My friend David Boaz of the Cato Institute has a new blog at the Guardian, and it's off to a great start. David's first post attempts to explain why conservatives love Bush so much, even though his economic policies are anything but conservative:
As a nominating speech for President Grover Cleveland once put it, "They love him most for the enemies he has made." Conservatives love Bush because the left hates him. If the New York Times would run a front-page story headlined "Bush Delivers the Big Government Clinton Never Did," and the lefty bloggers would pick it up and run with it, maybe conservatives would catch on.
So here's your challenge, lefty bloggers: If you don't like the tree-chopping, Falwell-loving, cowboy president--if you want his presidency fatally wounded for the next three years--then start praising him. One good Paul Krugman column taking off from that USA Today story on the surge in entitlements recipients under Bush, one Daily Kos lead on how Clinton flopped on national health care but Bush twisted every arm in the GOP to get a multi-trillion-dollar prescription drug benefit for the elderly, one cover story in the Nation on how Bush has acknowledged federal responsibility for everything from floods in New Orleans to troubled teenagers, and maybe, just maybe, National Review and the Powerline blog and Fox News would come to their senses. Bush is a Rockefeller Republican in cowboy boots, and it's time conservatives stopped looking at the boots instead of the policies.
I made a similar point a couple of years ago in a post called "George Bush, Liberal Darling," which provoked a storm of reaction from the left blogosphere.
UPDATE: Kieran Healy is entitled to his opinion, but his implication that David Boaz and I were once Bush supporters who have now turned on him for "the sake of their own conscience," is simply wrong. I've never been a fan of the president's, though of course I don't disagree with him on everything. I criticized him rather severely in 2004, and managed to find a far better candidate to vote for, and I didn't vote for Bush in 2000, either. And, though I don't want to speak for Boaz, I suspect that he has been even less of a fan than I have.
FURTHER UPDATE: The basic point of Boaz's post, it seems to me, is not that Bush is a liberal, or that liberals always support government spending. Rather, it's given that the Left will seemingly attack Bush for whatever he does, regardless of whether it promotes a conservative or a liberal agenda [see, e.g., the persistent attacks on the prescription drug benefit plan, the largest entitlement program since the Great Society, as a "giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry" because it doesn't fix drug prices. Food stamps don't control food prices, a giveaway to Big Ag? Student loans and grants don't control tuition prices, a giveaway to Big Education? Medicare originally did not control doctors' fees, a giveaway to doctors and hospitals? Section 8 vouchers don't control rent prices, a giveaway to landlords? Since when does the government's failure to include price controls with subsidies lead to so much indignation on the left?]. Under those circumstances, conservatives believe either (a) Bush is not being attacked for his policies, but for being a Republican, and thus good Republicans should defend him; and/or (b) If the Left were in power, they would outspend and outwaste and outnationalize Bush on entitlements, education, health care, etc., so better to support Bush than undermine him and let the Left take over.
We saw a similar phenomenon on the right with Clinton, with conservatives irrationally attacking him even when he pursued conservative policies, and the left, as a whole, swallowing their doubts and defending him. It wasn't so irrational, I suppose, if the object was to regain power, but it was if the object was to promote conservative economic policies. The right (barely) succeeded in winning the 2000 election, but also destroyed the national political commitment to fiscal restraint that had survived from Reagan to Clinton.