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At Conservative Forum on Bush, Everybody's a Critic

Bruce Bartlett, left, a frequent critic of the president, called the administration
Bruce Bartlett, left, a frequent critic of the president, called the administration "unconscionable" and "inept." (By Robert A. Reeder -- The Washington Post)

Bartlett certainly thought so. He began by predicting a big tax increase "to finance the inevitable growth of government that is in the pipeline that President Bush is largely responsible for." He also said many fellow conservatives don't know about the "quite dreadful" traits of the administration, such as the absence of "anybody who does any serious analysis" on policy issues.

Boaz assured the audience that he told the White House that "if there's a rebuttal to what Bruce has said, please come and provide it."

Instead, Sullivan was on hand to second the critique. "This is a big-government agenda," he said. "It is fueled by a new ideology, the ideology of Christian fundamentalism." The bearded pundit offered his own indictment of Bush: "complete contempt" for democratic processes, torture of detainees, ignoring habeas corpus and a "vast expansion of the federal government." The notion, he said, that the "Thatcher-Reagan legacy that many of us grew up to love and support would end this way is an astonishing paradox and a great tragedy."

The question period gave the two a chance to come up with new insults.

"If Bush were running today against Bill Clinton, I'd vote for Clinton," Bartlett served.

"You have to understand the people in this administration have no principles," Sullivan volleyed. "Any principles that get in the way of the electoral map have to be dispensed with."

Boaz renewed his plea. "Any Bush economists hiding in the audience?"

There was, in fact, one Bush Treasury official on the attendance roster, but he did not surface. The only man who came close to defending Bush, environmental conservative Fred Singer, said he was "willing to overlook" the faults because of the president's Supreme Court nominations. Even Richard Walker, representing the think tank that fired Bartlett, declined to argue. "I agree with most of it," he said later.

Unchallenged, the Bartlett-Sullivan tag team continued. "The entire intellectual game has been given away by the Republican president," said Sullivan. "He's a socialist in so many respects, a Christian socialist."

Bartlett argued that Richard Nixon "is the model for everything Bush is doing."

Sullivan said Karl Rove's political strategy is "pathetic."

Bartlett said that "the administration lies about budget numbers."

"He is not a responsible human being; he is a phenomenally reckless human being," Sullivan proclaimed. "There is a level of recklessness involved that is beyond any ideology."

"Gosh," Boaz interjected. "I wish we had a senior White House aide up here."


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