The Corner

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Bush Ain’t Reagan, John


Your contention that Bush is a Reaganite, John, is much too sweeping–much too sweeping. As to underlying principles, Reagan was far more skeptical of government–as he often said, “Government is the problem, not the solution,” words that are impossible to imagine coming from the current chief executive. And as to practical politics, Reagan fought domestic spending–not consistently, and not with anything like the degree of success for which he’d hoped, but he fought it. During the Reagan years, discretionary domestic spending actually shrank. Bush likes government. And as for spending–well, we all know the record. (There’s an argument that Bush turned into a big spender only because he wanted to avoid any fights on the domestic front while waing the war in Iraq. As Lou Cannon pointed out over lunch yesterday, Bush didn’t show any more propensity to veto spending bills before 9/11 than he has since, which is to say, none at all.)

I don’t mean to say that Bush isn’t at all like Reagan, obviously. Both men suggest transparent honesty and simpleness and clarity of purpose. Both are associated with tax cuts, strong defenses, and a vigorous role on the world stage. But the differences between the two remain profound.