2012: The Lost Generation – Don’t Blame Bush

Philip Klein has a column in the Examiner titled: “Blame Bush if you don’t like the 2012 field.”

Though many on the Right were looking for a dream candidate in the mold of new stars such as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., with less than two weeks before Iowa, they’re stuck with a group of presidential candidates who are retreads from a different era, insufficiently conservative or implausible.

Though there are a number of reasons for this, the simplest explanation is that it’s a legacy of the Bush era. George W. Bush campaigned for president in 2000 as a “compassionate conservative” who believed in using government to promote social good.

He goes on:

Between 2001 and 2009, Republicans who were in the typical grooming positions for the presidency got coaxed into supporting Bush’s big government policies — all of which makes them less appealing to today’s Tea Party electorate.

Rick Santorum provides the perfect case study for Klein: As a “loyal soldier” in the Senate, Santorum “voted for the Medicare prescription drug plan, No Child Left Behind and a bloated highway bill among other big government initiatives.”  Adding insult to injury, Santorum lost his Senate seat in the anti-Bush wave of 2006.

Klein is half right.  Yes, anyone who served in Washington during the Bush years is tarnished by the agenda of “compassionate conservatism.”  And Bush (obviously) deserves a lot of the blame.

But Klein’s thesis leaves out the governors – and the leftward, large-government drift of the Republican leadership at the state level can’t be blamed on George W. Bush.

Surveying the field, the big-name Republican governors with the experience to run for President in 2012 all have their own big-government histories as well.  From 2001-2008, the Republican party at every level was dominated by politicians who sought government “solutions” in areas where the government has no business getting larger and more intrusive.  The most obvious examples are health care, cap-and-trade, “green jobs” programs and crony capitalism.

Mitt Romney is just the most obvious example with his health care plan.  But Tim Pawlenty embraced cap-and-trade and Rick Perry had a state-level incubator program that can only be described as crony capitalism.  Their states weren’t unique.

So Washington politicians were corrupted by the Bush agenda and state-level politicians were corrupted by… us.  We went along with this stuff.  We nominated the candidates with the windmills on their direct mail pieces and traded our ideology of free markets for a platform that called for “investments” in unproven technologies and “incentives” for well-connected businesses.

Here’s what we’re left with as we head into Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina:

1. Republicans need to admit that the entire field is flawed.  Every candidate is susceptible to the “gotcha” game when we compare records over the past decade.

2. Therefore, this election is about trust: Who do we trust to stand strong moving forward?  Very simply, who will make the best President?

Finally, Republicans can take solace in the fact that we’re in the process of electing a new generation of post-Bush leadership.  They didn’t have the experience to make a run in 2012, but Senators Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Marco Rubio, Governors Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal and Scott Walker and scores of Representatives in Congress came into office on a wave of reform that demanded free markets, smaller government and a less intrusive state.

It’s now our job to make sure they don’t suffer the same fate of the Rick Santorums of the Bush era.

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