George W., Two-Trick Pony

It’s not just what he is. It’s what he wants to be.

“The Bush administration fights wars and it cuts taxes,” Chatterbox wrote last week, but it does “precious little else.” Chatterbox expected to receive lots of e-mail from conservatives objecting to this crude characterization of their standard-bearer as a two-trick pony. Instead, Chatterbox received lots of e-mail from conservatives stating that a two-trick pony is precisely what they want in a president. One of these was from Lisa Schiffren, author of Dan Quayle’s famous Murphy Brown speech, as well as of a recent Wall Street Journal piece confessing an erotic fixation on Dubya. (In the interest of consistency, Schiffren makes clear that it would be inappropriate for anyone save the first lady to sleep with him, much less bear his illegitimate child.)

Here is what Schiffren said:

Fighting wars (to liberate people from evil governments, and protect U.S.citizens from various threats) and cutting taxes (to liberate people from government programs and allow us to take care of ourselves) are what Republicans elect presidents to do. Aside from privatizing, what should the HUD Secretary be doing? State, Treasury and Defense have always been the important places, with the obvious exception of the Great Society years. One can make a serious argument that most of those bureaucracies shouldn’t have Cabinet level status. Hell, most of them should be abolished.

Chatterbox took this to be a conservative fantasy, to be taken no more seriously than Schiffren’s steamy daydream about unzipping Dubya’s flight suit. But in the May 11 Washington Post, Dana Milbank and Dan Balz made clear this is no fantasy. The Bush administration, they wrote, plans to cut taxes every year Bush is in office. Combine that with

the war on terrorism, which also is likely to continue indefinitely, [and] the constant pursuit of tax reductions has the potential to give U.S. politics a new rhythm. With Bush perpetually fighting for lower taxes and constantly battling terrorists—he describes Iraq and Afghanistan as “battles” in the larger war—there is little room for government to discuss new spending programs that Democrats want.

The problem with this strategy is that not even Republicans really want to limit government action to tax-cutting and war-fighting. Like Schiffren pondering a quickie with the commander in chief, they just want to daydream about it. It isn’t even true that Republicans reject all new spending programs. Many senior citizens who vote Republican can’t understand why Medicare won’t cover pharmaceutical costs, which is why Bush has proposed a new (if insufficient) program to do so. Certainly nobody wants to wreck an already-weak economy by further ballooning the budget deficit, as Bush seems determined to do. According to Milbank and Balz, even Paul Weyrich, the far-right cultist who runs the Free Congress Foundation, thinks Bush is overdoing the tax-cuts-and-wars bit. For Democrats, this cloud of indifferent governance has a silver lining. If Bush persists in being a two-trick pony, he will end up a one-term president.