The Right Coast

September 16, 2005
The State of Conservatism
By Mike Rappaport

David Broder has a new column discussing the Weekly Standard's 10th Anniversary Issue in which contributors discuss whether their views have changed in the last 10 years.

Some proudly said they had not wavered in their policy beliefs -- no matter what the consequences. Scholar Robert Kagan, a passionate advocate of war in Iraq, said the judgment he made in the mid-1990s was right -- and was shared by a large number of prominent Democrats, including Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Madeleine Albright: Get a new regime in Iraq.

But others clearly demonstrate second thoughts about what they have seen since the Republicans took over Congress in 1995 and the White House in 2001. Irwin M. Stelzer, the director of economic policy studies at the Hudson Institute, said that for him, the lesson is the yawning gap between the declaration of policy and its implementation. The right policy: tax cuts in the face of a recession, and long-term cuts to stimulate risk-taking and work. . . . But, oh, the implementation. When . . . additional revenues streamed into the Treasury's coffers, they were not used to restore balance to the federal budget. Instead, a spendthrift Congress and a veto-shy president proceeded to squander the proceeds.

And Andrew Ferguson, a senior editor of the Weekly Standard, voiced an even deeper disillusionment, arguing that the seeds of conservative decay were sown in the very moment Republicans took over Congress and the publication for which he works was born. As long as conservatism was simply striving for power, it was intellectually honest, he said. But, Ferguson said, "[t]he Republican takeover -- which is to say, political success -- dealt the mortal blow.
Significantly, I agree with all of these comments. I still support the Iraqi War of Liberation, but I believe Congress and the President have exercised power horribly concerning economic matters. In part, I think this is the corruption of power, but in part it is that Bush simply does not believe in small government. In the long run, the Medicare Prescription Drug plan will loom large in evaluating the Bush Presidency. It will be badge a shame for him, much like Ford's appointment of John Paul Stevens or the first Bush's appointment of David Souter.