No idea.

Notes from the political sidelines.
March 22 2006 9:52 AM

No Idea

Republicans unveil their new line for the fall.

80_thehasbeen
(Continued from Page 3)

As Adam Nagourney reports in the New York Times, Republican contenders so far have found one word to differentiate themselves from Bush: cheaper. All weekend, wannabes invoked the memory of Ronald Reagan, who was such a true believer in fiscal conservatism that the national debt only tripled on his watch, to nearly $3 trillion. Bush has presided over the disappearance of a $5.6 trillion projected surplus, and by the time he's through will have added another $4 trillion to the debt.

Of course, Republicans conveniently forget that not only did the country tire of Reagan's budget busting, but they tired of the paradoxical antigovernment tone that went with it. That's what led the elder Bush to promise "a kinder, gentler nation" in the first place.

A genuine fiscal conservative like John McCain—who aspires to be Reagan without the tax cuts—will have no trouble distinguishing himself from Bush. But Nagourney points out that other prospective candidates in Memphis offered little idea what to cut, and that senators who promise to cut spending as president might have an obligation to actually vote for doing so in Congress. The headline in today's Washington Post suggests how well that's going: "Republicans on Hill Resist Party Leaders' Spending Cuts."

Advertisement

Spending, I Wish I Could Quit You: Nagourney says the candidates "are not alone in seeing political benefit in returning to the spending issue"—the White House sees advantage in it, too. A White House strategist suggests that talking about spending cuts could help rally the Republican base in the fall. Old spin: Deficits don't matter. New spin: Deficits are a brilliant political ploy to get the Republican base exercised about Republican overspending. Bush has his message for November: "Vote for us—we're spent!"

Once again, Republicans seem to have doubled back on their contradictions. In the 1980s and again in the 1990s, party strategists discovered a serious design flaw in conservatism: The country wouldn't let Republicans cut government spending anywhere near as much as Republicans wanted to cut taxes. Compassionate conservatism was concocted to correct that glitch by just cutting taxes and letting government spending soar. The new design flaw: Voters don't like that, either.

Bill Clinton once summed up compassionate conservatism as a way to tell voters that we really wish we could help solve their problems with health care, education, and wages, but we just can't, and we're really sorry about it. In Memphis, the refreshingly candid Sen. Lindsey Graham came up with a new twist. He drew big cheers for telling delegates, "I am sorry for letting you down when it comes to spending your money."

Republicans have come full circle: These days, compassionate conservatism means even saying you're sorry for having been a compassionate conservative. ... 9:46 A.M. (link)

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 1 2014 12:20 PM Don’t Expect Hong Kong’s Protests to Spread to the Mainland
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?