By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
George W. Bush must think conservatives are stupid. Because his State of the Union address Tuesday featured the same pacify-the-base-and-keep-on-truckin’ approach that has been a hallmark of his administration.
First, he made a pass at fiscal conservatives who have become increasingly dissatisfied with his irresponsible promotion of irresponsible spending.
“I will send you a budget …” he told Congress, “limiting the growth in discretionary spending to less than 4 percent. This will require that Congress focus on priorities, cut wasteful spending and be wise with the people’s money.”
Soon after, however, he asked Congress for $23 million for high school drug testing and $300 million for prisoner re-entry programs. This is not “focusing on priorities.” It is expanding entitlements, enlarging the bureaucracy and evoking a liberal fiscal policy.
The growing chorus of conservative complaint against a president who campaigned in 2000 as a small-government conservative is indicative of a number of problems Bush faces going into the 2004 election.
Bush has overwhelming support from Republicans and Democrats in the War on Terrorism, solid bipartisan backing in Iraq and untouchable credentials when it comes to national security.
However, the president and his advisers have displayed remarkable tone-deafness in addressing the problems of rational Republicans, conservative and liberal alike.
Fiscal conservatives have been ignored by the “small-government” party, which has exploded the federal deficit, inflated the size of government and dished out pork in portions greater than the Democrats did in the 1990s.
A telling statistic: in the states, Republican-controlled legislatures in fact spent more money last fiscal year then Democrat-controlled legislatures did.
And then: the gay marriage issue, which threatens to tear apart the Republican Party and its fragile conglomerate of libertarians and conservatives.
Bush managed to say everything about a potential constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage Tuesday except whether he supported such an amendment. Such waffling is worthy of a previous administration, not this one, which promised to instill in Washington truth, integrity and plain-spokenness.
The president cannot be all men to all people or all ideologies. The Republican Party, like all political organizations, is a mixture of beliefs; however, somewhere between No Child Left Behind and USA PATRIOT, Bush stopped being conservative.