Bruce Barlett: the NCPA's loss
There's a reason he didn't comment to the Times or mention it in his October 19th column (which may be his most important ever). The man has too much class to start a tirade against the NCPA heads, who chose sycophancy to the Bush White House (a few weeks ago I'd have never thought I'd say anything like that) over valid criticism of presidential policies (specifically that they have betrayed the electoral base that voted him into office). If blasting the President for failing conservatives is not policy analysis from a conservative perspective, then what is?
A prominent conservative has now thundered the truth that we needed to hear. A lot of us already knew we had to hear it but didn't want to admit so:
The truth that is now dawning on many movement conservatives is that George W. Bush is not one of them and never has been. They were allies for a long time, to be sure, and conservatives used Bush just as he used them. But it now appears that they are headed for divorce. And as with all divorces, the ultimate cause was not the final incident, but the buildup of grievances over a long period that one day could no longer be overlooked, contained or smoothed over....And the truth shall set us free. When he talks about "the list of grievances," I can't help but feel this is his "A Conservative's Declaration of Independence" -- from pseudo-conservative "Bushism." I agree with Professor Bainbridge, who said that nominating Harriet Miers "was the straw that broke this camel's back." I've yet to see a conservative or libertarian display any hint of sexism in criticizing her, because that's not the issue. Nor is the issue whether she's a strict constructionist like Scalia or Thomas. My misgivings (putting it mildly) are that she has been a successful private attorney and could make a fine judge, but there are so many others with better qualifications. The stories are that several possible nominees withdrew their names because they didn't want to be dragged through the mud. I can't blame them, but at the same time it tells me that George W. Bush has become afraid to fight. Some time ago, I called into a radio show that Don Luskin was on, expressing this sentiment. Whatever happened to Social Security privatization? Why isn't he using the power of the "bully pulpit" to extol how well the American economy is doing?
The Miers nomination has led to some long-overdue soul-searching among conservative intellectuals. For many, the hope of finally turning around the judiciary was worth putting up with all the big government stuff. Thus, Bush's pick of a patently unqualified crony for a critical position on the Supreme Court was the final straw.
Had George W. Bush demonstrated more fealty to conservative principles over the last five years, he might have gotten a pass on Miers. But coming on top of all the big government initiatives he has supported, few in the conservative movement are inclined to give him the benefit of a doubt any longer.
I grew up a Reagan Republican. In recent months, however, still caught somewhere between conservative and libertarian, I abandoned calling myself a simple "conservative." Conservatives have lost their way when it comes to limited government, and I shall not associate with them. But is my problem with conservatism, or with the conservative leaders? Rudy Giuliani believes that "freedom is about authority." Rick Santorum believes similarly, so both of them are completely wrong on the nature of freedom. Perhaps there are more conservatives like Bruce Bartlett, who are true heirs of Ronald Reagan, but I have no faith in today's conservative/Republican leaders to guide the United States toward a destiny of liberty and prosperity.
And now I find myself losing faith in George W. Bush. I have supported the President in the War on Terror (with the big exception of the Patriot Act, to which Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry would have cried out, "Tyranny! Tyranny!") I have supported the President in cutting taxes and privatizing Social Security, but the former necessitated the complement of Bush's veto pen, and the latter has evaporated. Federal spending even before Katrina has surged at its fastest pace in four decades, and the push toward Social Security privatization has failed because the American people still cling to the myth of paternalist government.
I see an upcoming split in the Republican Party, much like 1912, that will give Hillary Clinton the White House in 2008. Unless conservatives get their act together and fix this crisis of leadership that I hereby accuse President Bush of engendering, we'll be saying "Madame President" in a few years, and it won't be to Condi Rice.