Larry Kudlow
Senator Hillary Clinton and House Speaker Dennis Hastert surely make strange political bedfellows. A recent New York Post story, bouncing off Hastert?s new book ?Speaker,? recounted Hastert?s mini-gripe that Clinton and her colleague Sen. Chuck Schumer were obsessed with bringing home the bacon for New York right after the 9/11 terrorist attack. Hastert, however, never opposed the $20 billion aid package. What he reconfirmed for the Post was that ?All the tragedy was converted into dollars and cents. People kind of lost the sense of the depth of the tragedy itself.?

He could have added that some have lost the true meaning of 9/11, which formerly launched the U.S. war against radical Islamism. As Norman Podhoretz recently wrote in Commentary magazine, we are now in World War IV. Do the Kerry Democrats completely grasp this essential point? Vietnam is over.

But there?s a more compelling disagreement between Hastert and Clinton.

Back in 1994, when Clinton was pushing her grandiose plan to nationalize health care, Hastert suggested that medical savings accounts were a much better approach to reform. Sen. Clinton disagreed, arguing instead for a ?Europeanized? America where people are inherently greedy and can?t be trusted to make decisions for themselves. In Hastert?s words, ?She went on to say that she felt if money goes to individuals and they have control over it, then that is money government doesn?t have. People wouldn?t spend their money as wisely as the federal government would.?

Well now. The difference between liberal and conservative couldn?t be clearer. Liberals believe that tax dollars are the property of the federal government, and that the nanny state will spend more wisely than ordinary folks who are uniformed, stupid, or irresponsible. Conservatives, on the other hand, believing in economic liberty, think that tax dollars are the people?s money. Government works for them; they don?t work for the government.

What we have here is a wedge issue in domestic policy -- one that President Bush will hopefully exploit in his Republican convention speech next week. The president believes that people should take personal responsibility and ownership for retirement, health care, and education -- reinforcing the point that he?s a believer in individual choice, free-market competition, and economic freedom. The Democrats, however, believe in government planning monopolies; a dependency society that celebrates economic ?equality? rather than economic growth, to paraphrase former House Majority Leader Dick Armey.

Larry Kudlow

Lawrence Kudlow is host of CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report,” which airs nightly from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.