Head for the Mountains?
Or think in moderation? With the Bush Administration heady about tax cuts and hawkish foreign affairs, sober Republicans might have the answers.
A chorus of Democrats is declaring that the Bush administration is among the most reckless, radical and deceitful administrations in modern history, but has had limited success in convincing voters of this fact — possibly because the message is lost in the current cacophony of Bush hatred.
Democrats should permit a more compelling voice to enunciate this theme—the voice of distinguished Republicans. Voices like former White House aide John DiIulio, who acknowledged that “this administration is further to right than much of the public understands,” or Clyde Prestowitz’s, a Reagan administration veteran,” who aptly described the Bush administration’s economic and foreign policies as a “radicalism of the right” which cannot be sustained because “it is at odds with fundamental–and truly conservative–American values.”
Senior Republicans have been especially critical of Bush’s economic policies. Rudy Penner, the Republican former head of the Congressional Budget Office, called the Bush tax proposals “radical,” while a veteran of four Republican administrations confided to David Broder that the 2003 tax cuts “may be the least defensible” economic policy he had ever seen.
Former Nixon Commerce Secretary Peter Peterson accused the administration of pursuing a “tax-cut theology that simply discards any objective evidence that violates the tenets of the faith” and which is likely to fail “with great injury to the young.”
Vermont Sen. Jeffords, who left the party partly due to its “tax-cut theology,” warned that this administration’s “belief that tax cuts will solve any problem is uncompromising, unyielding, and, sadly, undeterred by past experience.”
Former Senator Rudman articulated this same theme stating that the Bush administration wants to “pretend our choices have no consequences and saddle our kids and grandkids with taxes that will soon ramp up to unsustainable levels.”
Each of these men would agree with N. Gregory Mankiw, Bush’s chief economic adviser, who prior to joining the administration, dismissed supply-side economics as “fad economics” conceived by “charlatans and cranks.”
Republican criticism of the administration is not limited to economic policy; as a number of prominent Republicans have been unsettled by this administration’s hawkish unilateral foreign policy, which Reagan-Bush veteran James Pinkerton characterized as “Strangelovian.” Nixon veteran and Goldwater biographer Bill Rentschler believes that Bush has been “guided and goaded” by “crafty, militant [and] extreme” NeoCon advisers whom Goldwater viewed as seeking “to destroy everybody who doesn’t agree with them” in betrayal of “fundamental principles of conservatism.”
Foreign policy veteran Brent Scowcroft warned before the war that there was “scant evidence” to tie Iraq to terrorist organizations and that a war with Iraq would only divert us from the war on terrorism, a view shared by Sen. Hagel.
Sen. Hagel also has criticized the administration’s brash unilateralism, noting that leadership requires more than impugning “the motives of those who disagree with you. [This is] bullying people… .You can’t do that to partners and allies.”
The most biting criticism has come from Nixon White House Counsel John Dean, who addressed the administration’s “alarming” number of lies and deceptions on matters of policy.
Dean compared Bush’s statements to other Presidential lies and found that
Bush’s lies are almost never justifiable…[and] are typically of the most serious kind – lies that misinform the public in such a way as to disrupt the proper functioning of the democratic process.
While Republicans have never missed an opportunity to add the “radical” prefix to every Democratic movement, the Bush NeoCons have been relatively unscathed. Democrats should highlight these statements from their learned Republican colleagues to hammer home that the Bush administration, in adhering to the rigid and extreme ideology of the NeoCons, has become a runaway train blindly heading for disaster.
Democrats are more likely to convince swing voters of this danger if they understand that both Democrats and Republicans are sounding the alarm. Republicans are properly alarmed about this administration’s radical and reckless policies, since they not only know that American voters have never knowingly embraced radicalism but also that history demonstrates that radicalism has only led to catastrophe for a political movement and the people it governs.
In 2004, the test will be whether Democrats convince voters to follow the warning of the most senior Republican of them all, Abe Lincoln, that in “grave emergencies, moderation is …safer than radicalism.”