One Of My Heroes: Bruce Bartlett

David Leonhardt offers a fair profile. Bruce did not sacrifice his principles or his intellect during the Rove years and was all but ostracized as a result. He didn't have my independence from the conservative movement and so had to face down much worse than I did in confronting the accelerating catastrophe of the Bush-Cheney years. But he at least has the knowledge that he was right all along. Odd that neither Bruce nor I were featured in the recent WaPo piece about conservative intellectuals who swam against the tide in the Bush years. I know our books were ignored by the right, but that doesn't mean they weren't out there or serious intellectual contributions to the debate. (And if you watch the video above, you can see that I was a tea-partier on spending and debt when Bush was in office and am giving Obama a break in this recession solely because his inheritance was basically impossible. Compare that with these current populists who backed Bush to the hilt as he bankrupted this country and are now up in arms at a president who has been in office for a few months, dealing with the wreckage in a global recession. And I'm regarded as the liberal!)

Maybe Hayward simply never heard of "The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It; How To Get It Back" or "Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy", because the Rovian cocoon shut them out of the discourse. But they stand up pretty well in retrospect and revealed that not all conservative thinkers sold their souls to Karl Rove.

Bruce, moreover, is still thinking. Tireless and ballsy, he's now a conservative in favor a a sales tax hike once the economy recovers, as I reluctantly am. Leonhardt:

One of the country’s two political parties has no answer to an enormous economic issue the fact that the federal government cannot pay for its obligations. This lack of engagement is a problem, just as it was a problem when Democrats were saying that welfare was working, teachers’ unions were always right and stagflation couldn’t happen.

For now, there is little reason to think the Republicans are on the verge of a Clinton-like reform. But it is hard to see how they can ultimately stick to their current platform. At some point, the government will have to figure out how to pay for the baby boomers’ retirement. “Trends that can’t continue,” as Mr. Bartlett says, “don’t.”

Do yourself a favor and read Bruce's new book that David reviews. And know that Bruce is one of those conservatives who actually put principle over access to power. If you're a liberal looking for a real conservative to debate and read, you won't go far wrong with Bruce.