What David Bernstein Doesn’t (Want to) Get

It started with a pretty silly post by David Bernstein about why he thinks liberals should love G.W. Bush (because he spends lots of money). It's an argument that can only be made by applying a caricatured, no, a cartoon version of liberalism, in which spending is good per se, regardless of what you spend the money on, balanced budgets are irrelevant at all times in the business cycle, long run economic planning is of no importance, and, oh yes, whatever you do don't mention the war. Oh those silly liberals, caring about our troops, about the damage to our Army and Reserves, worrying about paying back the deficit, the looming pensions crisis, health care, not to mention equity and progressive taxation, the environment, the hinting about amending the Constitution to prevent same-sex marriage (or is it domestic partnerships, it's vague), the crony capitalism, the attack on the rights of labor, Guantanamo Bay, John Ashcroft, and I could go on.

I mean, the post was so silly that I wasn't even going to blog it. Even though I suppose it's possible that some knee-jerk Republicans might not take the trouble to work out what was wrong with it, I think most of them are smarter than that.

But the dang thing has legs.

Matthew Yglesias, who is usually pretty sharp, swallowed it whole.

And Brad DeLong, who is always sharp, swatted back in Matthew Yglesias Misses the Point, but too gently.

There is absolutely no reason a liberal should like GW Bush, and it has very little to do with the atmospherics. (As for the ranch, it would be fine if it weren't so faux.) It's about civil liberties, the environment, the war, the budget, and the continual campaign of routinely lying to the American people (see, e.g. under “Cheney”). The argument is infinitely weaker than when it was applied, only somewhat plausibly, to Nixon.

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4 Responses to What David Bernstein Doesn’t (Want to) Get

  1. Pingback: Crooked Timber

  2. thomas says:

    you keep bringing up the war…

    -well, you started it!

    no, we did not

    -yes, you did, you invaded poland

    /nice ref

  3. Many liberals like Bush because of the war, and hate just about everything else he utters and does. Hard Wilsonians are often liberal – they’re the so-called “metropoliticals.” Simply put, they valued the overthrow of a tyrannical regime and a stab at draining the swamp more than they valued the integrity of the international community and the cost of occupation – a tug of war between hard and solf Wilsonianism, and they chose hard. This puts them in something of a grind for the 2004 election: support a Democratic with solid domestic policy who’s bound to be a bit wobbly on Iraq, or support Bush, who (though I’m having doubts) will be steadfast in running Iraq but will turn a blind eye to a crumbling American economy and justice system.

    I do acknowledge, though, that David Berstein is silly. What’s more interesting is that Bush obviously thinks like Bernstein – he thinks he’s nabbing liberals with many of his programs, but he’s just deluding himself. The liberals care more about the issues you mentioned than about this perfunctory spending extravaganza. So much for Karl Rove’s infallibility: we have Bush alienating his base in an attempt – doomed to failure – to attract the left.

  4. Michael says:

    There’s some evidence that the Bush people are planning a ‘cut and run’ strategy for Iraq–anything to be able to say they got out of the swamp (which doesn’t appear very drained, really) before the election.

    As for the money, one other theory is that they are crazy like foxes–a major point of the spending may not be to buy votes so much as to reward the people who’ll be getting the contracts.


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