Is George W. Bush a conservative? It all depends on what the meaning of "conservative" is, says The New Republic's Jonathan Chait:
Bush's extremism does not lie in the purity of his devotion to the teachings of Milton Friedman but rather in the slavishness of his fealty to K Street. The distinction is a fine one, but it's highly revealing….The way you tell the difference between a free-marketer and a servant of business is how he behaves when the interests of the two diverge. And all the evidence, including the Medicare and energy bills, points to the conclusion that Bush is happy to throw free-market conservatism out the window when business interests so desire.
Chait lays out the evidence, then offers this conclusion:
All this is in keeping with the recent pattern of Republican governance. Last year, the Associated Press conducted a remarkable study showing how federal spending patterns had changed since the GOP took over Congress in 1995. Republicans did not shrink federal spending, it found, they merely transferred it, from poorer Democratic districts to wealthier Republican ones. This, the A.P. reported, "translates into more business loans and farm subsidies, and fewer public housing grants and food stamps." In 1995, Democratic districts received an average of $35 million more in federal largesse than Republican districts, which seems roughly fair given that Democratic districts have more people in need of government aid. By 2001, the gap had not only reversed, it had increased nearly twentyfold, with GOP districts receiving an average of $612 million more than Democratic ones. Justifying this shift, then-Majority Leader Dick Armey said, "To the victor goes the spoils." It would be a worthy slogan for Bush's reelection campaign.