Saturday :: Feb 21, 2004

True Conservatives Restless Again Tonight, Bush-wanna!

by pessimist

I've been noticing more articles on the rise of conservative disquiet concerning George Warmonger Bush and his fiscal misfeasance. I thought I'd toss a couple at you for a sampling.

Conservatives blast Bush on spending

Leading conservatives have unleashed a furious backlash at George W. Bush over last month’s passage of a Medicare prescription drug benefit that could cost $2 trillion over 20 years, after three years of sharp increases in federal spending.

"The president isn’t showing leadership," laments Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation, who calculates that federal spending per household is at a 60-year high. "Conservatives are angry."

THE WALL Street Journal editorial page blasts Bush for a "Medicare fiasco" and a "Medicare giveaway." Paul Weyrich, a founder of the modern conservative movement, sees "disappointment in a lot of quarters." Bruce Bartlett, a conservative National Center for Policy Analysis economist, declares himself "apoplectic." An article in the American Spectator calls Bush’s stewardship on spending "nonexistent," while Steve Moore of the Club for Growth labels Bush a "champion big-spending president."


Bush, who has catered to the GOP’s ideological base, felt that he had built up enough goodwill that he can afford to stray from conservative orthodoxy, as he did on Medicare. This anger does not represent a political danger for Bush, for grass-roots conservatives remain intensely loyal to Bush for his tax cuts, the Iraq war, and religious-based antiabortion efforts. Conservative leaders state that the ire arises in the short term from conservative intellectuals.

I personally think that it is more than this. As I have tried to point out several times now, some conservatives are acting in the interest of the nation over ideological concerns. It is these people that I have labelled True Conservatives. Their discontent with Bush's profligate spending could spread to a popular Perotista-style backlash if spending continues to swell, pushing up deficits and interest rates.

Bush’s policy options are already limited by this drunken-sailor spending. Economist Bartlett states, "the budgetary situation is getting so off track that you simply can’t propose any more tax cuts without looking like a complete idiot."

Imagine the uproar if Hillary had said this!

The discontent surged to the surface when White House economic aides summoned conservative economists to allow them to vent their rage. But according to participants, the session failed to calm the waters. Borrowing a page from Ross Perot, White House budget office deputy director Joel D. Kaplan displayed a chart showing that, outside homeland security and defense, spending was falling. But under intense grilling from economics experts, one participant recounted, Kaplan was forced to admit that his figures covered only the official budget items and did not include the series of "emergency" supplemental measures requested by Bush each year.

The House is scheduled to vote on a massive spending measure for 2004 that Congress negotiated with the Bush administration. The bill includes billions of dollars for lawmakers’ pet projects, which has irritated fiscal conservatives, some of whom have threatened to join Democrats in opposition.

This, dear readers, is what a True Conservative looks like in action. Certainly, many of these pet projects are beneficial to GOP goals, but rather than merely go along, these men choose instead to remain true to their principles, which is that spending should be cut in tight financial times such as we are currently enjoying.

Federal spending has increased 23.7 percent since Bush took office. "In the last three years we’ve had the biggest farm bill, the biggest education bill, the biggest foreign aid bill and now the biggest health care bill in 30 years," said Moore of the free-market Club for Growth. "There’s now not any pretense that Bush is committed to smaller government."

Remember - this was spoken by a conservative supporter of the GOP.

The Medicare prescription drug benefit is expected to cost $400 billion over 10 years, and could go as high as $2 trillion over another 10 years according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Former House majority leader Richard K Armey (R-Tex.) wrote to the Wall Street Journal before its passage, saying "the conservative, free-market base in America is rightly in revolt over this bill" and that "conservatives would be smart, and right, to reject it." Some conservatives, including Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Don Nickles (R-Okla.), did just that.

The White House holds a different view. White House press secretary Scott McClellan said this week, "The president has provided strong leadership to make sure we are doing what it takes to win the war on terror, our nation’s highest priority, while holding the line on spending elsewhere in the budget." Bush aides say he cut spending 6 percent in 2002 and 5 percent in 2003, and 2 to 3 percent for 2004, excluding spending on defense and homeland security — this after a comparable increase of nearly 15 percent in these areas in the last year of the Clinton administration.

"I nearly laughed out loud," said Heritage’s Riedl when a White House official presented this analysis to a meeting he attended recently. Riedl calculates that 55 percent of all new spending in the past two years, or $164 billion of $296 billion, is from areas unrelated to defense and homeland security. Unemployment benefits are up 85 percent, education spending up 65 percent. "It’s really an across-the-board thing," he said. Federal spending is now over $20,000 per household in today’s dollars for the first time since World War II — a jump of $4,000 in the past four years.

Discretionary spending, which grew 2 percent annually during Clinton’s presidency, has grown at 6.5 percent under Bush. And federal spending as a percent of gross domestic product, which decreased under Clinton, has edged back up to 20 percent under Bush.


David Hogberg writes in the American Spectator: "He has vetoed no appropriations bill, and has actually encouraged profligacy by his eagerness to sign budget busters like the Medicare Bill, Farm Bill, and Education Bill."

Grover Norquist, who heads Americans for Tax Reform, agrees that "government spending is growing too rapidly." But he said Bush should not get all the blame. "I am disappointed that the movement, starting with me, has not yet figured out how to assign accountability and responsibility for spending," he said. Norquist said Bush "needs to make the case next year that this is what he is working on."

A Republican pollster working on the 2004 campaign said the spending issue is growing but has not yet reached a point of concern for Bush. "I’m seeing it percolating in primary polls in Republican segments, but they’re not blaming Bush as much as the whole system," he said. "In the short term, voters are going to say spend what you need to spend on the war."

Note that the only thing it's OK to spend more money for is war.

While still favorable toward Bush despite this increased spending, no one can predict whether this will remain the case. Weyrich, who leads the Free Congress Foundation, said it could be well into Bush’s second term before conservative voters rebel against the growth of government. "I’ve helped to start revolts against many administrations over the years, and the level of outrage just isn’t there where you could oppose the administration," he said. "People are upset about it, but they weigh it against what they consider to be Bush’s leadership in Iraq and elsewhere. ... They say, ‘Well, we don’t like this, but it’s not enough to cause us to bolt.’ "

Bush Ticks Off Conservatives
by Earl Ofari Hutchinson,

The unthinkable has happened: Some of President Bush's faithful are ticked off at him.

Conservative TV talk show host Bill O'Reilly kicked off the Bush bash when he said, "I was wrong" in blindly parroting Bush's misstatements about the war. Other conservatives say they feel hurt, betrayed, conned and lied to about Iraq, phantom WMD, and his inept handling of the economy. They also have taken potshots at the elder Bushes for building a fortune by snuggling up to Middle East despots and dictators, including Bush's devil incarnate, Saddam Hussein. This, of course, is the same crowd that salivated over every syllable from the White House and hacked up anyone who dared utter a whimper of criticism.

The grousing of a handful of media and conservative Bush apologists hardly means that the Bush ship of state is about to sink. Barring a Watergate-type scandal implicating Bush in illegal misconduct or corruption, he still holds some trump cards. When the political chips are really down, O'Reilly and the other conservatives that rail at Bush will almost certainly close ranks and punch the Bush ticket. He has a colossal campaign war chest, a good chunk of the conservative media in his hip pocket, the rock-solid backing of the majority of conservative white males, the White House bully pulpit to slam the Democrats and hype his accomplishments, and he can boast that he, not a Democrat, can best wage the war against terrorism. He proved that he could grab headlines and deflect criticism by demanding a global ban on WMD.

Then there's the chronic bigotry of the Republican Party. Bush has virtually dropped the early lip service he played to promoting diversity and inclusion and has subtly inflamed white male passions by publicly backing the anti-affirmative action lawsuit by white students against the University of Michigan decided by the Supreme Court, and filing a friend-of-the-court brief supporting it. Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and a parade of state and Congressional Republicans have made foot-in-the-mouth racial and gender slurs of blacks, Jews and Japanese-Americans. The silence of top Republicans -- and that includes the man in the White House -- over the naked bigotry of many in his party has deeply polarized voters and turned the American electorate into hopelessly warring camps.

The presumptive Democratic nominee, John Kerry, has still not found a touch-a-nerve political issue, raised a king's ransom in campaign funds or attained household name recognition. These are the bare requisites that a presidential challenger needs, in order to have any chance of knocking off a sitting president. Yet, before the conservative dust up with Bush over Iraq, WMD and the economy, millions were already ticked off at Bush.

He has refused to back expanded hate crimes legislation, and his done nothing to prod Congress to allocate the billions that he promised to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa.

He ticked off Democrats and even some Republicans with his draconian tax giveaway to the wealthy and corporate interests. He ticked off environmentalists with his bid to open the Alaskan Artic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration, and to open wilderness areas to be ravaged by mining and logging interests, and his refusal to sign the Kyoto global warming treaty.

He ticked off civil liberties groups with his gut of civil liberties protections in the Patriot Act, and the even more draconian Patriot Act II rumored to be on the drawing board, and his messianic effort to ram a gaggle of ultra-conservative, borderline racist, and homophobic judges through Congress.

He ticked off many senior citizen advocate groups by shoving through Congress a Medicare prescription drug benefit bill that lines the pockets of pharmaceuticals, and erodes Medicare coverage and protections. He alienated women's groups by waging a relentless war against abortion rights. He offended gay groups by virtually declaring that he will back a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

The League of Conservation voters, which did not make a presidential endorsement in 2000, is so terrorized of a Bush second term that it has virtually declared that it might break its tradition of political neutrality and back a Democrat in 2004.

Also, the Green Party was pounded from pillar to post for running Ralph Nader in 2000 and tipping the election to Bush. That won't happen this time. Though Nader says he might run again, it will be without the official backing of the Greens. They are scared stiff of Bush too, and many Greens will hold their nose and vote for whichever Democrat gets the presidential nod.

November is a long way away, and anything can happen. But the wrath of O'Reilly and company is an early warning sign that Bush's reelection may not be the walkover he thought. He has ticked off too many folks for that to happen.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. Visit his news and opinion website: He is the author of The Crisis in Black and Black (Middle Passage Press).

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pessimist :: 3:32 PM :: Comments (0) :: Digg It!