Thursday, March 30, 2006

Stephen Colbert and Bruce Bartlett

Bruce Bartlett was a Treasury official in the Reagan administration, and he calls himself a "Reagan conservative" with the same fervor that some Christians call themselves "born again."
However, he has just written a book called Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy, in which he points out the glaringly obvious: George W. Bush is not following in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan. Ron Reagan, Jr., has said it quite directly. He also points out the equally obvious: George W. Bush isn't doing a great job as President, even if he really is trying his best; he's doing a terrible job. Bartlett was the guest on Wednesday's Colbert Réport.

I've only just started into Impostor, and I've already got a few bones to pick. Right there on page one — literally — Bartlett starts in creating his straw man: the wild-eyed liberal who makes Ted Kennedy or Ken Livingstone or George Galloway or just about anyone to the right of Che Guevara look like a mossback. Specifically,

Philosophically, [George W. Bush] has more in common with liberals, who see no limits to state power as long as it is used to advance what they think is right.
Oh, give it a rest, Bruce! Show me one American voter who actually believes that there are no limits to state power. Just one. Anybody — doesn't even have to be a politician, just has to be a voter. I challenge you. I'll save you a little trouble by shooting down some of the answers that are on the tips of too many tongues right now:
  • Hillary Clinton: clearly believes in limits to state power. Seriously, even if she would want it for herself, she would never be willing to leave that kind of power after she's done with it. Just imagine another Bill Clinton coming along with that kind of power, and you'll see that Hillary would never go for it.

  • Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías: seriously, no. Besides the fact that he's not an American, not even he is that far left. Yes, he has delusions of grandeur, thinking he's anywhere even close to the top of Bush's hit list, but he doesn't believe in absolutely unlimited government power. Ditto Ken Livingstone. Fidel Castro is certainly that far loony-left, but he's not a U.S. citizen; Janet Reno made him go home when he secretly applied for asylum in Miami. Besides that, he's not motivated by what he thinks is right, any more than Saddam was. Castro is motivated by what keeps him in power and by what frustrates or embarrasses the United States. Arthur Scargill is that far loony-left, but he's not American.

  • Al Gore, Bill Clinton, John Edwards, John Kerry, Bob Kerrey, Howard Dean,, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, Daily Kos, Atrios, Charlie Rose, Joe Lieberman (don't make me laugh — he's right-of-center, certainly within the Democrats!), Helen Thomas, etc.: you can't pretend for an instant that any of those people believes in unlimited government power.
Okay, but enough about the book. What about the appearance on The Colbert Réport? Here are a couple of snips of the interview.
Q: I'm a little angry at you, sir. You have written a book called Impostor: [...]. Well, I guess you know something about betrayal, sir, because you're betraying our President right now. Where do you get off saying that Bush isn't Reagan? Didn't you see Reagan's funeral? He is Reagan; he practically wore a Reagan mask.

A: No, Reagan was from California; he's from Texas.

Q: He's from America, sir. He is America. What do you mean by this: "bankrupted America"?

A: Well, he's spent an awful lot of money we don't have.

Q: That's because we have tax cuts. Are you saying we should raise taxes, sir? Is that what you're saying? 'Cause I will cut off your mic.

A: Well, then, I won't say that. We used to have a word in the 80's: revenue enhancement. We may need some of those down the road, I think.

Q: What's the problem? Did deficits — Ronald Reagan certainly had no problem with deficits, Cheney said there's no reason to be afraid of deficits — what's wrong with deficits?

A: Well, I think in the long run you just have to pay for the government spending that you have.

Q: Let your kids pay for it.
It goes on from there, but you get the sense of the interview, and the utter brilliance of Stephen Colbert. I'm still reeling from Stephen's comeback victory against the brutal Russ Lieber the other day.

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