The White House appears to have been truly blindsided by the vehemently negative response from conservative intellectuals to the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. In truth, this is a revolt that has been long in the making. The surprising thing is that it has taken such a long time for it to come out into the open.
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.
From the conservative point of view, the list of grievances is a long one, dating back to the first days of the Bush administration.
-- One of President Bush's first actions in office was a vast expansion of education spending with little real reform in return. To conservatives, it has always looked like a transparent effort to buy off the so-called soccer moms. But rather than buy peace with the education lobby, it has simply led to continuous calls for still more education spending, despite the paucity of evidence correlating spending with achievement.
-- Almost all conservatives view campaign finance reform as a blatantly unconstitutional abridgement of the First Amendment, the Supreme Court's endorsement notwithstanding. Now it may end up being used to suppress blogs and other new media that have been critical for conservatives in breaking the liberal monopoly of the mainstream press.
-- It is the rare conservative who has a kind word for the Bush immigration policy. Most conservatives think that he has been woefully weak on protecting our borders. Among the grassroots of the Republican Party, there is active hostility to administration plans to allow illegal immigrants to have guest-worker status. Most see this as a form of amnesty that will further encourage illegal immigration.
-- Even leaving aside national defense and homeland security, government spending has exploded during the Bush years. Although the vast proliferation of pork-barrel spending, which President Bush steadfastly refuses to veto, has gotten most of the attention, far more worrisome has been the expansion of entitlements, especially the extraordinarily ill-conceived Medicare drug benefit. In future years, Republicans will rue the day they passed this legislation, because they are eventually going to have to cut it, thereby losing all the political benefits they thought they would get among the elderly.
Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.
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