movement are inclined to give him the
benefit of a doubt any longer.