William Kristol Admits Conservatives Don’t Back Small Government

Last week I looked at the significance of size of government, noting that even a libertarian publication was now acknowledging that small government might not necessarily result in greater freedom. This week William Kristol has an op-ed entitled Small Isn’t Beautiful. This might have been the most honest thing Kristol has ever written as he admits what many have realized for a long time–the GOP does not really support small government. He writes:

…conservatives should think twice before charging into battle against Obama under the banner of “small-government conservatism.” It’s a banner many Republicans and conservatives have rediscovered since the election and have been waving around energetically. Jeb Bush, now considering a Senate run in 2010, even went so far as to tell Politico last month, “There should not be such a thing as a big-government Republican.”

Really? Jeb Bush was a successful and popular conservative governor of Florida, with tax cuts, policy reforms and privatizations of government services to show for his time in office. Still, in his two terms state spending increased over 50 percent — a rate faster than inflation plus population growth. It turns out, in the real world of Republican governance, that there aren’t a whole lot of small-government Republicans.

Five Republicans have won the presidency since 1932: Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and the two George Bushes. Only Reagan was even close to being a small-government conservative. And he campaigned in 1980 more as a tax-cutter and national-defense-builder-upper, and less as a small-government enthusiast in the mold of the man he had supported — and who had lost — in 1964, Barry Goldwater. And Reagan’s record as governor and president wasn’t a particularly government-slashing one.

Even the G.O.P.’s 1994 Contract With America made only vague promises to eliminate the budget deficit, and proposed no specific cuts in government programs. It focused far more on crime, taxes, welfare reform and government reform. Indeed, the “Republican Revolution” of 1995 imploded primarily because of the Republican Congress’s one major small-government-type initiative — the attempt to “cut” (i.e., restrain the growth of) Medicare. George W. Bush seemed to learn the lesson. Prior to his re-election, he proposed and signed into law popular (and, it turned out, successful) legislation, opposed by small-government conservatives, adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare.

So talk of small government may be music to conservative ears, but it’s not to the public as a whole. This isn’t to say the public is fond of big-government liberalism. It’s just that what’s politically vulnerable about big-government liberalism is more the liberalism than the big government. (Besides, the public knows that government’s not going to shrink much no matter who’s in power.)

Kristol is being surprisingly honest in admitting that the Republicans have not really supported small government in office. However if the Republicans are not the party of small government, what do they stand for? He does give some examples of what he believes conservatives should support, including “constitutional government.” However, just as Republicans have not supported limited government, their record on upholding the Constitution is also weak. Kristol and other conservatives are right to criticize George Bush for supporting big government, but an even more serious problem of the Bush administration has been their lack of respect for the Constitution and the rule of law.

If Conservatives want to claim to be supporters of constitutional government, they shoud have been protesting whenever George Bush and Dick Cheney reduced the checks and balances on Executive power. If conservatives respected the Constitution they would have fought the restrictions in civil liberties in the Patriot Act. If conservatives desired to uphold the Constitution and the beliefs of the Founding Fathers they would have fought against the Bush administration’s efforts to break down separation of church and state, instead of promoting a revisionist history regarding the idea.

There are certainly exceptions as some conservatives have defended civil liberties and opposed the acts of the Bush administration, but they are a small minority and not representative of the direction of the Republican Party. The Republican Party now stands for little more than the policies of the religious right, and is better characterized by their McCarthyist tactics than for holding principles.

Supreme Court Decides Against Hearing Case on Obama’s Citizenship

I’m sure this won’t put an end to the conspiracy theorists, but the Supreme Court decided not to hear the case claiming that Obama is not a natural born US citizen. AP reports:

The Supreme Court has turned down an emergency appeal from a New Jersey man who says President-elect Barack Obama is ineligible to be president because he was a British subject at birth. The court did not comment on its order Monday rejecting the call by Leo Donofrio of East Brunswick, N.J., to intervene in the presidential election

Allegations raised on the Internet say the birth certificate, showing that Obama was born in Hawaii on Aug. 4, 1961, is a fake.

But Hawaii Health Department Director Dr. Chiyome Fukino and the state’s registrar of vital statistics, Alvin Onaka, say they checked health department records and have determined there’s no doubt Obama was born in Hawaii.

The nonpartisan Web site Factcheck.org examined the original document and said it does have a raised seal and the usual evidence of a genuine document.

In addition, Factcheck.org reproduced an announcement of Obama’s birth, including his parents’ address in Honolulu, that was published in the Honolulu Advertiser on Aug. 13, 1961.

I previously commented on these claims and linked to evidence against them here and here. Alex Koppelman reviews the debunked claims here. Of course no amount of evidence will convince the conspiracy theorists who already have found ways to deny all the evidence verifying Obama’s citizenship. The Supreme Court’s decision will most likely convince them that the conspiracy is even bigger than the previously suspected.

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The Next Secretary of State

Amy Poehler has returned to Saturday Night Live with this message from Hillary Clinton on becoming Secretary of State.