Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush recently gave aid and comfort to the enemy in an interview with Bloomberg News by claiming that “Ronald Reagan would have, based on his record of finding accommodation, finding some degree of common ground, similar to my dad, they would have a hard time if you define the Republican Party -- and I don’t -- as having an orthodoxy that doesn’t allow for disagreement…”
This remark came on the heels of Bush’s testimony at a hearing of the House Budget Committee, where he endorsed tax increases for spending cuts and Democratic partisan Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland asked him if he agreed with the Americans Tax Reform pledge to oppose all tax increases.
Jeb obligingly gave Van Hollen the answer he was looking for by saying, “I ran for office three times. The pledge was presented to me three times. I never signed the pledge… I cut taxes every year I was governor. I don’t believe you outsource your principles and convictions to people.”
Of course what moderate Republicans, like Jeb Bush, decry as orthodoxy -- not allowing for “disagreement” -- most conservatives see as consistently standing for your principles.
And as Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform correctly pointed out yesterday on FOX News, Jeb Bush’s father walked down the tax-for-cuts alley and got mugged.
Many of us who have been around since the Reagan days can remember the smirk on Democratic Senator George Mitchell’s face when he conned President George H.W. Bush into going back on his “read my lips, no new taxes” pledge, and bought Mitchell’s phony spending cut for tax increase deal.
The Bush/Mitchell deal was phony because, while the tax increases are still with us today, the spending cuts never happened. However, the elder President Bush wasn’t the only Republican President to buy the idea that they could compromise with Democrats on spending.
President Ronald Reagan tried it with fellow Irishman Tip O’Neill and was left complaining that the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act -- which congressional Democrats promised would involve a ratio of $3 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases -- certainly produced a tax increase. As Reagan later put it in his autobiography, “the Democrats reneged on their pledge and we never got those [spending] cuts.”
But those who don’t recall the look of victory on Mitchell’s face or that even Ronald Reagan got snookered trading tax increases for phony spending cuts can still remember that George H.W. Bush got thrown out of office at the next election.
Establishment moderates like Jeb Bush delude themselves into believing, as President Bush 41 apparently believed, that Democrats actually want to cut spending and reduce the size and scope of government.
As Grover Norquist correctly pointed out, they don’t – they never have and they never will.
Self-satisfied moderates, such as Jeb Bush, like to pat themselves on the back about how "reasonable" they are when they make deals to raise taxes for spending cuts that never materialize. They don’t seem to understand, as Grover Norquist and those who support the Americans for Tax Reform pledge to oppose tax increases do, that liberals and the Democratic Party exist solely to divide-up the spoils extorted from producers by the welfare state -- and that cutting federal spending undermines their very reason for being.
Or perhaps deep down inside, Republicans like Jeb Bush are all too ready to enter into “grand bargains” to raise taxes because they share those same impulses.