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Bush the pre-socializer: “I readily concede I chucked aside my free-market principles”

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By Michelle Malkin  •  January 12, 2009 11:16 AM

Update: And right on cue, Bush agrees to collaborate with Obama on TARP…

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President George W. Bush gave his final press conference this morning, but he already wrote his domestic policy epitaph on Dec. 16 and there’s not much more to say:

He re-worded it slightly today:

“I readily concede I chucked aside my free-market principles when I was told … the situation we were facing could be worse than the Great Depression,” Bush said. “(But) we’ve taken extraordinary measures to deal with frozen credit markets (that) have helped thaw the credit market.”

Last week, I caught grief from some readers on the right for lambasting Bush for pre-socializing the economy for Obama, while some readers on the left derided me for “finally” acknowledging the truth about Big Government George Bush.

These folks haven’t been paying attention. Some of us knew what we were getting with George Bush long before he was “chucking aside his free-market principles” and forking over billions in tax dolars to failing private companies and failing public education.

In September 1999 (and many subsequent posts), I warned about his Texas Rangers corporate welfare subsidies and minority contracting set-asides:

As reported in the June 1999 issue of Texas Monthly, the awarding of minority-earmarked government contracts was instrumental to the stadium measure’s passage. Black and Latino leaders attacked the deal � until Bush assuaged them with the promise of government giveaway goodies. Bush “spoke from the pulpit of the Mount Olive Baptist Church in Arlington,” Texas Monthly reported, where he declared, “A vote for the tax would be a vote for contracts for African American businesses.”

Egad. If this is the voice of compassionate conservatism, Democrats have nothing to fear.

In March 2000, I wrote:

For all of his campaign bashing of John McCain as a liberal, Bush himself has a record of being soft on affirmative action, soft on wasteful education spending, and soft on Big Government mandates. This vote-getting social engineering, masquerading boldly as “compassionate conservatism,” is what appeals most to Bush’s left-lurching supporters.

In April 2000, I assailed Bush’s massive education spending proposals:

UH-OH. It looks like Texas Gov. George W. Bush has been smoking some strange remnants from President Clinton’s ideological ashtray.

The GOP presidential candidate who balked when he was compared to Clinton now wants to spend $5 billion — yup, that’s a “b” as in boondoggle — to create a classically Clintonian federal program to combat childhood illiteracy. Clinton had proposed a similar jihad three years ago with a more “modest” $2.75 billion pricetag.

In Virginia last week, Bush laid out his alarmingly liberal proposal for increasing the federal government’s role in education. Sounding more like Lyndon Johnson than Ronald Reagan, Bush asserted that illiteracy was a “crisis” that “therefore requires a national response.” Bush’s “Reading First” program would dole out $1 billion in federal funds each year to help public school teachers identify early reading problems in kindergarten through second grade with diagnostic tests. Teachers would then get additional training and learn how to teach reading effectively.

Weren’t these certified, college-educated teachers supposed to know how to teach effectively when they got hired in the first place?

After receiving their tax-subsidized remedial training under the Bush plan, public school teachers would then “intervene” to help problem readers in after-school, summer school, and tutoring programs. Bush’s goal is that every child be able to read “by the end of third grade.” It’s as lousy and mediocre a goal for the most prosperous nation in the world as when Clinton set the same third-grade reading standard in his 1997 State of the Union address.

Yes, illiteracy is a problem. But the federal government already spends nearly $10 billion on more than dozen programs that focus on promoting literacy (not to mention the untold time and money expended by private organizations, non-profit and religious groups, and individual volunteers). On top of that, governments at all levels in the U.S. spend another $40 billion on special education � with a large chunk earmarked for learning-disabled children with reading problems.

Such election-year pandering to the educrats is to be expected from Democrats. Vice President Al Gore has offered billions of dollars for higher teacher salaries and subsidizing pre-kindergarten for all 4-year-olds. But Bush almost out-Clintons Clinton and Gore by throwing in another $30 million for the expansion of a nationwide “troops to teachers” program; $400 million for additional teacher training; and an annual $400 tax deduction for teachers who buy classroom supplies with their own money.

In August 2000, I chastised the GOP establishment for parroting Bush’s “Leave No Child Behind” pabulum:

IF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY grows any softer, it will need to replace the grand old elephant with a new symbol: the Pillsbury dough boy.

This week’s GOP national convention in Philadelphia is a spectacle of sensitivity. A gala of giggly good feeling. A confab of can’t-we-all-just-get-along compassion. Real conservatives should be reaching for their extra-strength Dramamine. The party leadership’s liberal rhetoric is more nauseating than a boat ride in “The Perfect Storm.”

Take Texas Gov. George W. Bush’s pet phrase, “Leave no child behind.” Take it, drive a stake through it, and bury it, please. The slogan was the convention’s opening night theme, parroted and expanded upon by a rainbow-colored group hug of speakers:

“We must work together so that no child is left behind to ensure an America — an America whose future is one of unlimited hope and boundless opportunities,” declared Paul Harris, a black state legislator in Virginia.

Retired Gen. Colin L. Powell said: “Governor Bush’s proposals for improving education and expanding health care are examples of his vow to ‘leave no child behind’ and ensure access to quality care for all Americans.”

“No child should be in a school that doesn’t work. Every child deserves the chance to learn and succeed,” urged Pilar Gomez, a Hispanic “parent-training coordinator” from Wisconsin.

“Every child should grow up in a permanent, loving family,” pleaded Conna Craig of Boston, director and president of something called the Institute for Children…

…Coming from Nanny State do-gooders, this nonsensical sloganeering is standard fare. The Democrats are supposed to be the Mommy Party, ruled by emotion; Republicans, the Daddy Party, ruled by rationale. But in Philadelphia, the alleged advocates for stern fiscal discipline and responsible public policy are putting on an embarrassing cross-dressing display — apron, high heels, hankies, and all — in pursuit of the White House.

In claiming that her husband will make a “great president,” Laura Bush didn’t cite George W.’s ability to cut government down to size. She didn’t give examples of his political courage or principled conservatism. Instead, Mrs. Bush praised her husband’s $5 billion Reading First proposal. Calling for “more clubs and programs,” Mrs. Bush described how “George and I always read to our girls — Dr. Seuss’ ‘Hop on Pop” was one of his favorites. George would lie on the floor and the girls would literally hop on pop.”

My husband reads “Hop on Pop” to our daughter, too. We all turn into human marshmallows when it comes to kids. But that’s no excuse for conservatives to launch federal education spending sprees and other liberal child exploitation programs, no matter how well they test with soccer moms in focus groups. The presidential nominee of the Republican Party should stop impersonating Mrs. Clinton and start talking like a grown-up. The best way for government to exercise “compassionate conservatism” and help children get ahead is to leave their families’ pocketbooks alone.

Bottom line: George W. Bush is leaving exactly the Big Government legacy he promised to leave. The only uncertainty was over how large of a hole he would dig.

Compassionate conservatism” and fiscal conservatism were never compatible. Never will be.

***

I think this would be a very healthy step toward un-rebranding the Bush GOP:

Republican Party officials say they will try next month to pass a resolution accusing President Bush and congressional Republican leaders of embracing “socialism,” underscoring deep dissension within the party at the end of Mr. Bush’s administration.

Those pushing the resolution, which will come before the Republican National Committee at its January meeting, say elected leaders need to be reminded of core principles. They said the RNC must take the dramatic step of wading into policy debates, which traditionally have been left to lawmakers.

“We can’t be a party of small government, free markets and low taxes while supporting bailouts and nationalizing industries, which lead to big government, socialism and high taxes at the expense of individual liberty and freedoms,” said Solomon Yue, an Oregon member and co-sponsor of a resolution that criticizes the U.S. government bailouts of the financial and auto industries. Republican National Committee Vice Chairman James Bopp Jr. wrote the resolution and asked the rest of the 168 voting members to sign it.

“The resolution also opposes President-elect Obama’s proposed public works program and supports conservative alternatives,” while encouraging the RNC “to engage in vigorous public policy debates consistent with our party platform,” said Mr. Bopp, a leading attorney for pro-life groups who has also challenged the campaign finance legislation that Mr. Bush signed.

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