Today's Opinions, Tomorrow's Reality
He's No Gipper
By David G. Young
Washington, DC, April 27, 2004 --
Leftish Americans nearly jump out of their pants at every opportunity to assert that Dubya has misled the country about "weapons of mass destruction." Their general PO level -- never below a simmer since the disputed Florida election results of 2000 -- has returned to a full boil. Simultaneously, however, rank-and-file Republicans have remained solidly behind their president, even as he drags down the country with one blunder after another.
The only explanations for this blind loyalty are either ignorance or a stubborn desire to rebuff the president's lefty critics. Either way, it is outrageous that Republicans should reward the man. From an ideologically conservative standpoint, President Bush is the worst president America has had in recent times. He has eroded just about every accomplishment of Ronald Reagan -- the ideological hero of modern Republicans.
The Gipper is famous for saying, "Government is not the solution to the problem. Government is the problem." Despite being blocked by a Democrat-controlled Congress for almost all of his presidency, discretionary spending as a percentage of national income dropped from 10.1 percent in his first year in office to 9.0 percent in his last year.1 George W. Bush, however, has rarely seen a government program he didn't like. He has had the luxury of a Republican-controlled House and Senate for most of his presidency. Yet federal spending has skyrocketed under his watch. After just two years under Bush, discretionary spending had gone up by $176 billion -- from 6.5 percent of GDP to 7.6 percent.2
Dubya's spendthrift behavior has put in jeopardy the one conservative accomplishment where he has managed to surpass even Reagan himself: tax cuts. But the impressive cuts in the income tax Bush has achieved look shakier with every dollar he adds on to the enormous deficit. And while Reagan's presidency was beset by deficits as well, he at least claimed he wanted to cut spending -- it was those pesky Democrats in the House and Senate who blocked him from gutting the welfare state. Dubya has no such desire, and certainly no such excuse.
While some may find similarity in Bush's defense spending increases to those under Reagan, the reality is quite different. Reagan eliminated a communist superpower with less annual military spending than Bush used to topple a petty third world despot. One of the hallmarks of the Reagan era was the doctrine of "peace through strength." Grenada was Reagan's biggest military conflict, and a grand total of 19 Americans were killed. Compare this record with that of the current president, whose ever-changing justification for the pointless war in Iraq does nothing to stop a handful of American soldiers from dying on a typical day.
During Reagan's years, the president regularly went to Moscow and Beijing and made their leaders' squirm on the issue of human rights. Today, with hundreds of unnamed prisoners confined to Guantanamo Bay without trial, it is foreign leaders who press America on the issue of human rights. Shamefully, America no longer serves as a beacon of freedom for the world.
Bush's record as president is nothing less than a betrayal of the Reagan legacy. During the Reagan years, I became so enamoured with the Gipper that I became chairman of the College Republicans on campus. It was inconceivable to me at the time that a president in the same party as Reagan could ever behave in such a manner as President Bush. It is high time for someone in the conservative movement to rise up and make a Lloyd Bentsen-style denunciation of Bush's allegedly conservative record. I knew Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan was a hero of mine. You're no Ronald Regan, Mr. President.
Related Web Columns:
Back With a Vengeance, August 19, 2003
Not Bad, For a President, May 29, 2001
1. Congressional Budget Office, The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2005-2014, January 26, 2004.