April 5, 2010 10:25AM

Bush, Rove, and Limited Government

Conservatives Craig Shirley and Don Devine write in the Sunday Washington Post that Karl Rove’s memoir wrongly depicts Rove and President George W. Bush as conservatives. “Big‐​government conservatives,” maybe, Shirley and Devine say. But not actual conservatives. After all,

From William F. Buckley Jr. to Barry Goldwater to Ronald Reagan, the creators of the modern conservative movement always taught that excessive concentration of power in government leads inevitably to corruption and the diminution of personal freedoms.…

Modern American conservatism has roots in the ideas of philosopher John Locke, the founding fathers and the notion that humans’ natural state is freedom.

But Bush? He imposed strict new federal regulations on local schools and massive new costs through his prescription drug entitlement. Not to mention

steel tariffs, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the McCain‐​Feingold campaign finance law, a massive agricultural subsidy bill, and other spending and regulatory moves by the Bush administration that tilted power toward Washington and away from individuals and states.

All too true. And a point made many times by Cato Institute analysts. But Shirley and Devine could have gone further. Policies that “tilted power toward Washington”? How about the attempt to nationalize marriage law, for 200 years a matter reserved to the states? Or the Republican legislation to move the Schiavo family’s tragedy out of Florida courts and into federal court? Or they could have mentioned an administration with a vision of the Constitution that included “a president who cannot be restrained, through validly enacted statutes, from pursuing any tactic he believes to be effective in the war on terror; [and] who has the inherent constitutional authority to designate American citizens suspected of terrorist activity as ‘enemy combatants,’ strip them of any constitutional protection, and lock them up without charges for the duration of the war on terror— in other words, perhaps forever.”

The Post gave Shirley and Devine only half a page — far too little to enumerate all of the Bush administration’s assaults on limited, constitutional government. But they’ve done a service in reminding conservatives that this was no conservative administration.