News & Criticism

Big-Government Conservative, After Helping Big-Government Conservatism Fail, Advocates Big-Government Conservatism


Bill Kristol, in today's New York Times:

[C]onservatives should think twice before charging into battle against Obama under the banner of "small-government conservatism." It's a banner many Republicans and conservatives have rediscovered since the election and have been waving around energetically. Jeb Bush, now considering a Senate run in 2010, even went so far as to tell Politico last month, "There should not be such a thing as a big-government Republican."

Really? Jeb Bush was a successful and popular conservative governor of Florida, with tax cuts, policy reforms and privatizations of government services to show for his time in office. Still, in his two terms state spending increased over 50 percent — a rate faster than inflation plus population growth. It turns out, in the real world of Republican governance, that there aren't a whole lot of small-government Republicans.

Kristol goes on to say that Ronald Reagan was the only Republican president since 1932 who "was even close to being a small-government conservative," and even then "he campaigned in 1980 more as a tax-cutter and national-defense-builder-upper, and less as a small-government enthusiast[.]" Conclusion:

So talk of small government may be music to conservative ears, but it's not to the public as a whole. This isn't to say the public is fond of big-government liberalism. It's just that what's politically vulnerable about big-government liberalism is more the liberalism than the big government.

It will be very interesting to see how the editor of Dick Cheney's in-flight magazine will be treated by a Republican Party that has largely followed his advice since Sept. 12, 2001 (down to embracing his new post-John McCain crush Sarah Palin), and come out at the end of it in worse shape than at any times since the creation of the World Wide Web.

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  1. Why would a conservative take advice from Bill Kristol?

  2. Bill Kristol for RNC Chairman!

  3. Here’s hoping they keep listening to him!

  4. If they were smart they wouldn’t have listened to him in the first place, but they aren’t smart so they will keep on listening.

  5. So talk of small government may be music to conservative ears, but it’s not to the public as a whole. This isn’t to say the public is fond of big-government liberalism. It’s just that what’s politically vulnerable about big-government liberalism is more the liberalism than the big government.

    If I have a choice between the big government conservatism of Flags!, Stop the gay agenda!, Terry Schiavo!, and unfounded war added to NCLB, Campaign Finance Reform Free Speech Nullification Act, Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, DHS etc. and the Dems, I’ll vote for the Dems.

    Fortunately third parties haven’t been proscibed. Yet.

    Bill Kristol is an toady. Hurray for our side! I have no principles!

  6. Bill seems like a nice guy and I have always thought he had some interesting insights in certain areas. That being said he has been wrong about almost everything in the last decade.

    I would hope that people stop listening to him in this regard.

  7. Stop people on the street and ask them what they think about any given problem. At least one in three will say something like “the government ought to . . . . “.

  8. There’s something fascinating about how Kristol can be so fucking wrong, yet his tone is that of incredibly smug condescension. Why doesn’t some other editorialist just shred him?

  9. Why isn’t Bill Kristol reduced to one pair of underwear and pushing a cart down the street by now?

  10. kinnath,

    So would I. “The government ought to stay out of it.” 😉

  11. The New York Times, in their attempt at hiding their bias, hires a conservative to write for them. Of course, they find the biggest government conservative they could possibly find.

    I hate the New York Times.

  12. Warren, it’s called entertainment.

    Kristol = Mo
    Brooks = Larry
    Hannity = Curly

  13. cunnivore -FTW

  14. I hate that bastard with a fiery passion.

  15. So would I. “The government ought to stay out of it.” 😉

    cunnivore -FTW

    I still get the assist, right?

  16. “I hate the New York Times”

    Egosumabbas – if you check the recent business page, the NY Times may be up for sale soon. Pinch will make you a hell of a deal if you want to buy it.

  17. Hey, man, just because you had a few bad trips, you don’t want any compassionate conservatism any more? How long have I been your dealer? Don’t you trust me? Come on, man, I got a new batch just for you. Just take a few hits, and I promise it will be good, not like last time.

  18. Epi-

    Excellent description of Kristol.

  19. Kinnath and cunnivore-

    Yes, Kinnath gets the assist.

  20. The Kritol Ball Speaketh, harken for it’s predictions are accurate…

  21. Kristol is just a token guy to keep the NYT readership satisfied.

  22. Kristol = Mo
    Brooks = Larry
    Hannity = Curly

    Not cool, dude. FYI, Moe Howard of Stooges fame is spelled with an “e” (short for Moses). At least, he only played a dimwit.

    Kristol is like the anti-Cassandra.

  23. They’re second-rate Stooges at best:

    Kristol = Moe Shemp Howard
    Brooks = Larry Curly Joe DeRita
    Hannity = Curly Joe Besser

  24. Out in the real world (west of the beltway) you can still find small government conservatives. They are not libertarians by any stretch of the imagination, but they still desire smaller less-intrusive government in most areas. I suspect that the greater majority of conservatives still chant hymns to small government.

    So what happened during the last eight years? Three things. First, team politics and the reluctance to criticize a Republican administration. Second, Bush did manage to hide much of his spending with the smoke and mirrors of tax cuts. Yeah he cut taxes, but he also borrowed and inflated up the wazoo. But the third thing was most significant: conservatives got scared of terrorists. Small government is a good thing, but let’s hold off on it a bit until we cut this terrorism thing down to size.

    Are conservatives now waking up to the consequences of their inaction? I’m not sure. The cynic in my says no, but I still hold out some hope for it. After all, even “use big government to fight communism” Buckley eventually migrated to the edges of libertarianism.

  25. The interesting thing is that his description of the Republicans as not actually being all that small government in practice is largely correct, except that he attributes it to lack of voter support instead of cowardice.

    The public is not fond of big government. They are fond of free lunches.

  26. My favorite part of the article was how Kristol ended it:

    “I can’t help but admire some of my fellow conservatives’ loyalty to the small-government cause. It reminds me of the nobility of Tennyson’s Light Brigade, as it charges into battle: “Theirs but to do and die.” Maybe it would be better, though, first to reason why.”

    I love how one our country’s foremost proponent of combat, while also being our country’s foremost decorated non-combatant, draws on the lessons of the Charge of the Light Brigade as a way forward for Republicans. Maybe he ought to just pen his work under the name “Earl of Lucan” from now on. It’s amazing how often Kristol includes a reference to some famous battle in his columns, yet always manages to cite ones that were sheer disasters and ought to teach Kristol the exact opposite lesson that he draws from it.
    But seriously, I really wonder some times what it must be like to walk around as Bill Kristol. Does he ever recieve any sense of his responsibilty for some of the things that have gone on in this country recently? Does he have any family members, or even neighbors, that occasionaly needle him for providing some of the worst advice and predictions we’ve seen in quite some time? Has he ever been around a friend/colleague that has had too much to drink and just lets loose on Kristol? What’s the end game for this guy? How often can you continue to supply horrible advice/insight and yet still be relevant?

  27. Since Bill Kristol has finally seem the light, why can’t the rest of you libertards just accept that free markets don’t work?

  28. Bill Kristol couldn’t be a bigger idiot even if his first name was Naomi.

  29. Best headline ever.

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