Pick Your Bush

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, November 14, 2007; 12:58 PM

The battle over the federal budget is turning out to be a contest between two opposing views of President Bush: Is he a guardian of fiscal responsibility or a negligent spendthrift?

Peter Baker writes in The Washington Post: "A budget dispute erupted into a full-scale battle Tuesday as President Bush vetoed the Democrats' top-priority domestic spending bill and the party's Senate leader threatened to withhold war funding if the president does not agree to pull out of Iraq.

"The long-anticipated clash came to a head as Bush rejected a $606 billion bill to fund education, health and labor programs, complaining that it is too expensive and is larded with pork. Within hours, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) declared that Bush will not get more money to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year unless he accepts a plan to complete troop withdrawals by the end of next year."

Bush, Baker writes, is "casting himself as a deficit hawk blocking a tax-and-spend Congress. Democrats are seeking to paint Bush as a reckless leader who spent the nation deep into debt through failed war policies while ignoring schools, medical research and other vital areas."

Noam N. Levey and James Gerstenzang write in the Los Angeles Times that even as he vetoed the domestic bill, "which would have increased spending on these programs by 4.3% over last year, Bush signed a $471-billion defense appropriations bill that pushed up military spending by more than 9.5%.

"And he urged Congress to quickly appropriate $196 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."

As for Bush's attack on pork, Levey and Gerstenzang write: "The critique is a new one this year for a president who inherited a budget surplus and presided in his first six years over deficits that have ballooned the national debt to more than $9 trillion.

"Since 2001, Bush signed at least 50 spending bills passed by Republicans that exceeded his budget requests, according to House Appropriations Committee records. He did not veto a single one.

"Nor did he veto any bills to protest the explosion of earmarks under Republican Congresses."

Here is the text of Bush's speech yesterday. He had this to say about Democrats: "I'm not saying these aren't good people; they are. They just have a different point of view. Instead of trusting in the judgment of the people, they trust in the judgment of the federal government. They believe in a federal solution to every problem -- and somehow, that solution always seems to include raising your taxes.

"Congress now sitting in Washington holds this philosophy. The majority was elected on a pledge of fiscal responsibility, but so far it's acting like a teenager with a new credit card."

Kevin Drum blogs for the Washington Monthly: "I don't think anyone seriously believes that Bush really cares about the earmarks in this bill. Basically, he seems to have decided that the only way to stay relevant is to veto stuff. Within the borders of the United States, it's pretty much the only influence he has left. Democrats don't care about him, Republicans wish he'd go away, and the American public is bored with his snooze-inducing speeches. What else can he do to attract attention?

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