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George W. Bush: Moderate

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 6:40 pm - May 15, 2006.
Filed under: National Politics

Sometime in early 2005 — or maybe it was late 2004 — I recall defining myself a Giuliani/Schwarzenegger Republican. This shocked my conversation partner who said something like, “But you’re so conservative: these guys are moderates.”

I noted that while I disagreed with each man on a handful of issues, they were conservative where it counted, Giuliani on law enforcement and fiscal discipline and Schwarzenegger (at the time) for his commitment to holding the line on state spending, reforming state programs and reducing burdensome regulation. While each man was relatively liberal on a number of social issues, including those affecting gay men and lesbians, they were remarkably conservative on a number of fiscal issues, often promoting more radical conservative reforms than other Republicans perceived as far more conservative than they.

Perhaps it was their record on gay issues which caused others to define them as moderates. In 1998, then-Mayor Giuliani signed “landmark domestic partnership legislaton.” Governor Schwarzenegger has defended the Golden State’s domestic partnership program and signed a number of bills expanding gay rights, including a few that I oppose (on libertarian grounds). Hence, given their conservatism* on the issues most important to me and their tolerance of gay people, I saw these men as representing the kind of Republican that I am.

So, despite their fiscal conservatism, most, looking at these Republicans’ entire record and decided that they were moderates. By the same token, I would call President Bush a moderate. To be sure, he has been conservative on a number of the most important issues at the federal level, his leadership in the War on Terror and his appointment of conservative jurists to the federal bench, but like Schwarzenegger and Giuliani, he has taken liberal positions on others.

On domestic spending, he has rivaled Lyndon Johnson’s profligacy. Not only that. He has failed to follow Ronald Reagan’s legacy of federalism; instead of returning government functions to the states, has nationalized them. Despite indications that he will push for more border security in tonight’s speech, his position on illegal immigration is otherwise not much different from that of Teddy Kennedy.

In a column that reader Ian S linked (in a comment to a recent post), Jonah Goldberg observes that like the incumbent

Nixon has a fascinating reputation as one of the most right-wing presidents of the 20th century. This impression is largely a product of the fact that few presidents have been more hated by the Left. But simply because the left despises you doesn’t mean you’re particularly right-wing.

Calling Nixon “the last of the New Deal-era liberal presidents,” Jonah details the federal programs that supposed conservative established. And while acknowledging that Bush is to the right of Nixon “on many issues,” this conservative columnist detects a philosophical kinship between the two men as the president:

shares the Nixonians’ supreme confidence in the power of the state. Bush rejects limited government and many of the philosophical assumptions that underlie that position. He favors instead strong government.

There is much to commend in the president’s record. While the president has shown many of the qualities of his most recent two-term Republican predecessor, he’s no Ronald Reagan.

If we label a man a moderate because his political record shows a mix of conservative and liberal policy positions — and accomplishments, then President George W. Bush, like California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, is a moderate. And perhaps it’s time his critics as well as his supporters acknowledge as much.

-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com

*For the Governor, such conservatism applies to his record in 2005, less so, alas, today.

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34 Comments

  1. Do we judge a politician by a sample of his policies, or by his followers and supporters? The real political tension is within the “big government”-faction of the GOP with their diametically-opposed goals of increased governmental intrusion into everyday issues and the frission between paying for them and “lower taxes”. The Democrat politican uses the banner of “asset/income redistrubution to the lower classes” as a cover for the enormous “cut” the government takes out of that transaction. But the GOP big-government politican lacks such a political fig leaf to disguise the skim….so they borrow. That does not make them a “Moderate”, it makes them a “thief”.

    The entire discriptive political-axis (conservative…moderate…liberal) for the GOP is not linear; but a 3-axis array that skews the political discussion since the political dialectic is founded on “for-against”;
    1. Social moral conservative – to – libertarian.
    2. Fiscal conservative – to – corporatism, unions and governmental structures.
    3. Small business and private capital – to – big government’s the solution.

    Comment by Ted B. (Charging Rhino) — May 15, 2006 @ 7:50 pm - May 15, 2006

  2. As I type: Bush striking the right note on securing our borders, then offering utterly lame ideas for doing it.

    Lots of talk about border agents and “technology”, as if those are magic cures. They aren’t.

    NO talk about reforming Mexico so it isn’t a hell-hole that its own people desperately need to flee.

    NO talk about building a security fence.

    NO acknowledgement of the Federal government’s backstabbing of the Minuteman volunteer border security patrols, thus far.

    Comment by Calarato — May 15, 2006 @ 8:08 pm - May 15, 2006

  3. The words “more funding” coming up alot… Big-spending Bush’s answer to everything, aargh!

    Now talking about a temporary worker program.

    Comment by Calarato — May 15, 2006 @ 8:11 pm - May 15, 2006

  4. Now talking about the importance of people learning English… Well, that’s something.

    Comment by Calarato — May 15, 2006 @ 8:15 pm - May 15, 2006

  5. Well Dan, my above comments are a little off-topic, but not really that much… I had a subtext in mind about Bush’s spending profligacy; his sounding like a wishy-washy (yet ever government-expanding) liberal on many domestic issues; etc.

    Comment by Calarato — May 15, 2006 @ 8:21 pm - May 15, 2006

  6. Moderate?? i don’t where you get ‘moderate’ from Bush. He’s about as rightwing as the come.

    Comment by ndtovent — May 15, 2006 @ 8:58 pm - May 15, 2006

  7. Then you didn’t read the post very carefully, ndtovent; GPW gave several good examples. (But by no means an exhaustive list.) Bush only looks very conservative to those who don’t understand conservatism very well.

    Comment by Amber — May 15, 2006 @ 9:12 pm - May 15, 2006

  8. […] Gay Patriot […]

    Pingback by Flopping Aces » Blog Archive » The President’s Immigration Speech — May 15, 2006 @ 9:32 pm - May 15, 2006

  9. Dan,
    Most of your criticism of Bush seems to fall under the “fiscal” category.

    I would agree that GW is a moderate in the Guiliani and Schwarzenegger mold. I wouldn’t say that any of them are “fiscal” conservatives in the conservative sense of the word. Didn’t Schwarzenegger, before he was running for governor, promote Proposition 49? That sounds very W to me.

    I know Guiliani as more of a law and order guy rather than that of (small l) libertarian/Republican conservative regarding spending, but what could he do in NYC?. I could be wrong on that. I’m not familiar with his record on spending. I would be curious to know what the decrease in /growth of spending was during his time as mayor.

    Regarding Reagan/Bush as “fiscal conservatives”, see this comparison:

    Let’s take a look at the Reagan legacy on federal spending and deficits. In 1980, the last year of Jimmy Carter’s presidency, government outlays were running at 21.7% of GDP and the budget deficit was 2.7% of GDP. (The economy was also a basket case, which is when you would expect budget deficits to be at their worse.) In 1988, Reagan’s last year in office, outlays as a percent of GDP were running at 21.3% with a deficit of 3.1% of GDP. The budget deficit over Reagan’s eight years averaged 4.2% and ran as high as 6.0% in 1983.

    Bush entered office with an economy that was booming: in 2000 government outlays ran at 18.4% of GDP with a budget surplus of 2.4%. But the stock market implosion, 9/11 and the war quickly changed the budget dynamics and the surplus switched to a deficit of 3.5% in 2003 and 3.6% in 2004. In 2005, the budget deficit came in at 2.6%, with government outlays running at 20.1% of GDP.

    The point here is that there is lot of hyperventilating about the Bush administration’s spending and “out of control” deficits, much of it by folks who praise Reagan yet trash Bush. But the most recent “out of control” Bush deficit at 2.6% of GDP is far below the eight-year Reagan average of 4.2%.

    This is not meant to disparage Reagan, only to provide perspective. When you look at the numbers on a proportional basis – which is the only way to honestly compare different eras – Bush’s federal spending is not “out of control,” at least in comparison to Ronald Reagan.

    And while you might say “it wasn’t Reagan’s fault” because his party didn’t have control of Congress, I think it is good reminder for those now wishing for a divided government.

    Comment by John in IL — May 15, 2006 @ 9:57 pm - May 15, 2006

  10. Collectively, the efforts and objectives of this administration don’t make ideological sense…except when looking at assembling a majority voting block.

    To read an analysis on why this inconsistency exists and why it is likely the result of Karl Rove’s campaign strategy…link here:

    http://www.thoughttheater.com

    Comment by Daniel DiRito — May 15, 2006 @ 10:20 pm - May 15, 2006

  11. Bush just lost me.

    Its unacceptable to both outsource production and import labor. Its corporate welfare on the back of the worker.

    Comment by jdavenport — May 15, 2006 @ 10:45 pm - May 15, 2006

  12. John, thanks for your excellent comment; I guess I just wish that with a Republican president and Congress, we’d see more fiscal restraint and see the government’s share of GNP remain below 20%.

    Comment by GayPatriotWest — May 16, 2006 @ 2:29 am - May 16, 2006

  13. How anyone understanding the Bush legacy can be surprised that Bush 43 is moderate is simply, utterly amazing. He needs to take a lesson from Bruce, Dan, John, and Nick: come out of the closet and declare yourself. But not as a gay conservative.

    If GWB did that, he’d begin by saying he’s a Ripon Republican who believes in the power of the federal govt to spend in order to influence the economy, he trusts that Wall St will get it right faster than Congress or the Fed Reserve, and he thinks citizens owe society and each other a lot. He also thinks America has the power to lead the international community to a more positive end. I’m not sure he’d call Reaganomics “voodoo” but, he does see tax cuts as govt policy/spending to bring about good.

    Hey, he’s a Ripon Republican! They live! They live!

    Comment by Michigan-Matt — May 16, 2006 @ 7:29 am - May 16, 2006

  14. Nothing outweighs being a gun grabber — because all the rights and protections in the world mean nothing if you’re not allowed to defend them, or your life.

    Neither Rudy nor Arnold would ever get my vote for even dog catcher.

    Comment by rightwingprof — May 16, 2006 @ 10:13 am - May 16, 2006

  15. Fiscally he’s most definitely NOT a conservative.

    Comment by JonInAtlanta — May 16, 2006 @ 10:23 am - May 16, 2006

  16. I think Reagan said this the best, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'” I can’t help but think that this applies today, especially with a lot of the fiscal irresponsibility of the government, especially for social programs.

    Comment by andophiroxia — May 16, 2006 @ 10:32 am - May 16, 2006

  17. Endless spending, expanding education funding, perscription entitlement programs, faith-based initiatives…

    Stop me when I get to the part where Bush is a conservative.

    But in all fairness, Bush ran promising all this. Guess he’s a pol who delivers.

    Comment by Tom — May 16, 2006 @ 11:22 am - May 16, 2006

  18. You got it.

    He’s a conservative in one area: thinking that America should actually win the War on Terror. That’s one more than Kerry or the Democrats.

    The current blossoming of conservative distaste for Bush is, in a way, an index of success in the WoT. We haven’t had a homeland attack in over five years. Despite the continuing MSM gloom on Iraq, in reality it is going well enough (as a long-term project) and al Qaeda in Iraq admit they’re on the ropes. (Ooops – al Qaeda is in Iraq? what has al Qaeda to do with Iraq? 😉 )

    Comment by Calarato — May 16, 2006 @ 12:26 pm - May 16, 2006

  19. Nice posting Dan. I’m so frustrated over how “moderate” Bush has become that I’ve worked myself into a serious “blog-rut.” I just can’t muster the creative strength to write this week. Hopefully someone will do something stupid and hypocritical enough to stimulate my synapses.

    Comment by Bruce (GayPatriot) — May 16, 2006 @ 3:37 pm - May 16, 2006

  20. You know i love blogs and blogging. Cable news channels and the internet has led to 25 hrs a day news sharing and opinion sharing.
    But Americans are turning into the most overpriviledged bitchers and moaners I could ever have imagined. Is Bush too conservative or a moderate. good God , he’s a man trying to guide a huge country that’s divided over some huge issues. The loyal opposition on EVERY iissue has a strategy to disagree with what ever he says. “The sky is blue today” GWB “No Mr President , once again you and your right wing buddies at Haliburton have it wrong. How incompetent….the sky here is grey! Bush lied and people got wet!” Harry Reid
    Even my hero RReagan had to deal with these people on the left. Only B Goldwater basically had the onions to tell em to go to hell. It’s amazing to me with the MSM and the other party against you 100% of the time any Republican Admin gets anything done.
    Americans have turned into whinnrs. #ppl killed in Florida in one week by alligators…..Where was Bush? What did he know and when did he know it? People are dying! Give me a break. Gas too high, drive less.
    In a flood plain, move! Hurricane coming, drive or walk away! Or call someone to come get you! Geez! What was the topic?? LOL

    Comment by Gene in Pennsylvania — May 16, 2006 @ 5:17 pm - May 16, 2006

  21. #12
    I just wish that with a Republican president and Congress, we’d see more fiscal restraint and see the government’s share of GNP remain below 20%

    There are two ways to shrink government’s share of GDP. Cut spending or encourage growth. Doing both would be great but, considering politics in Washington, I’ll take encouraging economic growth over spending cuts. Thank God that they are least doing that.
    .
    #17
    Endless spending, expanding education funding, perscription entitlement programs, faith-based initiatives…

    and yet the deficit is still shrinking. Hmmmm.

    #20
    I think I love you, Gene.

    Comment by John in IL — May 16, 2006 @ 9:33 pm - May 16, 2006

  22. Bush has undertaken a dramatic transfer of power to the executive branch, chosen to ignore laws he doesn’t like, and offered up bald-faced lies to the nation to defend his policies. Whether one approves of what he’s doing or not, it’s very hard to call it “moderate;” it’s certainly not conservative. I think “radical” is a good term for it; messing with the constitutional system of divided government is no small thing.

    You may approve it of; you may, like me, think it’s dangerous; in any case it is not “moderate.”

    Comment by John — May 17, 2006 @ 8:06 am - May 17, 2006

  23. Bush has undertaken a dramatic transfer of power to the executive branch

    That’s crap. Bush has exercised the power of the executive branch granted by the Constitution, and far less so than JFK.

    You cannot take away constitutionally granted powers and give them to the legislature, at least not without a constitutional amendment.

    Comment by rightwingprof — May 17, 2006 @ 9:29 am - May 17, 2006

  24. “The sky is blue today” GWB “No Mr President , once again you and your right wing buddies at Haliburton have it wrong. How incompetent….the sky here is grey! Bush lied and people got wet!”

    LOL! And how about that primary yesterday, eh?

    Comment by rightwingprof — May 17, 2006 @ 1:32 pm - May 17, 2006

  25. #20 John in ILL , send pics……………lol

    Comment by Gene in Pennsylvania — May 17, 2006 @ 3:47 pm - May 17, 2006

  26. And GayPatroit pushes Gay.Com out of the way as THE leading place to pick up guys. John, Gene >take it outside.

    Comment by Michigan-Matt — May 18, 2006 @ 1:51 pm - May 18, 2006

  27. Aww Matt, see you re no fun!

    Comment by Gene in Pennsylvania — May 18, 2006 @ 3:13 pm - May 18, 2006

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