Conservatives vs. Bush?

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Mar 08, 2006 1:00 PM

As a fiscal conservative, I get teed off at Bush. I have concerns about big-spending programs. It happens. It happens to every conservative on one issue or another, with every Republican president, ever. It's part of politics.

Using Andrew Sullivan and Bruce Bartlett as a symbol for the rest of us who have quibbles with the administration, however-- as Dana Milbank does today-- seems like a HUGE stretch.

Sullivan and Bartlett are both full-on Bush-bashers these days, not just conservatives with quibbles. Sullivan wrote "The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How to Get it Back" and Bartlett wrote "Impostor: How Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy."

There's a qualitative difference between those two commentators and conservatives with complaints. The Cato Institute is also libertarian, not conservative, and as such, attracts a more libertarian crowd, which is naturally more critical of the President. Some quotes from the event:

Sullivan: "This is a big-government agenda," he said. "It is fueled by a new ideology, the ideology of Christian fundamentalism."

Bartlett: "If Bush were running today against Bill Clinton, I'd vote for Clinton."

Yes, the President needs to worry about his standing with fiscal conservatives and small-government folks, but these are not the quotes of rank-and-file conservative Republicans with complaints.

Capt. Ed has the tempered view, which I think is more typical of the conservatives I know:

People forget that George Bush has never cast himself as a hardline conservative and especially not as a libertarian. He has shown himself politically tougher than his father, but tough does not equal conservative. He added Dick Cheney to his ticket in order to soothe conservatives in the GOP, who at the time preferred John McCain -- myself among them. He has frustrated conservatives with his profligate spending, without a doubt. However, he has delivered on American security and on federal court appointments, which are the reasons he continues to get support from the hard right.

James Joyner also wonders why Dana Milbank is surprised to find no Bush support in this audience.