Monday, November 26, 2012

Mea Culpa!

Conservative Bruce Bartlett @ American Conservative writes a fascinating "I told you so" & "Mea Culpa" combo:
I know that it’s unattractive and bad form to say “I told you so” when one’s advice was ignored yet ultimately proved correct. But in the wake of the Republican election debacle, it’s essential that conservatives undertake a clear-eyed assessment of who on their side was right and who was wrong. Those who were wrong should be purged and ignored; those who were right, especially those who inflicted maximum discomfort on movement conservatives in being right, ought to get credit for it and become regular reading for them once again.

I’m not going to beat around the bush and pretend I don’t have a vested interest here. Frankly, I think I’m at ground zero in the saga of Republicans closing their eyes to any facts or evidence that conflict with their dogma. Rather than listen to me, they threw me under a bus. To this day, I don’t think they understand that my motives were to help them avoid the permanent decline that now seems inevitable.

For more than 30 years, I was very comfortable within the conservative wing of the Republican Party. I still recall supporting Richard Nixon and Barry Goldwater as a schoolchild. As a student, I was a member of Young Republicans and Young Americans for Freedom at the height of the Vietnam War, when conservatives on college campuses mostly kept their heads down.

In graduate school, I wrote a master’s thesis on how Franklin Roosevelt covered up his responsibility for the Pearl Harbor attack—long a right-wing obsession. My first real job out of graduate school was working for Ron Paul the first time he was elected to Congress in a special election in 1976. (He lost that same year and came back two years later.) In those days, he was the only Tea Party-type Republican in Congress.

After Paul’s defeat, I went to work for Congressman Jack Kemp and helped draft the famous Kemp-Roth tax bill, which Ronald Reagan signed into law in 1981. I made important contributions to the development of supply-side economics and detailed my research in a 1981 book, Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.

After Reagan’s victory, I chose to stay on Capitol Hill, where I was staff director for the Joint Economic Committee and thought I would have more impact. I left to work for Jude Wanniski’s consulting company in 1984, but missed Washington and came back the following year. Jude was, of course, the founding father of supply-side economics, the man who discovered the economists Robert Mundell and Arthur Laffer and made them famous.

I went to work for the Heritage Foundation, but left in 1987 to join the White House staff. I was recruited by Gary Bauer, who was Reagan’s principal domestic policy adviser. Gary remains well known among religious conservatives. Late in the administration I moved over to the Treasury Department, where I remained throughout the George H.W. Bush administration.

Afterwards I worked for the Cato Institute and the National Center for Policy Analysis, a conservative think tank based in Dallas. I wrote regularly for the Wall Street Journal editorial page, National Review, and other conservative publications. For 12 years I wrote a syndicated column that ran in the Washington Times, Investor’s Business Daily, the New York Sun, and other conservative newspapers.

I supported George W. Bush in 2000, and many close friends served in high-level administration positions. I was especially close to the Council of Economic Advisers and often wrote columns based on input and suggestions from its chairmen, all of whom were friends of mine. Once I even briefed Vice President Dick Cheney on the economy.

But as the Bush 43 administration progressed, I developed an increasingly uneasy feeling about its direction. Its tax policy was incoherent, and it had an extremely lackadaisical attitude toward spending. In November 2003, I had an intellectual crisis.