Larry Kudlow Joins the Ancient, Hermetic, and Occult Order of the Shrill
Censure Is a Start. But It Does Not Go Far Enough

Peggy Noonan Realizes She Has Conned Herself--and Says That She Wouldn't Have Voted for Bush If She'd Known Who He Was

She looks at Bush fiscal policy and joins the Ancient, Occult, and Hermetic Order of the shrill, saying that if she'd known who George W. Bush really was she wouldn't have voted for him:

OpinionJournal - Peggy Noonan: Hey, Big Spender Should we have known that President Bush would bust the budget?: Thursday, March 16, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST: This week's column is a question, a brief one addressed with honest curiosity to Republicans. It is: When George W. Bush first came on the scene in 2000, did you understand him to be a liberal in terms of spending?

The question has been on my mind since the summer of 2005 when, at a gathering of conservatives, the question of Mr. Bush and big spending was raised.... Everyone murmured about... how the president "spends like a drunken sailor except the sailor spends his own money." And then someone, a smart young journalist, said, (I paraphrase), But we always knew what Bush was. He told us when he ran as a compassionate conservative. This left me rubbing my brow in confusion. Is that what Mr. Bush meant by compassionate conservatism?

That's not what I understood him to mean. If I'd thought he was a big-spending Rockefeller Republican.... I wouldn't have voted for him.... I didn't understand Mr. Bush's grand passion to be cutting spending.... But he did present himself as a conservative... conservatism is hostile, for reasons ranging from the abstract and philosophical to the concrete and practical, to high spending and high taxing....

How did this happen? In the years after 9/11 I looked at Mr. Bush's big budgets, and his expansion of entitlements, and assumed he was sacrificing fiscal prudence--interesting that that's the word people used to spoof his father--in order to build and maintain, however tenuously, a feeling of national unity. I assumed he wanted to lessen bipartisan tensions when America was wading into the new world of modern terrorism. I thought: This may be right and it may be wrong, but I understand it.... Mr. Bush will never have to run again, and he is in a position to come forward and make the case, even if only rhetorically, to slow and cut spending. He has not. And there's no sign he will....

Mr. President:

Did you ever hold conservative notions and assumptions on the issue of spending? If so, did you abandon them after the trauma of 9/11? For what reasons, exactly? Did you intend to revert to conservative thinking on spending at some point? Do you still? Were you always a liberal on spending? Were you, or are you, frankly baffled that conservatives assumed you were a conservative on spending? Did you feel they misunderstood you? Did you allow or encourage them to misunderstand you?

What are the implications for our country if spending levels continue to grow at their current pace?

What are the implications for the Republican party if it continues to cede one of the pillars on which it stood?

Did compassionate conservatism always mean big spending?

Now Peggy Noonan and the rest of the plastic Republican chattering teeth did not think back in 2000 that Bush's "compassionate conservatism" meant that he was a spender, they thought it meant that he was a liar--and that they were in on the con. The Bush budget strategy, they thought at the time, had four components:

  1. Highball estimates of future budget surpluses in order to make it look like there's more room for tax cuts than there was.
  2. Lowball the costs of the tax cuts by telling people that the AMT will be repealed when you calculate the magnitude of their tax cut and yet keeping the AMT in effect when calculating the revenue cost of the tax cut.
  3. Call yourself a "compassionate conservative" to convince voters you don't want to make elderly emphysema patients front the money for their oxygen cylinders.
  4. Then, when deficits reemerge, say: "Oh. What a surprise. We have to cut way back on federal services and programs after all."

That's the David Stockman quadrille. They thought Bush was lying to everybody else--that, as Andrew Sullivan liked to put it:

Some... get steamed because Bush has obscured this figure or claimed his tax cut will cost less than it actually will, or because he is using Medicare surplus money today that will be needed tomorrow and beyond.... [T]hey miss the deeper point... Bush has to obfuscate his real goals of reducing spending with the smoke screen of 'compassionate conservatism'.... B.S. is necessary for any vaguely successful retrenchment of government power in an insatiable entitlement state.... I just hope the smoke doesn't clear before the spenders get their hands on our wallets again.

Now they are surprised--and shrill--to learn that George W. Bush was lying to them too.