-- Government regulation got a big boost from passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley bill, which Republicans rushed through Congress to deflect criticism over the Enron scandal. But the fact is that nothing in the legislation would have prevented Enron's financial abuses -- a fact proven by a new scandal involving stockbroker Refco, which appears to have engaged in Enron-style financial shenanigans that are now being investigated by authorities.
I could go on, but the point is that George W. Bush has never demonstrated any interest in shrinking the size of government. And on many occasions, he has increased government significantly. Yet if there is anything that defines conservatism in America, it is hostility to government expansion. The idea of big government conservatism, a term often used to describe Bush's philosophy, is a contradiction in terms.
Conservative intellectuals have known this for a long time, but looked the other way for various reasons. Some thought the war on terror trumped every other issue. If a few billion dollars had to be wasted to buy the votes needed to win the war, then so be it, many conservatives have argued. Others say that Bush never ran as a conservative in the first place, so there is no betrayal here, only a failure by conservatives to see what he has been all along.
Of course, this doesn't say much for the conservative movement. At best, conservatives were naive about Bush. At worst, they sold out much of what they claim to believe in.
The Miers nomination has led to some long-overdue soul-searching among conservative intellectuals. For many, the hope of finally turning around the judiciary was worth putting up with all the big government stuff. Thus, Bush's pick of a patently unqualified crony for a critical position on the Supreme Court was the final straw.
Had George W. Bush demonstrated more fealty to conservative principles over the last five years, he might have gotten a pass on Miers. But coming on top of all the big government initiatives he has supported, few in the conservative movement are inclined to give him the benefit of a doubt any longer.
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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