Alex's Outlook

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

The Bush Drop

Quinnipiac: Kerry 51-42.

CNN/Gallup/USAToday: Kerry 51-46.

Newsweek: Kerry 48-46.

Should we care, given that Kerry pretty much clinched the nomination yesterday? No. Kerry's had a media bonanza with his primary victories. He has at most a few million dollars. Bush has over $100 million. Voters are aware of Kerry's Vietnam medals; they aren't aware that he's the biggest shill for special interests in the entire Senate, that he voted to slash defense spending in the 90's, that he is more liberal than Ted Kennedy himself. Kerry's numbers are ephemeral.

That said, a good part of the drop is Bush's own fault. His fiscal gluttony over the last three years will land us a $600 billion deficit once the Afghan/Iraqi appropriations bills are factored in. His Hispanic amnesty program was nakedly political, and dead on arrival in Congress. His callow submission to Republican congressional appropriators has alienated moderate deficit hawks. There's no question that Bush has demolished his, and the GOP's, reputation for fiscal discipline, and he hasn't appeased anyone who likes big government: the Democrats will always simply drag the spending debate further to the left, as they have now. The deficit is a major issue for independents (I think second behind national security), and Bush forfeited it. As long as he calls for spending restraint and anti-spending legislation without vetoing any bloated Congressional appropriations bills, he will only damage himself further. If he were serious about restraining the growth of government (up 30 percent in his first term), he would have already used the anti-spending tool available to him: the veto pen.

I never thought Republicans would get a scintilla of political gain by spending like French socialists on anything besides national security, and it would be sad if GWB had to forfeit a second term to learn that fact. I still think he will win a second term, but by pirouetting to the left he has made his defeat somewhat more likely.

It was somewhat heartening to see that, deep in the recesses of Bush's 11-pound, $2.4 trillion budget, he has called for the elimination of 63 programs and cutting the budgets of another 65, including the politically sensitive EPA and Agriculture Department. The deficit explosion has forced the GOP to choose, and it's choosing spending cuts - albeit token ones - over tax increases. Bush has a ways to go yet, but it's a modestly good first step in the direction of fiscal responsibility.


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