Now to turn the tables a little on today's Tea Party right. How inconsistent are they? I simply do not recall their loud protests as the Bush administration very clearly embarked on a program of fiscal recklessness from 2001 on. Sure, like the Obama administration, the Bushies did have to worry about a recession after 9/11; but their profligacy pre-dated it and continued well past recovery. Partisan bloggers kept mum at the time out of deference to the GOP. So did National Review and the Weekly Standard - the very organs now fulminating against spending when it's done by a Democrat in his first year in the teeth of the worst recession since the 1930s.
But the Dish's record is in plain view. Here I am in March 2003 on the problem of spending:
I've been trying to give [Bush] the benefit of the doubt, but his latest budget removes any. He's the most fiscally profligate president since Nixon. He's worse than Reagan, since he's ratcheting up discretionary spending like Ted Kennedy and shows no signs whatever of adjusting to meet the hole he and the Republican Congress are putting in the national debt.
I'm also staggered that the budget does not contain any mention of the looming war. I guess you could make a semantic point about its not being inevitable - but not even as a possible contingency? Is that how an ordinary citizen plans his own budget?
You're the government, Mr President. And your party controls all of Congress. There's no way you can pass the buck for plunging the next generation into debt through excessive spending while blaming someone else. His final option is to say: I'm a big government conservative. I want to spend gobs of money on the military and defense, cut taxes, and splurge on social discretionary spending to prove my compassionate credentials. Deficits don't matter. Debt doesn't matter. Governments - at least while I'm president - know better how to spend money than individuals do. That would be the honest message. And it might even be a winning one. So why the flim-flam? Maybe because actual fiscal conservatives like me might wail. Well, sorry to disappoint you, Mr President, but I'm going to wail anyway.
Who among the tea-partiers was saying this? Almost none (although Dick Armey gets a pass). Certainly not Malkin at the time or Reynolds, whose only spending question was always the trivial red herring of pork. Where was the Weekly Standard? Or National Review? When I challenged Rove personally on this, he reiterated that "deficits don't matter," even as he is now preening as a fiscal conservative. The nakedness of their opportunism doesn't make it any the less repellent.
Maybe one day, the Republicans can regain some credibility by accounting for their past failures in ways that actually implicate themselves or president Bush and vice-president Cheney. Maybe, at some point, they will propose some serious, constructive reform - on taxes, entitlements, war, and civil rights.
When they do, I'll take the tea party movement seriously - and even support its message. But right now its message is a farrago of fear, fanaticism and fantasy.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.