I’ve been on a lonely crusade to expose big-government Republicans for being just as bad as Democrats (or even worse, since they should know better), so I’m glad to see Don Devine and David Keene in the Washington Post making similar points. Every conservative who despises big-government RINOs such as Arlen Specter (who at least had the decency to become a Democrat) should feel the same about Bush and Rove.
From William F. Buckley Jr. to Barry Goldwater to Ronald Reagan, the creators of the modern conservative movement always taught that excessive concentration of power in government leads inevitably to corruption and the diminution of personal freedoms. But while Rove credits these leaders for shaping his early political views — “at the age of thirteen, I was wild for Barry Goldwater,” he writes — he did not pursue their values while in the White House. To the contrary, as the chief political architect of the Bush presidency, Rove was instrumental in directing an administration most notable for its enormous expansion of national government. …In total, Bush increased federal spending on domestic programs more than any president since Richard Nixon, easily surpassing Bill Clinton, Carter and his own father, so much so that by 2008, America had two big-government parties. Rove writes that as a teenager he carried around a paperback copy of Goldwater’s “Conscience of a Conservative,” but he should have heeded the book’s first few pages, in which Goldwater warned against hyphenated conservatism. The Bush administration’s move toward big government was not gradual, either; it was signaled during then-Gov. Bush’s campaign. In 1999, the journalist Tucker Carlson interviewed Bush in Austin and asked him if he was a small-government conservative. Mr. Bush replied no; he said he was an “efficient-government conservative.” Bush’s campaign rarely called for spending cuts of any kind and even opposed eliminating the Department of Energy, whose abolition had been in every GOP platform since 1980. …Rove reveals his true heroes in his memoir, when we learn that he decorated his White House office with memorabilia of progressive Teddy Roosevelt and pragmatist William McKinley. …The astonishing concentration of power in Washington today has created a huge opportunity for conservatives and the GOP. With President Obama’s policies of big government, big bailouts, big banks and big bureaucracy, the Democratic Party has jettisoned the working men and women of America, who are increasingly coming to reject being ruled by one corrupt city along the Potomac. They want to be governed by themselves in their communities, their localities and their states, in a 21st-century version of the founders’ federalism. But thanks in part to their recent big-government legacy, Republicans have been slow to seize this opportunity. In his concluding passages, Rove concedes that Bush “went deep into Democratic territory to show how government can use the tools of capitalism to soften its rough justice” — an admission that neglects state, local and individual alternatives to creating a just society, and that confirms our worst fears about hyphenated conservatism. Recently, President Obama visited a bookstore in Iowa and joked that he was there to purchase Rove’s memoir. Conservatives can only hope it was not to get any more ideas on how to expand government.