Perry Distances Himself From George W. Bush and Compassionate Conservatism
I’ve noted here on TMV and in my Cagle columns that the idea of “compassionate conservatism” as espoused by George W. Bush and the “kinder, gentler nation” espoused by his father are quickly being laid to rest — and are largely dead. As further proof, I point you to this Washington Post piece on Texas. Gov. Rick Perry who at this point is indeed the Republican frontrunner for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination in the face of the tepid campaign of supposed front-runner former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney:
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, like most of the other the GOP presidential hopefuls, says his campaign is about undoing the decisions of President Obama. But Perry also presents a stark alternative to the last Republican to occupy the White House, his fellow Texan George W. Bush.
In his writings and speeches before he entered the race, Perry shared the view, widely held among conservatives, that Bush’s government spending habits in office were a betrayal of the GOP’s core fiscal principles. But Perry went further, dismissing “compassionate conservatism,” the central tenet of Bush’s domestic policy, as just more overreach by the federal government.
Even more than former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the other top-tier candidate, Perry presents GOP voters sharper outlines of the choice facing the party in 2012: how much to embrace of the anti-government views of the tea party movement and how much to discard of the brand of conservatism espoused by Bush, who presided over the last successful reinvention of the party at the presidential level.
Perry, who closely allied himself with Bush earlier in his career, was a supporter of Bush’s tax cuts and praised his leadership on national security issues. But he has been critical of Bush’s fiscal stewardship and his attempts to court the political middle by taking on issues such as education, immigration and Medicare. He has said that “this big-government binge [in Obama’s tenure] began under the administration of George W. Bush.”
Bush rankled conservatives with remarks such as this 2003 comment: “We have a responsibility that when somebody hurts, government has got to move.”
Perry has dismissed that idea.
“The branding of compassionate conservatism meant that the GOP was sending the wrong signal, that conservatism alone wasn’t sufficient or worse yet, was somehow flawed and had to be re-branded,” Perry wrote in his 2010 book “Fed Up.”
A Perry victory would cement the Republican Party’s shift away from Bush’s approach to a more libertarian, anti-government GOP. This is cause for worry among some in the party, particularly those with ties to Bush.
I suspect this means that the GOP will have its work cut out for itself with independent voters if (big ifs) President Barack Obama becomes more assertive and connects more with Americans and if there is some improvement in the economy.
The two Bushes at least paid lip service to the idea that there needed to be some kind of consensus in America — that you needed to try and get some support beyond the support you might naturally have. Perry is most attractive to 21st century conservatives, talk radio fans and members of the Tea Party movement. That means if he won it would be yet one more election where you get a President will seem to be more of a President of his party’s base rather than of the whole country as side doesn’t completely accept his legitimacy.
If Perry succeeds in getting the nomination, its seeming curtains for the Bush family’s approach to politics. If he gets it and self-destructs, the Bush wing — i.e. Jeb Bush — will be there to either pick up the pieces or help decide who picks them up for 2016. The Perry approach is certitude: conservatism was never flawed, why would it have to be called compassionate? Or in reality be compassionate?
Will indy voters buy that?
I suspect not — IF IF IF Obama does not continue to seemingly self destruct and his poll numbers continue to tumble towards the South Pole.