There is a heated debate in the ranks of President Bush's most ardent supporters about whether they should go public with their concerns and risk hurting his reelection chances. One of those debates is taking place within the conservative Heritage Foundation, whose president, Ed Feulner, has written two recent newspaper columns criticizing out-of-control spending. He is supported by the latest figures from the Congressional Budget Office which show that the fast economic growth and low inflation are not enough to eliminate the federal deficit, which is projected to hit a record $477 billion this fiscal year, but might have vanished had Republicans not engaged in an orgy of spending.
One Heritage executive e-mailed me, "As a mom who is trying to teach my children about conservative values, the vision of our Founding Fathers and how faith in God - not the government - is our answer, how do I explain that federal spending has increased more under George Bush than it did under Bill Clinton? How do I tell them how important it is that we work to get Bush (re)elected and then explain that they will be (saddled) for the rest of their lives paying for huge government programs, such as Medicare reform, that he championed?"
These good questions and criticisms are significant because they come from conservative friends of the president. As Pence said in his CPAC speech, to ask such questions "is not a sign of disloyalty, but of true loyalty to principle."
Are they listening at the White House? Perhaps they think they can dismiss conservatives with the familiar, "Where else can conservatives go?" They can "go" into inaction or they can stay home and not vote. It has happened before.
Ask President Bush No. 41, who raised taxes after promising he wouldn't. He later said it was a major mistake, but too late to win him reelection. In a close election people of principle can mean the difference between victory and defeat.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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