Andrew Sullivan just got back from a meeting at the CATO Institute that discussed the finer points of Bush’s spending. And even though CATO is a conservative/libretarian institution, the administration declined the invitation for somebody from the White House to speak on its behalf.
The salient question is: could a president Al Gore have managed to increase public spending as massively and as permanently as this crew? He would surely have been stopped in his tracks by a Republican Congress. Even a Democratic Congress would have felt the need to assuage the Republican grass roots and scaled back the huge growth. But not Bush. By hitching the Republican base to Christianism, and by legitimizing massive spending for a Republican, he has been able to dispense with much of what conservatism once meant. Limited government? Yeah, right. Balanced budgets? A joke. Individual liberty? Only if you’re in the Middle East. Huge tax increases? Just you wait. They’re now inevitable. A welfare state bigger and more intrusive than Ted Kennedy could dream of? That will be Bush’s legacy. It will take conservatism a generation to recover its bearings.
Or…just maybe…another party will pick up the fiscally responsible issue and claim it as their own.