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Monday, May 10, 2004

Conservative Revolt Hits the Front Page

Dana Milbank and Jonathan Weisman have a story on the Washington Post webpage today called "Conservatives Restive About Bush Policies."

The article includes a lot of quotes from prominent conservatives and neoconservatives criticizing the Bush agenda -- especially on domestic policy. One theme recurs. This White House makes policy based on politics (i.e., winning partisan battles, especially elections) rather than ideas or ideology.
Bruce Bartlett, a conservative economist with the National Center for Policy Analysis, said policy ideas typically bubble up from experts deep inside federal agencies, who put together working groups, draft white papers, sell their wares in the marketplace of ideas and hope White House officials act on their suggestions. In this case, ideas are hatched in the White House, for political or ideological reasons, then are thrust on the bureaucracy, "not for analysis, but for sale," Bartlett said.
Recent columns by George Will and Robert Kagan are cited, as well as disgruntled past members of the administration such as former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and John DiIulio, Jr. (who headed the faith-based initiatives program).

Richard W. Rahn, described in the piece as "a prominent Republican economist" asserts that Bush II is more like Bush I than Ronald Reagan. In short, like his father, George W. Bush lacks the "vision thing."
Rahn said he has grown concerned over what he sees as "a lack of vision and policy consistency" in the Bush administration. "I mean, we knew where [President Ronald] Reagan was heading; at times there were deviations from the path, but we knew what it was all about," he said. In contrast, he said, now "there doesn't seem to be a clear policy vision."
Part of the problem may be that Karl Rove serves as both top political "hack" and top policy "wonk." The guy in charge of maintaining presidential popularity and winning re-election probably should not be the same person coming up with ideas for policy.

If I were in John Kerry's campaign, I think I'd try to work some of these ideas and quotes into my new ads -- alongside some conservative criticisms of the foreign policy problems as well.

Update: The Mahablog puts this story into a wider context -- with lots of useful links to other related media stories.

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