Jonah, your posts remind me of an experience I had over and over during the GWB years. I’d go before a liberal audience, and they would regard Bush as Milton Friedman run amok or something. They thought of him as an anti-government, dog-eat-dog Social Darwinist or something. I’d go before conservative audiences, and they would say, “I wish.” Conservatives regarded Bush as a big-spending, government-expanding, amnesty-granting squish. The gap between the liberal perception of Bush and the conservative perception of Bush was enormous. I mean, we were on different planets: Mercury and Pluto. (I realize Pluto has been downgraded, but I’m loath to let it go.)
You would think that Bush would have gotten huge support from soft-Republican types. But no. It was almost surely a matter of style. (See an earlier post related to this subject, here.) It was the Texas twang and stubbornness and so on that got Bush thought of as conservative, or very conservative. Appearances counted more than deeds. Similarly, I used to joke that Richard Armitage looked like a right-winger. No one ever looked more like one. But on the contrary . . . (Remember when Safire used to refer to him as “he without a neck,” or “a no-necked spokesman,” etc.?)
When Bush said, “When somebody hurts, government has got to move,” conservatives gagged. We at NR, for example, used that line against him repeatedly. And yet he was never cut any slack by the big-government people. Strange . . .
Where is this Republican party that is “pure and hard”? It exists in imaginations—only.