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.
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.