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Skip to comments.Conservatives Question Dubya's Direction
Posted on 05/29/2002 10:02:01 AM PDT by Stand Watch Listen
Is George W. Bush becoming the president who just can't say no? Democrats like to paint him in dyed-in-the-wool conservative colors and portray him as even more of an ideological warrior than was Ronald Reagan.
Few would disagree that he is more conservative than was his father, but saying that leaves out a lot. In short, it lacks a recognition of President Bush's highly developed sense of pragmatism and his readiness to compromise which is infuriating some conservative luminaries who argue his presidency so far is shaping up to be a disappointment when it comes to domestic policy.
Frustration was evident earlier in the year when the White House started backing moderate Republicans over conservatives in GOP primary races around the country. With spending on government programs set to increase by 22 percent from 1999 to 2003 in inflation-adjusted dollars, according to some analyses, grumbling about Bush is mounting within the Republican Party's conservative wing.
Spending on annually funded programs increased about 9 percent in the last two years of the Clinton administration. In the first two years of the Bush administration it is scheduled to grow nearly 15 percent.
Administration officials say they'll control spending once the current terrorist emergency has passed. But conservative critics say the boost in federal spending under Bush isn't just connected with Sept. 11, nor has there been a White House effort to offset additional dollars for defense and national security with reductions elsewhere.
The irate conservatives point to the president's May signing of the most expensive farm-subsidy package in U.S. history, despite objections even by some Republicans who called it a "protectionist boondoggle." Conservative critics say the measures will make U.S. farmers dependent on federal subsidies and that it represents a reversal in the congressional effort since the mid-1990s to curb a trend toward farm price supports. "We seem to have done a U-turn," said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) when the bill was passed.
The chorus of conservative disapproval is most high-pitched when it comes to the president's failure so far to veto any legislation that has come his way from Congress, including the recent farm legislation. From libertarians at the Cato Institute to conservatives at the Progress and Freedom Foundation, concern is growing at Bush's reluctance to use his veto powers to curb the free-spending ways of Congress.
Conservatives, including some within his administration, fear Bush fails to appreciate that Congress will be brought to heel only when the White House fires off a veto or two. "Since the fall his aides have kept telling us that they will veto this bill and veto that bill but, when push comes to shove, nothing happens," says a prominent conservative leader.
So far, after nearly 16 months in office, Bush has not exercised a single veto. That contrasts with Reagan, who used to enjoy taunting the then Democrat-controlled Congress by urging Capitol Hill to "make my day" and approve bills he didn't like. Reagan vetoed 70 bills during his first term. Even the "kinder, gentler" George H.W. Bush was tougher than his son he issued 44 vetoes.
The president's legislative-affairs director, Nick Calio, maintains that Bush often has been able to get his way just by calling attention to his veto power. He has cited a post-9/11 spending bill as an example of where Bush managed to secure some changes as a result of raising the specter of a veto.
But conservative critics are not persuaded. At a private strategy session in the winter, Bush tried to pre-empt complaints by assuring Republican senators that he wouldn't flinch from exercising his veto power. But he was careful not to provide any hostages to fortune by offering examples of what he would strike down.
One of the biggest conservative fears is that the president has bought into the notion that Sept. 11 prompted a sea change in the political outlook of ordinary Americans, causing them to be more willing to tolerate big government and increased government expenditures. Worse still, some argue, Bush is using the terrorism emergency to justify expenditures that have nothing to do with national security.
Cato senior fellow Tom Palmer recently bewailed Bush for justifying farm subsidies on defense grounds. "A national-security crisis provides countless opportunities to camouflage expansions of government power or spending as necessary for the common defense," Palmer cautioned in a Cato policy paper.
The Cato critic also cited the president's State of the Union address, in which Bush promised to increase the funding of police and fire departments, something previously considered to be the responsibility of local governments.
Bush supporters say the president simply is engaging in smart politics. Columnist Tony Blankley, who was the spokesman for former House speaker Newt Gingrich, argues that Bush and his political advisers have made the conscious decision not to get embroiled in a domestic-policy row with the Democrats this side of the congressional polls in November. The idea is to allow the White House to focus the election on national-security issues, which should benefit the GOP.
The downside, as far as conservatives are concerned, is that once the federal spending juggernaut starts picking up speed it can't easily be slowed.
Jamie Dettmer is a senior editor for Insight magazine.
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God bless my Senator, Pat Roberts!
He isn't Clinton or Gore, which is all that is required by his supporters.
It seems Mr. Bush stands in the center along with most Americans. That's why he appears too liberal for most conservatives and too conservative for most liberals.
By the way, I stand with the conservatives who think he is too liberal but I'm not willing to give up on Bush for now.
More importantly, the majority of people who are eligible to vote,, do not vote.
If they ever start to vote, and vote for freedom minded people, the country will turn in the right direction. If they do not, it is curtains.
What would it take?
And how much liberalism is the right amount?
Don't get me wrong. You are not the only one who does this-- so don't take it personally when I say that is the most absurd statememt one can find on Free Republic.
Right is right,wrong is wrong, no matter who does it!!!There are some posters on this site that think one is beyond criticism because they have an "R" in front of their name!
That will prove to be the death of our party!!!
1.) If thousands of Tom Daschle and Hillary klinton clones decided to sabotage the party by switching to the Republican party, would you vote for them?
2.)And if elected, would you think it inappropriate to criticize them?
3.)Isn't that what is going on now to the Republican party--and...
4.) shouldn't we be trying to destroy (or at least shine the spotlight of truth on) those atempting to destroy us?
Too many of us have some sort of emotional attachment to this President. This is unhealthy, and just as disturbing as the klintonoids we battled for the past 8 years. He is just a man. A man who seems to be perpetuating liberalism and klitonism to the tune of a 76-percent favorable rating.
For many here, being more conservative than Al Gore is more than enough to earn their support. Only about 240 million Americans can cross that high bar.
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