Bushism Lives?

Daniel Larison thinks I'm being too hard on myself:

Who among the leading candidates is making a real small government agenda an important part of his campaign? Of course, everyone always talks about tax cuts and reforming the tax code, but Mr. Bush was one for tax cuts and spending increases. Sam Brownback can talk about killing the tax code with a “dull axe,” but we will wait in vain for the “compassionate conservative” to take that dull axe to any federal programs … The candidates will make noises about shrinking government, the same way that Mr. Bush made similar noises during the primaries when he needed to fend off attacks from the right, but they are not making any proposals to this effect. I think Ross has taken their Reagan-mania too much to heart: they are mouthing empty platitudes, not making concrete statements about policy.



Well, I agree that the drumbeat about the importance of budget-cutting and the need for further tax cuts is more rhetorical than substantive, and it’s true that nobody has put forward a detailed ten-point plan for abolishing cabinet agencies, privatizing Social Security, reviving the balanced budget amendment and or anything like that. Nonetheless, rhetoric matters: George W. Bush wasn’t wildly detailed about what “compassionate conservatism” meant in the run-up to the 2000 primaries, but the language he used and the issues he talked about – the EITC, educational standards, faith-based initatives, and so forth – set a tone for his campaign that carried through to the general election, and then into his administration. And what we’re hearing from the current GOP field is setting a tone as well, one that tells the country that a vote for the Republican Party is a vote for dividend tax cuts, porkbusting, and not much else. Daniel’s right that none of the major candidates are talking like Ron Paul on domestic policy, but that doesn’t mean that they’re channeling Bush Or if they are, they’re stripping out everything that once made our current President an interesting and successful politician, until only the dullest right-of-center boilerplate remains. David Brooks’ line about this being a field of George Allen impersonaters looks smarter every day.

But there’s still time for all of this to change …