Paul  Weyrich

Rarely do conservatives look to President Franklin D. Roosevelt for inspiration. The same can be said of Gerald R. Ford, who was forced to fend off a challenge from Ronald Reagan for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1976. Harry S. Truman earned the respect of conservatives for his success in helping to contain Communism, not for his domestic policies. Yet each of these Presidents offer Americans concerned with restraining Federal spending lessons about exercising effective leadership. President George W. Bush and his advisors can profit from the examples set by these predecessors.

A chart on the webpage of the Clerk of the House lists each President and his vetoes. The frustrating and disappointing story of the Bush Administration's failure to control domestic spending is recorded. No President since Dwight D. Eisenhower has vetoed fewer than the 21 bills President John F. Kennedy vetoed - that is, until George W. Bush. He has vetoed only one bill despite serving nearly twice as long in office as Kennedy. Signed into law by President Bush were expensive bills including No Child Left Behind and the Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage plan.

The Heritage Foundation FEDERAL REVENUE AND SPENDING: A BOOK OF CHARTS shows a relatively consistent upward trajectory for non-defense, discretionary spending since the 1960s. Not so for discretionary defense spending, which has its ebbs. Post-9/11 there is no doubt that our country must defend itself against terrorism, much less against rogue states such as North Korea and Iran. All the more reason that the President and Congress should follow the examples set by predecessors in the White House and on Capitol Hill who sought sensible curbs on discretionary, non-defense spending.

Paul Weyrich

Paul M. Weyrich is the late Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation.
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