Things I Did Not Expect to Read Today

I agree with this assessment but did not expect to see it coming from Kevin Drum's keyboard

Contrary to his reputation, Bush mostly succeeded by pressing a moderate, and sometimes even liberal, agenda. Tax cuts aside, which he passed solely primarily with Republican support

He goes on to point out that a lot of Bush's domestic legislation was really liberal (NCLB, Medicare part D).  I agree.

But I think this is related to where Democrats go off track in understanding Tea Party and libertarian spending anger.  Their rejoinder tends to be "much of current spending is Bush's fault."  Leave aside the absurd implicit assumption in this that once a spending level is achieved, no president later has any ability to ratchet it back down.  No, what they really miss is that I think the Tea party would agree.    They are just as angry about Bush's spending and expansion of government, so the "Republicans started it" playground argument does not really get much traction.  The best analog would probably be expansion of Executive power.  Drum is not OK (I am pretty sure) with the notion that the President can have any American he chooses summarily executed in the war on terrorism, and isn't likely to change his mind if reminded that "his guy" Obama invented the power.


  1. Artemis Fowl:

    Hey, I miss things sometimes, do you have a good link on when Obama invented the power for the President to have someone summarily executed?

  2. steve:

    I am not sure the tea partiers are all on board with these sentiments. My parents consider themselves tea partiers but definitely have the Republican tic of reflexively defending Bush.

  3. John Moore:

    If you are going to monopolize the medical insurance market anyway, then you should cover medications. At least Bush did it in a way that came in *below* estimates - what other social program did that?

    As a baby boomer who has no options other than working until no longer able, or going on Medicare, I see the insurance market as having utterly failed to provide me those options. Bush has done so (while snatching away my veterans medical insurance *promised* me when I volunteered during Vietnam).

    Other than that - yea, Bush's domestic agenda was too liberal.

  4. Mark:

    "At least Bush did it in a way that came in *below* estimates"

    What most people miss on this is that this was pure politics. There was going to be a Medicare Prescription Drug Program. IN a sense, this was a "triangulation" and we got the best possible program in place, rather than some monstrosity that the Democrats wanted (could you imagine?).

    In the real world, ideological purity is not always possible. Sometimes you have to give people what they want and accept what is possible even if it is not perfect.

  5. bob sykes:

    Another liberal Republican was Richard Nixon.

  6. Pat:

    The other thing the Dems never point out is that the deficit was going down until the Dems got the House, giving them control of both the House and Senate. THEN it ratcheted back up. And, in the final year of Bush's term he was never given a budget to sign or veto... it was put off until Obama took office whereupon he signed it and immediately said it wasn't his budget, it was Bush's (when his signing of it made it a completely Democrat document). Who would've thought even that would seem to be the halcyon days... when a budget was actually put forward and signed? It's only happened once since.

    I'm not defending Bush, who was a big spender. I'm just pointing out that he takes the rap from Dems for two of eight years when the Dems deserve it (though he did sign one Pelosi/Reid budget).

  7. Joseph Hertzlinger:

    Leftists think that conservatives are people who are simply following authority. That means they assume that we agree with anything an authority on our side says or does and that any supposed disagreement can only be a matter of hypocrisy.

  8. Zach:

    "Another liberal Republican was Richard Nixon."

    Back when I was in college, I was a die hard liberal. I took a class called "The American Presidency" because I needed an upper level humanities class. We did an exercise where we compared the legislative and other accomplishments of the various presidents since WW2. As a liberal, Nixon's list of accomplishments were the ones I liked the most, which I found odd given my usual liberal knee jerk reaction to Nixon.

  9. Ian Random:

    Actually, he did propose to kill 141 programs, but got reamed in the press.

  10. dad29:

    They are just as angry about Bush’s spending and expansion of government

    I would argue that we are MORE exercised about GWB's Progressive claptrap than are the Lefties. Face it: just like his Daddy, GWB betrayed the Conservatives.

    And a lot of RINOs lost office over it, either voluntarily or otherwise.

  11. Bram:

    Did I miss the part where the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress after 2006? Did the Democrats oppose the 2008 stimulus? How would it have passed? What spending bills did Senator Obama vote against? Any?

  12. Dan:

    I agree that both parties share responsibility for the mess we're in.

    What bothers me is the knee-jerk statements of some tea partiers and their sympathizers (Sen. McConnell, for instance), who, for obvious political reasons, assign all the blame to Obama. I even know one tea partier, a relative of mine, who said Obama and the Dems are responsible for 99% of the debt, which is just wacky, and may have come from watching Fox News too much.

    There's no doubt Obama did a lot to make the mess worse, but that doesn't mean he didn't inherit a mess to begin with, and one that both the GOP leadership in Congress and President Bush bore responsibility for between the years of 2001 and 2006, as well as the Democratic-controlled Congress from 2007 on.

    However, Obama is starting to look strident and unpresidential when he continues to blame policies of the past for the current situation. Last year's deficit commission came out with some excellent recommendations for a long-term solution, and, as one commentator said, Obama basically threw it in the trash can. Time for the president to look at it again.

  13. Bram:

    Dan: The Tea Party despises the slimy old GOP politicians for life like McConnell. We do everything possible to primary them out of office.

    The Republican Party pays lip service because if they didn't, the Tea Party types and the conservatives would walk out and form a Conservative Party. The GOP would join the Whigs in the history books.

  14. Dan:

    "The Tea Party despises the slimy old GOP politicians for life like McConnell. We do everything possible to primary them out of office."

    Amazing that the tea party and me have something in common!

  15. Mercy Vetsel:

    As I always tell the left-fascists when they talk about Bush and deficits:

    "Yeah I was mad when Bush and the Republican Congress were overspending and incurred a deficit of $250 billion in 2006, but now that the deficit is 6 times larger, I'm 6 times as angry about it."


  16. Steve W from Ford:

    It is not like the Dems were calling (and voting) for LESS spending during the Bush years, As I recall they wanted to tax and spend more just as usual. The only place they called for less spending was after they realized they could benefit politically by opposing the Iraq war and so turned against it. As they were deeply complicit in getting us into Iraq they can hardly, logically, deny responsibility for the cost.
    Mr Obama in particular gave no indication of having ever met a spending bill he did not embrace. To now declare how horrified they are by Bush's spending is just the usual high level of hypocrisy one has come to expect from this class of people,

  17. Dan:

    I'd also say it's hypocritcal for the GOP, which voted for dozens of debt ceiling increases under Reagan and Bush with little or no debate, to make it a gigantic political football when a Democrat president makes the same request.

  18. Jesse:

    The "absurd assumption" that once a spending level is achieved no president or congress can go below it is the 800 pound gorilla in the capital rotunda. Our legislators become spastic at slowing the rate of growth; how will they ever handle actual reductions in spending? Time for a Congress of Freshmen who can do the heavy lifting to come.

  19. Dan:


    You're right about that. But it's when actual cuts that affect people and businesses come into play that you have a problem. Republicans will go to the mat to keep Democrats from cutting defense spending (even cuts the military says it supports), because they get huge donations from the weapons industry; and Democrats will label the Republicans as anti-elderly if the GOP proposes any cuts to Medicare.

    And of course neither party wants any cuts to the projects in their districts. Someone last week did a story on the various pork projects some of the freshman Republican "tea party" sympathizer congressmen are supporting. One wants $300 million bridge in his district to be paid for with federal money. He refused to admit it was pork or that projects like this make him look like a complete hypocrite (which he is).

  20. me:

    The debt ceiling was a red herring debate (note that 1.6 trillion of the debt is owed to the US government and could thus easily be removed from the books, leaving quite a bit of headroom for more and more spending):

  21. mahtso:

    Regarding Dan’s comment about dozens of votes by the Republicans:

    The Republicans got their butts kicked in 2006 in part because of their failure to control spending. The problem (spending more than income) has accelerated since President Obama took office. This led to the Tea Party movement that (1) removed from Congress some of the Republicans casting the votes you refer to; and (2) putting many others on notice that their jobs are at risk if they don’t begin to act in a fiscally responsible manner.

    Because of the Tea Party influence and because the problem (spending more than income) is getting progressively worse, the Republican votes are not necessarily hypocrisy. (And, if because I think they did the right thing now, it was hypocrisy, then I say “bravo” for that hypocrisy.)

    One thought unrelated to Dan’s comment: I don’t see how anyone who was aware of Pres. Bush’s reputation in Texas could have considered him to be a fiscal conservative. To the contrary, his reputation was as a bipartisan, which as is typically the case, meant spending enough to appease both parties.

  22. Bram:

    Bush ran as the "compassionate conservative" which I correctly translated to mean "not conservative." Since he was running against McCain, it made little difference.

  23. caseyboy:

    Dan, the question isn't whether Obama was handed a bowl of "sh_t", but the policies he implemented with his face in the bowl of "sh_t". His policies have nearly killed our economy. $800 billion stimulus, most of which went to state employees who were then laid-off when the money ran out. Then Obamacare paralyzing business investment and employment. Add Dodd/Frank financial reform, EPA enacting a regulatory cap and trade regimen, the ban on drilling, the bailout of the UAW (GM & Chrysler), the NLRB suing Boeing for not building their new plant for the union in WA and various other regulations that are stifling our economy.

    Yeah, Obama got handed a bowl of "sh_t", but now he has us in a sea of "sh_t".

    On the plus side, illegal immigration is down since jobs are scarce.

  24. Dan:


    Maybe Dodd/Frank wasn't the best way to regulate the financial industry, but what would your proposal be instead? To just let things go on the same way and leave investors vulnerable to the same kind of manipulation that helped lead to the crash of 2008?

    The stimulus itself wasn't such a bad idea. At various times, such actions have helped the economy. A stimulus that was directed in different ways may have helped in 2009, but, as you say, it was mis-directed.

    I thought it was a strategic miscalculation for Obama to make healthcare his big focus out of the gate. It was like he hadn't learned anything from the first two years of the Clinton administration. What he eventually got passed is pretty watered down and vanilla, though his opponents used it to brand him a socialist. If he's one, Mitt Romney and the Republicans in Congress back in the early 1990s must be as well, because the plan pretty much matches versions of what Romney and Congressional Republicans proposed in the past. To me, it makes more sense to just extend Medicare to everyone. Much less complicated, and takes the private insurers out of the picture. But that will never happen.

  25. Matthew Brown:

    My cynical belief is that it's a rare President who thinks that fiscal rectitude is a priority at all, and it's a rare Congress that actually cares either. The incentives in the system are all wrong. It is, though, easy to make political hay by accusing the other guys of impropriety, and politicians of both sides do so whenever they are not in a position to spend as they please.

    From my point-of-view, Bush and Obama were both bad choices for President. They had the good luck to be running against less electable candidates, and to have a good degree of personal charisma. Both made atrocious choices, fiscally and otherwise.