Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Well, so much for that Bush legacy project. Mere weeks ago, one of the GOP's highest priorities was burnishing the legacy of George W. Bush, through the relentless recitation of carefully crafted pro-Bush bullet points. Anyone who said a discouraging word about 43 was condemned as a hateful partisan suffering from "Bush derangement syndrome."

But today Newt Gingrich has a rally-the-right op-ed in The Washington Times, and it's clear that, to Gingrich, the most effective way to insult Barack Obama is ... to link him to Bush!

... The Bush-Obama big government, big bureaucracy, politician-empowering, high-tax, high-inflation and high-interest-rate system continues to grow and to place the country in greater and greater danger from inflation, bureaucratic control of the economy, political interference in every aspect of our lives and massive debt.

The first job of the conservative movement is simply to tell the truth about how bad these Bush-Obama proposals are. The 2008 $180 billion stimulus program in the spring failed. The 2008 summer $345 billion housing bailout failed. The 2008 fall $700 billion Wall Street bailout failed. That was the first $1.2 trillion, and it was on former President George W. Bush's watch, but all three passed with then Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s "yes" vote.

... The new spending bill ... is more of the Bush-Obama continuity and represents more of the same instead of "change you can believe in."

... This week, phase five of the Bush-Obama program is being unveiled by tax-evading Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner....

(Full disclosure: This isn't a new line of argument for Gingrich. Back in September, he urged John McCain to oppose the bailout, in the belief that McCain's opposition could turn it into the "Obama-Bush plan.")

Gingrich's op-ed talks a lot about "principle." He urges right-wingers to

Advocate first principles with courage, clarity, persistence and cheerfulness

he says they should

Insist on developing solutions based on those principles and insist on measuring other proposals against those principles.

One of those principles, now, is (apparently) that George W. Bush was a Republican-in-name-only big-government big spender. Other conservatives, making a similar argument, list No Child Left Behind and the Medicare prescription-drug plan as examples of "big-government" Bush programs. Funny thing, though -- Gingrich supported the prescription-drug plan and even advocated an expansion of No Child Left Behind.

There's a "principle" involved here, but it's not the one Gingrich enunciates. The principle is this: When Republicans are winning and Democrats are losing, what's important is to back all (or nearly all) of what Republicans are doing and just keep bashing Democrats. But when Republicans start to slip in the polls, you should make a sudden discovery of "first principles" and blame the losses not on party philosophy, but on deviation from party philosophy.

Even if you were one of the "deviants."

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