Friday, August 24, 2007

Rove on Bush via Gerson

Michael Gerson interviews Karl Rove about "Bushism," of which Rove, like Gerson himself, is "the most serious, tireless advocate":

Rove argues that Republicans win as activist reformers, in the tradition of Lincoln, McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. "We were founded as a reformist party," he said in our conversation this week, "not to be against something, but to help the little guy get ahead." The models he cites are 401(k)s and the mortgage interest deduction—government policies that encouraged individual wealth and ownership. Then Rove spent several minutes describing, with wonkish delight, the momentum and virtues of health savings accounts, a Bush-era innovation allowing individuals to save tax-free for routine medical expenses.

The activist use of government to help individuals get ahead may not sound controversial. Among Republicans, it is. In the 1996 presidential election, Dole's domestic message focused on the limits and flaws of the federal government—he talked endlessly of the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, which constrains federal power in favor of the states. In 2000, Bush's main domestic proposal concerned the use of federal power to catalyze state education reform—a head-snapping contrast.

Related: "The Compassionate Conservatism of George W. Bush."