But rumors are circulating -- and have gained a measure of credibility with a recent op-ed from the president's former economic advisor, Lawrence Lindsey -- that President Bush is considering compromising on his no-tax-increases policy in exchange for cooperation from Democrats on entitlement reform.
If the rumors are true and the president does cave on the income tax issue -- even if it involves only the payroll tax and even if done for the noble goal of achieving much-needed entitlement reform, conservatives will be livid. Though few conservatives expect pure Reagan conservatism from President Bush -- mainly because he always telegraphed that he wasn't quite the purist -- we certainly do expect him to be true to his supply side ideology.
He couldn't have been clearer in the last six years about his unwavering commitment to reducing the income tax burden across the board. He couldn't have been clearer that he had learned from and would not repeat his father's no-new-taxes betrayal.
Despite the president's shortcomings, most of us have believed that he had the savvy not to fall for any Democratic ploy like his dad did to rationalize breaching such a firm and unequivocal promise. Bush 41, you will recall, reneged on his no-new-taxes pledge because congressional Democrats fraudulently promised, as an inducement, to reduce spending -- another conservative bugaboo.
History would be playing a cruel joke if Bush 43 were to do almost the exact same thing for the sake of progress on the entitlement bugaboo. But it will be far worse if 43 breaches, because so many of us have been convinced that he -- as distinguished from his "kinder and gentler" father -- is genuinely committed to supply side economics.
The best course President Bush could pursue for the nation, for the GOP and for his own presidential legacy is to redouble his efforts to achieve income tax, capital gains tax, estate tax, entitlement and health care reform -- all while initiating true domestic spending cuts.
Even if he fails on one or more of these, he still will have gone a long way toward reuniting the base -- at least the economic conservatives -- and serving up a black and white issue for the GOP presidential and congressional candidates in 2008, especially if he uses his bully pulpit to expose the demagoging class warriors on the left for who they are.