Ed Driscoll

George W. Milhous Bush?

Jonah Goldberg revives the Dubya As Nixon meme that started gaining traction right around this time four years ago. He makes some great points, especially about our 37th president (whose pesky razor stubble I sympathize with, though not his actual policies):

The economy was a mess toward the end of Nixon’s term. It’s going gangbusters now. As bad as the Iraq war may be going, it hardly compares to the bloodshed of Vietnam. And as loud as the antiwar movement may be today, it amounts to little more than a historical reenactment of the antiwar protests of the 1960s and 1970s.

But there is one area where we can make somewhat useful comparisons between Nixon and Bush: their status as liberal Republicans.

Nixon has a fascinating reputation as one of the most right-wing presidents of the 20th century. This impression is largely a product of the fact that few presidents have been more hated by the Left. But simply because the left despises you doesn’t mean you’re particularly right-wing. If LBJ were alive, you could ask him about this. Or just take a look at poor Joe Lieberman.

The truth is, Nixon was the last of the New Deal-era liberal presidents. He sponsored and signed the legislation creating the Environmental Protection Agency, the Water Quality Improvement Act and the Endangered Species Act. He oversaw the establishment of Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Nixon created the Philadelphia Plan, the springboard for racial quotas; pushed for Title IX (the women’s “equality” law); and hired Leon Panetta (later Bill Clinton’s chief of staff) as his director of the office of civil rights.

Nixon pushed aggressively for national health insurance that would cover 100 percent of the nation’s poor children. He increased federal spending on health and education programs by more than 50 percent and massively boosted spending on the National Endowment for Humanities. He tried to increase welfare with his Family Assistance Plan and Child Development Act.

Economically, Nixon got along swell with the chamber of commerce crowd, but he was well to the left of almost any leading Democrat today, championing wage and price controls as a legitimate tool of state, and boasting “Now I am a Keynesian in economics.”

I could argue that Nixon’s amoral foreign policy is today alive and well in many corners of the Left, but that’s a distraction from my central point.

Bush is certainly to the right of Nixon on many issues. But at the philosophical level, he shares the Nixonians’ supreme confidence in the power of the state. Bush rejects limited government and many of the philosophical assumptions that underlie that position.

Read the rest.

Update: It shoudn’t be entirely surprising that Orrin Judd has a very different take from Jonah.