Was George W. Bush a Conservative or a Moderate?

Newt Gingrich suggests the former president was to the right of John McCain and Bob Dole, but he's still not considered all that conservative by today's Republican Party standards.

newtunsinkable.banner.reuters.jpg

On Sunday's episode of Meet the Press, Newt Gingrich said this:

The challenge is to say do you really want to go into a fall election with a moderate candidate? The last two times we nominated a moderate, 1996 and 2008, we lost badly. A conservative candidate can offer a much greater contrast with President Obama, can offer a much bigger difference.

In keeping with the apparent rule in this year's GOP primary, George W. Bush goes unmentioned, but the implication is that he was more conservative than Mitt Romney and Bob Dole.

Is that really clear?

I suppose if you're the kind of conservative who favors deficit-financed tax cuts, expanding the Department of Education, a new drug entitlement for seniors, nation building in the Middle East, a guest worker program, and Wall Street bailouts, you might think of Bush as a fellow traveler. And Gingrich favored all those policies, along with the attempt to put Harriet Miers on the Supreme Court.

Certain figures are always talking as if running conservative candidates is the obvious path to Republican victory, as if Ronald Reagan represents a rule rather than an exception. It's true, of course, that neither Dole nor McCain was ever elected president. But it's also true that George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, and Dwight D. Eisenhower -- five of the last six Republican presidents -- are considered overly moderate by the standards of today's movement conservatives.


Image credit: Reuters
Presented by

Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

How a Psychedelic Masterpiece Is Made

A short documentary about Bruce Riley, an artist who paints abstract wonders with poured resin

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How a Psychedelic Masterpiece Is Made

A short documentary about Bruce Riley, an artist who paints abstract wonders with poured resin

Videos

Why Is Google Making Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors are changing the way people think about health.

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

More in Politics

Just In