I watched some of last night’s debate, and agree that Cheney outperformed his opponent. But something kept bothering me about the whole event, and I suspect it’s a foreshadowing of the nausea I’m likely to experience if I watch the second Bush-Kerry tussle. Much of the debate--at least the part about domestic policy--seemed to go something like this:
Gwen Ifill: As you know, X is a matter of concern for many Americans. How do you intend to approach this matter?
Cheney: The president and I are very much concerned with X, and we’ve spent Y billion dollars in dealing with it.
Edwards: This administration has been woefully negligent in handling X. John Kerry and I have a plan to spend 2Y billion dollars on it.
Over at the Washington Post (hat tip to Real Clear Politics), Anne Applebaum reminds us that it was only ten years ago--although it seems much longer--Newt Gingrich led the GOP in capturing the House, promising to reduce the size and scope of government and to rein in the massive federal budget. And, of course, it’s been even less time since Bill Clinton announced that the "era of Big Government" was over. Sure, it was rhetoric, but even that seems to be more than what we’re getting in this election year.
Of course, this isn’t leading me to support Kerry. Given the choice between spending Y and 2Y on domestic projects, I’ll go with Y every time. And Kerry’s attacks on the administration for running up the national debt are laughable, given how much he’s proposing to spend, while at the same time offering further tax cuts to the middle class (I wouldn’t hold my breath for those, incidentally). But it does seem to me that the Republican vision articulated so well by Ronald Reagan--that of government as the problem, rather than the solution--is well and truly dead.