Jonah’s column about the widening gap between conservatives and George W. Bush reminded me something that had struck me when I looked over the State of the Union Address—not the address George W. Bush delivered on Tuesday, but the address Ronald Reagan delivered 20 years ago.
Whereas in his own State of the Union Address last week Bush merely promised a budget that would hold increases in discretionary spending to four percent—and said not a word about vetoing supplemental appropriations, which could easily double that percentage—in 1984 Reagan said this:
“The problems we’re overcoming are…the tendency of government to grow, for practices and programs to become the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth. And there’s always that little well-intentioned chorus of voices saying, ‘With a little more power and a little more money, we could do so much for the people.’ For a time we forgot the American dream isn’t one of making government bigger. It’s keeping faith with the mighty spirit of a free people under God….
“We must bring federal deficits down. We can begin by limiting the size and scope of government.”
I’ll take a compassionate conservative if there’s no other kind on offer. But wouldn’t it be sweet if by some miracle President Bush decided to campaign this year as a conservative conservative?