As to spending, Bush's critics properly point out that domestic spending increased at a rate faster than any President since Lyndon Baines Johnson. But didn't candidate Bush, in 2000, announce his goal for a prescription benefit bill for seniors? He called himself the "education President" and promised an even greater federal government role in education. Recall that Ronald Reagan, in 1980, promised to shut down the Department of Education. If Bush's critics called his desire to expand the government heresy, they nevertheless supported him -- twice.
Many of Bush's supporters sat in silence over, to name some, the Farm Bill, the Energy Bill, the Highway Bill, the use of tax dollars for faith-based initiatives, tariffs on steel, tariffs on lumber, No Child Left Behind, the expansion of the Clinton-era "volunteer" AmeriCorps program, the involvement of the federal government in the Terri Schiavo case, increases in the education programs, Title I and Head Start (despite real questions about their effectiveness), the use of federal dollars for embryonic stem-cell research, and others.
As to the issue of illegal aliens, many conservatives consider Bush a sellout and beholden to corporate interests. Here again, what did Bush supporters expect? Republicans wanted the then-governor of Texas to run for President. Why? Governor Bush unseated a popular incumbent governor with 10 percent and 24 percent of the black and Hispanic vote, respectively. Texans re-elected Bush in 1998, this time with 30 percent black and nearly 50 percent Hispanic support. Did Bush's supporters truly expect him to urge an "enforcement first" policy, without dealing with the status of the eleven-plus million illegal aliens here, or without a temporary guest worker program?
So, what does this all mean?
On the most important responsibility of any president -- national security -- Bush deserves tremendous credit for the War on Terror and the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. After Sept. 11, Bush properly turned our response to terrorism from a law-enforcement matter to a military matter. We are at war.
But on domestic spending matters, Bush again shows that Republicans often talk the talk and fail to walk the walk. His father said, "Read my lips: no new taxes" -- and then raised them. Yet many Republicans, thirsting for victory, supported Bush-43's call for a prescription benefit bill for seniors -- the biggest expansion of Medicare since its inception in 1965.
Moral to the story: Sticking to your principles equals good policy and good politics.