There was a touchy relationship between President Reagan and his Vice President George H.W. Bush. They were rivals during the primaries. Bush attacked the Reagan economic agenda as “voodoo economics.” Bush served faithfully as VP for eight years but Reagan and Bush never warmed to one another. There was precious little rapport between the populist figures populating the Reagan circle and the Eastern establishment retinue of the son of the patrician Sen. Prescott Bush.
When George H.W. Bush’s turn came he talked like Dirty Harry, “Read my lips. No new taxes.” When the moment of truth came, George H.W. Bush blinked, raising taxes. His presidency was liquidated by the perfect storm of a Reaganite base revolted by the abandonment of a solemn campaign pledge plus a tax-increase induced recession. Bush pere was a conservative and a very decent man. He was hornswoggled by elegant Mandarins like Dick Darman.
George W. Bush, as good as, and more conservative than, his father, was hornswoggled too. He campaigned on the theme of “compassionate conservatism.” That phrase, like his father’s “kinder and gentler nation”, implied a certain pitilessness in Reagan conservativism. The implications complied with the liberal caricature of Reagan. Pitilessness, however, reflected neither the self-concept of most Reagan loyalists nor our splendidly humanitarian outcomes (such as the dramatic reduction of the Misery Index). Real conservatives saw Reaganomics as a way of creating broad-based opportunity, not as catering to the rich. It worked out exactly that way … in America and throughout the world. The blossoming of free market principles — especially low tax rates and good money — brought billions of souls out of poverty, from subsistence to affluence.
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