Friday, September 30, 2005

Does Compassionate Conservatism Mean Anything?

We'll find out. George W. Bush set out trying to redefine the GOP, and the current crisis in Louisiana compels him to pursue that redefinition and follow it to its conclusion. Here's what he must do, according to Andy Busch, one of the best political scientists around:

His first task will be to convince Republicans that the big price tag of reconstruction will be attached to much more significant policy changes than have thus far accompanied his initiatives. He needs more than half a loaf, not the one-third loaf of No Child Left Behind or the one-tenth loaf of prescription drugs.

Second, he needs to prove to Republicans (and independents) that compassionate conservatism is not defined by reckless profligacy. This means taking a much harder look at the rest of the budget, setting priorities, and, for the first time, vetoing appropriations bills that go too far.

Third, Bush can mitigate his problems with conservatives by taking more seriously some of their other concerns. Illegal immigration, where Bush could be flanked on the right by an enterprising Democrat, is a good place to start.

Finally, fewer Republicans would find compassionate conservatism problematic if Bush tried harder to connect it both rhetorically and substantively to common conservative principles of limited constitutional government.

The president has his work cut out for him.


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