Did America Elect The Wrong Bush Brother ?by Doug Mataconis
Former Florida Governor, and Presidential brother, Jeb Bush, spoke this weekend at a conference sponsored by National Review devoted to examing what happened to the Republican Party in general, and conservatives specifically in last year’s elections. And, quite honestly, his remarks make one wonder if the wrong son of George H.W. Bush made it into the White House six years ago:
At a time when the conservative movement is looking bereft, humbled by midterm-election defeats and hungering for a presidential candidate to rally around, Jeb Bush delivered yesterday in Washington a resounding endorsement of conservative principles, bringing his audience repeatedly to its feet.
In his lunchtime remarks to the Conservative Summit, Bush struck every conservative chord, blaming Republicans’ defeat in November on the party’s abandonment of tenets including limited government and fiscal restraint.
“Don’t take offense personally if I get mad at Congress,” the Republican former Florida governor began. “It’s important for us to realize we lost, and there are significant reasons that happened, but it isn’t because conservatives were rejected. But it’s because we rejected the conservative philosophy in this country.”
He added, “If the promise of pork and more programs is the way Republicans think they’ll regain the majority, then they’ve got a problem.”
Bush’s speech prompted three standing ovations from the audience of hundreds at the National Review Institute’s conference at the JW Marriott Hotel, reflecting the widespread concern among conservatives that exorbitant government spending led to the loss of majorities in the House and Senate and concern about whether Republicans would again embrace the traditional principles.
It’s important to recognize that when Governor Bush talks about conservative philosophy, he clearly is the referring to ideas of limited government that the Republican Party used to believe in back in, say, 1980 when Ronald Reagan was elected. That is not the conservatism of 2007 by any means, at least not in practice.
President Bush sponsored most of those â€œmore programs,â€ and in six years he hasnâ€™t vetoed a single piece of pork or a bloated entitlement bill or a new spending program. And if Jeb thinks â€œwe lostâ€¦because we rejected the conservative philosophy in this country,â€ he must realize that his brother has set the agenda for Republicans over the past six years almost as firmly as Putin has set Russiaâ€™s agenda. If Republicans turned their back on limited-government conservatism, itâ€™s because the White House told them to. Not that congressional leaders were blameless â€” and on Social Security reform, they did decide to resist Bushâ€™s one good idea â€” but it was President Bush and his White House staff who inspired, enticed, threatened, bullied, and bully-pulpited Republicans into passing the No Child Left Behind Act, the biggest expansion of entitlements in 40 years, and other big-government schemes.
In reality, of course, I doubt we will hear Jeb denounce the policies of his brother’s Presidency, not matter what he might think about them. Family loyalty will trump politicial differences. Nonetheless, I can’t help but wonder if we might not have been better off electing the other Bush brother.