Libertarians go medieval on George W. Bush
Clay Risen has a TNR Online story about the Cato Institute‘s disenchantment with the Bush administration. The highlights: Cato is on the outs with the administration. From its deficit spending to its regulatory record to the Iraq war, the Institute charges that the administration has betrayed conservative values, bankrupted the government, expanded federal programs, and ...
Clay Risen has a TNR Online story about the Cato Institute's disenchantment with the Bush administration. The highlights:
Clay Risen has a TNR Online story about the Cato Institute‘s disenchantment with the Bush administration. The highlights:
Cato is on the outs with the administration. From its deficit spending to its regulatory record to the Iraq war, the Institute charges that the administration has betrayed conservative values, bankrupted the government, expanded federal programs, and made the world less safe. Were it not for the occasional, wistful nod to the Reagan era, Cato’s policy papers, TV appearances, and columns could be mistaken for those of the left-wing Economic Policy Institute. In fact, Cato staffers and scholars are so fed up with Bush that many say they will sit out the election–or even vote for John Kerry. “Most people at the Institute have no plans to vote for the president this time,” said one member of the Cato policy staff who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “There will be some votes for Kerry inside the Cato Institute this year.” Of course, given that Cato has only a few dozen staff members, Bush doesn’t have to worry about losing the think tank’s vote this November. To be sure, Bush’s nascent “ownership society” agenda, which is said to include renewed efforts at social security privatization, could win back some at Cato. But, judging by the depth of the animosity toward him at the Institute right now, it will take a lot more than a stump speech to do so. Moreover, its antipathy is indicative of a growing belief among the GOP’s fiscally conservative constituencies–not just libertarian ideologues, but big-business executives, small-business owners, virtually any voting bloc concerned with fiscal restraint–that Bush has been an abject failure. And, in a close election, that could make a difference.
Exhibit A of this antipathy can be found Doug Bandow’s essay in Salon, Why Conservatives Must Not Vote for Bush” [Salon?!–ed. Yes, Salon]. The highlights:
George W. Bush presents conservatives with a fundamental challenge: Do they believe in anything other than power? Are they serious about their rhetoric on limited, constitutionally restrained government?…. Republican partisans have little choice but to focus on Kerry’s perceived vulnerabilities. A few high-octane speeches cannot disguise the catastrophic failure of the Bush administration in both its domestic and its foreign policies. Mounting deficits are likely to force eventual tax increases, reversing perhaps President Bush’s most important economic legacy. The administration’s foreign policy is an even greater shambles, with Iraq aflame and America increasingly reviled by friend and foe alike. Quite simply, the president, despite his well-choreographed posturing, does not represent traditional conservatism — a commitment to individual liberty, limited government, constitutional restraint and fiscal responsibility. Rather, Bush routinely puts power before principle. Although anecdotal evidence of conservative disaffection with Bush is common — for instance, my Pentagon employee neighbor, a business lobbyist friend, even my retired career Air Force father — for many the thought of voting for John Kerry remains simply too horrific to contemplate. And this dissatisfaction has yet to show up in polls. Fear of Kerry, more than love of Bush, holds many conservatives behind the GOP. Yet serious conservatives must fear for the country if Bush is reelected. Is Kerry really likely to initiate more unnecessary wars, threaten more civil liberties and waste more tax dollars?
At which point Bandow actually recommends considering Ralph Nader as a viable alternative to voting for Bush. One could try to dismiss this kind of alienation on the right as the conservative version of Naderites. But that would be a hard case to make.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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