2008 [Bruce]

I have more to say about the long-term budget situation, but I think Andrew's right that we should move on.

So on another topic, I was reading Paul Krugman this morning and he was complaining about the lack of substance in the Republican campaign so far. He compares the situation to 2000 when the Republicans nominated George W. Bush without really knowing what he thought about the issues.

Actually, with the benefit of hindsight it was pretty clear that Bush was no Reaganite, small-government kind of guy. He gave plenty of speeches on the need to expand government for all kinds of things. My friend Ed Crane of the Cato Institute is always reminding me that he wrote an article in the New York Times back in 1999 that fingered Bush's big government proclivities pretty accurately. It was also pretty clear that he was a foreign policy neocon. In short, it was all there for those who knew what to look for.

My own excuse for not predicting the disaster that Bush's presidency has been is that I simply didn't believe a word he said during the 2000 campaign. I assumed that every word out of his mouth had been put there by Karl Rove and it was all based on polling and focus groups. I knew that Bush is a bit of a dim bulb, so it never occurred to me that he actually had any ideas of his own. I just assumed that he would be a rerun of his father. I was never a big fan of George H.W., even though I worked for him at the Treasury Department, but looking back I can appreciate that he had his virtues. Bush 41 was at least a serious, responsible person--exactly the opposite of his oldest son.

My point is that it is very easy to get cynical about politics and think it is all a game. That was the mistake I made in 2000, along with lots of other people. If we don't want to make the same mistake again, all of us who comment on politics need to pay closer attention to what these guys are saying and make some allowance for the possibility that they actually believe it.