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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Oct 31, 2005 / 28 Tishrei, 5766

Is Bush a conservative?

By Robert Robb

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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Probably no president in American history has so persistently proclaimed himself to be a conservative as George W. Bush.

The only possible exception would be Ronald Reagan. But Reagan didn't really need to do much proclaiming. Reagan embodied the conservatism of his era.

So, it was somewhat of a surreal moment when, at a press conference a few weeks ago, Bush was asked whether he was still a conservative. Bush's response was: Yes, and proudly so.

Yet the question of whether Bush is, in fact, a conservative has intensified in recent weeks. The answer is important not only to understanding and assessing the Bush presidency, but in shaping the governing alternatives available to the country.

The question of whether Bush is a conservative is a fair one. But the event that precipitated it, the Miers nomination, isn't particularly illuminating.

In fact, the area in which the Bush track record as a conservative has been the strongest is in his appointment of judges. He has consistently nominated judges with a clear conservative judicial philosophy and solid qualifications. He has invested political capital in fighting for their confirmation.

Paradoxically, Bush's outstanding track record on judges was part of what triggered the adverse conservative reaction to the Miers nomination.

Conservatives had come to expect more from Bush on judges. Yet, when the stakes were the highest, he went with less than the best.

This, however, was a mistake, not an indication of a lack of commitment to conservative reform of the judiciary.

The track record elsewhere isn't nearly as strong. The questions that the Miers nomination triggered should have been being asked for some time, about other things.

Even while Bush was persistently proclaiming himself to be a conservative, it was clear that he also intended to change conservatism, conventionally understood.

Conservatives have traditionally believed that the power and scope of the federal government should be curtailed, in favor of state and local governments and the private sector.

Bush, however, believes in an activist federal government, but one yoked in service to conservative purposes.

The difference is best illustrated by Bush's education program. Traditionally, conservatives have favored eliminating the federal role in education, believing it to be more properly a local responsibility. Bush, however, pushed for a large expansion of the federal role in education, but to implement a conservative reform: a regimen of accountability through testing.

This can also be seen in Bush's faith-based initiative. Traditionally, conservatives have faulted the welfare state for undermining self-responsibility and proposed to reduce and reform it. Bush instead pushed to expand its delivery mechanisms to include religious organizations.

The Bush administration initially also pursued the same approach with a prescription drug benefit under Medicare. The administration was quite willing to see a large expansion of the entitlement state, provided it was tied to reforming Medicare into a premium support system. It ultimately flinched and accepted the entitlement expansion in exchange for highly marginal reforms.

Some believe that Bush is modernizing conservatism and improving its political prospects. Others, including me, doubt that a conservatism rooted in greater centralization of power and authority in the federal government merits the name.

Social conservatives, who are less fastidious about the principle of subsidiarity, have reason to be generally satisfied with Bush. He has been openly pro-life and reinstated a ban on international organizations using U.S. funds to promote abortions. He signed a partial-birth abortion ban. And he supported a constitutional amendment that would preclude states permitting gay marriage.

Economic conservatives, however, have become increasingly agitated about the failure of the president and the Republican Congress to control federal spending. Federal spending has been growing under Bush at more than twice the rate it did under the divided government of the Clinton years.

Bush's chief claim to being an economic conservative is his tax cuts. And, indeed, Bush provided essential leadership in easing discriminatory and counterproductive tax treatment of investment income and lowering marginal personal income tax rates.

But, despite the bellowing from the opposition, the marginal rate reductions have actually been quite modest. Reagan reduced the highest marginal tax rate on wage income from 50 percent to 28 percent. Bush has reduced it from around 40 percent to 35 percent.

A true supply-sider understands that to get marginal rates down, erosions to the tax base have to be resisted. Yet Bush has been as promiscuous in supporting tax credits and deductions as Clinton was.

The result has been to undermine the opportunity for true tax reform. The incidence of the income tax has become so top heavy that generating political support for fundamental reform is difficult. And the tax base has become so eroded that it is difficult to craft reductions in rates that do not result in regressive shifts in the burden that are politically unacceptable.

On free trade, Bush has certainly talked the talk and completed a number of small trade agreements. But overall, this has been a protectionist administration, with a huge increase in farm subsidies and tariffs slapped on steel, lumber and textiles.

Moreover, his administration has ignored international trade decisions that go against the United States while pursuing trade complaints against other countries. To other countries, the Bush administration has appeared to treat trade as something to be gamed to the advantage of the United States.

Overall, domestic support for free trade has diminished under Bush, as has U.S. credibility as an advocate for free trade internationally.

Bush has supported fundamental conservative reforms. But he has not been willing to take political risks to make them happen.

Bush supports vouchers for private schools, but quickly dropped them to gain Democratic support for No Child Left Behind. He abandoned fundamental Medicare reform so he didn't have to run for re-election without having delivered on a prescription drug benefit.

Bush wanted personal retirement accounts in Social Security and fundamental tax reform to be his second-term accomplishments. But he wasn't specific enough about either in the 2004 election to claim a mandate on their behalf, and will probably leave office having accomplished neither.

Conservatives have instinctively rallied to Bush's leadership in his efforts to protect the country against terrorist attack. Conservatives are distrustful of international organizations and favor Bush's approach of taking needed action through what he has described as coalitions of the willing.

When it was believed that Saddam Hussein was a threat to help terrorists acquire weapons of mass destruction, they supported taking him out. (I was an exception, writing at the time that the Iraq war, while justifiable, was an imprudent use of U.S. military power.)

There is, however, a broader dimension of the Bush doctrine that conservatives have insufficiently debated. Traditional conservatives have believed that the default foreign policy approach of the United States should be to expand commercial ties with other countries but leave their internal affairs to themselves. Exceptions are to be made in cases of security threats, such as existed during the Cold War. But, generally, the United States should stick to its own business.

Neoconservatives, however, believe that the United States should use its status and power to influence international events to its advantage and to advance the spread of democratic capitalism in the world.

In 2000, Bush seemed to run more as a traditional conservative than a neocon on these matters. But, after 9/11, he became convinced that protecting the United States against terrorist attack requires pushing aggressively for democratic and market reforms in other countries, particularly in the Middle East. Because of the security threat, conservatives have tended to support Bush's premise. But it's not an entirely comfortable position for traditional conservatives.

I accept Bush at his word that he regards himself as a conservative, and proudly so. And he has certainly advanced more fundamental conservative reforms than anyone since Reagan.

But under his leadership, Republicans have lost any credible claim to be the party of less spending or a smaller role for the federal government. They have also lost much of any rationale to argue for a circumspect U.S. approach to international affairs.

In fact, the primary political effect of the Bush tenure may very well be to have seriously undermined the traditional conservative cause of limited government.

That isn't the sort of legacy to which a true conservative should aspire.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Robert Robb is a columnist for The Arizona Republic. Comment by clicking here.

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