“Personally, I’ve sometimes wondered whether “compassionate conservatism” came out, in effect, to big-government conservatism,” says Timothy Dalrymple. “I no longer think that’s the case. Although Bush expanded government spending, he often directed that spending in ways that did not further bloat the government bureaucracy but, instead, empowered churches and ministries and other organizations in the private sector to do their work.”
In an interview with Tim Goeglein, George W. Bush’s Deputy Director of the Office of Public Liaison, Dalrymple examines the the oft-misunderstood policy stance.
What do you say to those who assert that “compassionate conservatism” was code for “big-government conservatism”?
George W. Bush never spoke in code. George W. Bush is that rare politician—and I have worked in Washington for nearly twenty-five years, I’ve walked with the princes of this world—he is that rare politician who is the same in private as in public. He says what he means and means what he says.
Compassionate conservatism was not a euphemism or code. It represented, and represents, precisely who he was and is, as a result of his faith. It really was dramatized in George W. Bush’s visit (when he was Governor) to a prison in Texas where Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship had become very active. The President saw the results of their ministry, and the way that their work was impacting these otherwise-very-hardened criminals. A seed was planted. George W. Bush came to see that there was an absolutely critical role for faith-based and community groups. They were the “little platoons” doing the most important work. He resolved that when he came to the Oval Office, he would take that model or paradigm and apply it nationally.
Compassionate conservatism was George W. Bush’s character and it was his commitment. It was not code or an effort to be clever.