E. J. Dionne Jr. has suddenly discovered the big-government George W. Bush, 12 years late, and he’s feeling nostalgic:
Perhaps I should thank the current crop of Republican presidential candidates for providing me with an experience I never, ever expected: During this week’s debate in New Hampshire, I had a moment of nostalgia for George W. Bush….
Unlike this crowd of Republicans, Bush acknowledged that the federal government can ease injustices and get useful things done.
Say what you will about his No Child Left Behind education-reform program. It accepted, correctly, that the federal government has to play an important part in reforming our public schools and held them accountable to a set of standards….
And while there are many problems with the way Bush chose to provide prescription drugs under Medicare, he was quite right to believe it had to be done….
Oh, yes, and I really do miss some of Bush’s early rhetoric. I cannot imagine a Republican today giving Bush’s 1999 speech in Indianapolis titled — shades of Barack Obama? — “The Duty of Hope.”
Bush criticized the view “that if government would only get out of our way, all our problems would be solved” as a “destructive mind-set.” He scorned this as an approach having “no higher goal, no nobler purpose, than ‘Leave us alone.’ ”
Stick with us, E. J. We could have told you this in 2007, when Michael Tanner published Leviathan on the Right; or in 2003, when I complained in the Washington Post about Bush’s spending, education program, and entitlement expansion; or in, ahem, 1999, when Ed Crane wrote in the New York Times:
Bill Clinton’s impact on the American polity was never more evident than in the major address that the Republican Presidential aspirant George W. Bush gave in Indianapolis last week. The speech was, well, Clintonesque [in its] assumption that virtually any problem confronting the American people is an excuse for action by the Federal Government.
E. J. likes that view better than we do, but at least readers of the Washington Post will now realize that Obama’s out-of-control spending, nationalizations, and health care interventions are an extension, not a reversal, of Bush’s policies.