Tuesday, December 03, 2002

The DiIulio Letter-There are more than one telling paragraph to this Drudge-published memo from John DiIulio. Messers Claybourn and Ruffini, among others, have already given it a once over. However, the tone of the letter is of a neolib frustrated by conservatives. This is the big paragraph that many commentators have hit upon
This gave rise to what you might call Mayberry Machiavellis-staff, senior and junior, who consistently talked and acted as if the height of political sophistication consisted in reducing every issue to its simplest, black-and-white terms for public consumption, then steering legislative initiatives or policy proposals as far right as possible. These folks have their predecessors in previous administrations (left and right, Democrat and Republican), but, in the Bush administration, they were particularly unfettered.
Unfortunately, good retail politics works just that way; make your arguments simple and try to more the debate in your direction. Complex arguments might look neat in a white paper, but don't make great sound bites on the evening news. However, an earlier quote comes closer to Dilulio's complaint
Besides the tax cut, which was cut-and-dried during the campaign, and the education bill, which was really a Ted Kennedy bill, the administration has not done much, either in absolute terms or in comparison to previous administrations at this stage, on domestic policy. There is a virtual absence as yet of any policy accomplishments that might, to a fair-minded non-partisan, count as the flesh on the bones of so-called compassionate conservatism. There is still two years, maybe six, for them to do more and better on domestic policy, and, specifically, on the compassion agenda. And, needless to say, 9/11, and now the global war on terror and the new homeland and national security plans, must be weighed in the balance.
True, but Republicans don't have much more of a domestic policy than what you just mentioned. To tweak the old Bob Novak line, God put Republicans on the planet to cut taxes and to hold down government spending. Other than cutting taxes, the core Republican policy is to keep the Democrats from spending more money. True education reform was blocked by the liberals for their public-school teachers-union allies, as was the faith-based stuff, when liberals balked at allowing charities to have religious standards for hiring employees. However, the Republicans got their tax cuts passed, which makes it a solid first two years. Here's another paragraph that shows the difference between the Republicans and Dr. DiIulio
During the campaign, for instance, the president had mentioned Medicaid explicitly as one program on which Washington might well do more. I co-edited a whole (boring!) Brookings volume on Medicaid; some people inside thought that universal health care for children might be worth exploring, especially since, truth be told, the existing laws take us right up to that policy border. They could easily have gotten in behind some proposals to implement existing Medicaid provisions that benefit low-income children. They could have fashioned policies for the working poor. The list is long. Long, and fairly complicated, especially when-as they stipulated from the start-you want to spend little or no new public money on social welfare, and you have no real process for doing meaningful domestic policy analysis and deliberation. It’s easier in that case to forget Medicaid refinements and react to calls for a “PBOR,” patients’ bill of rights, or whatever else pops up. [italics added]
The administration wasn't interest in bigger government, which would frustrate a neoliberal who could make a case for a bit more government spending on their pet projects. This prompts him to lash out at the conservatives and libertarians who would block the president from moving as far left as he would like
Some are inclined to blame the high political-to-policy ratios of this administration on Karl Rove. Some in the press view Karl as some sort of prince of darkness; actually, he is basically a nice and good-humored man. And some staff members, senior and junior, are awed and cowed by Karl’s real or perceived powers. They self-censor lots for fear of upsetting him, and, in turn, few of the president’s top people routinely tell the president what they really think if they think that Karl will be brought up short in the bargain. Karl is enormously powerful, maybe the single most powerful person in the modern, post-Hoover era ever to occupy a political advisor post near the Oval Office. The Republican base constituencies, including beltway libertarian policy elites and religious right leaders, trust him to keep Bush “43” from behaving like Bush “41” and moving too far to the center or inching at all center-left. Their shared fiction, supported by zero empirical electoral studies, is that “41” lost in ’92 because he lost these right-wing fans. There are not ten House districts in America where either the libertarian litany or the right-wing religious policy creed would draw majority popular approval, and, most studies suggest, Bush “43” could have done better versus Gore had he stayed more centrist, but, anyway, the fiction is enshrined as fact. Little happens on any issue without Karl’s okay, and, often, he supplies such policy substance as the administration puts out. Fortunately, he is not just a largely self-taught, hyper-political guy, but also a very well informed guy when it comes to certain domestic issues. (Whether, as some now assert, he even has such sway in national security, homeland security, and foreign affairs, I cannot say.)
Bush 41 lost in 1992 in large part due to flip-flopping on taxes, both losing support on the right and with swing voters. I'd think you'd have at least 100 districts where a religious conservative agenda would beat a generic liberal, for you have at least that many congressmen who would follow that "right-wing religious policy creed." The "right wing" isn't as far to the right as he would like to think. This comes across as polite sour grapes in that Dubya wasn't a malleable as his father was and that he actually wants to govern as a conservative.

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