I know, I know, you’re bored to tears with Janet’s breast. So am I. But Mark Steyn, writing in the London Telegraph, has something new to say. He says we should change the subject: from Janet’s busted bodice to G.W. Bush’s, whose $2.5 trillion federal budget is loaded with goodies for everyone from old folks to dance troupes. I can’t help but agree with Steyn:
“This is a political column, and in the normal course of events some fifth-rate entertainer’s breast awkwardly sticking out from her hideous costume with the nipple poking up through some sort of miniature hub cap would not normally fall within my remit.
“Except that it does. Because the federal government is launching a ‘thorough’ investigation into Janet Jackson’s right breast. ‘I think the FCC is being pretty silly about investigating this,’ said Howard Dean, the has-been Vermonter. ‘I’m probably affected in some ways by the fact that I’m a doctor, so it’s not exactly an unusual phenomenon for me.’
“Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d type: I’m with Howard Dean on this one. I hasten to add that, alas, breasts are a more unusual phenomenon for me, but I’m generally all in favor of them: I enjoy them when they turn up on BBC costume dramas and when you’re driving through France enjoying the topography and they pop up on billboards so you can enjoy the topoffgraphy. There’s something to be said for the relaxed Continental approach to nudity. There’s nothing to be said for the hollow joyless mechanical pop culture trash of the Super Bowl show: It was sleazy and worthless when it was fully clothed….
“Let us now turn from the breast shot heard of around the world to the president’s $2.5 trillion budget. Do you know what a trillion is? Don’t bother. If you buy a calculator from Staples, you can’t get enough zeroes on the screen. But here’s one way to look at it: President Bush plans to blow more of your money in the coming year than the first 25 presidents of the United States spent combined, even after adjusting for inflation. In other words, the budget, like Janet, is bustin’ its bodice.
“And, like the investigation by the Federal Nipple Police, most of it’s a waste of time and money. Never mind the president’s sudden generosity toward the National Endowment for the Arts, an agency Republicans once dreamed of abolishing. Did you know that a couple of weeks ago the president signed an $820 billion appropriations bill that, among other boondoggles, puts the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland on the public dime? That’s right: rock ‘n’ roll — the most ruthlessly corporate industry in the world — apparently requires the tax dollars of America’s widows and spinsters.”
And in today’s Wall Street Journal, Brendan Miniter sounds a similar budget alarm, mentioning the unmentionable: that while G.W. has laudably cut taxes, his failure to control, nay, his administration’s contributions to out-of-control spending may is alienating at least some of his Reagan-Republican base:
“Conservatives–never all that comfortable with the moderates of the party anyway–are starting to shift in their chairs, and many would leave if they had a place to go. Larger deficits will mean it will be harder to make the tax cuts permanent. And large deficits are also a sign that little is being done to rein in the federal bureaucracy. That’s not a small thing. And an aggressive regulatory state can be even more oppressive than a high-tax one.
“Clearly President Bush’s accomplishments are not small. He’s delivered big tax cuts, and he’s been excellent on national security. Democrats, however, will hit hard on domestic issues, trying to convince voters that the Republicans have now become the out-of-touch, free-spending party. It’s a message many Reaganites are echoing themselves.”
So openly worried now are many conservative scribes about W.’s spending habits that a debate has been raging for days on National Review’s blog The Corner over whether it’s Bush-patriotic even to criticize the president in print or online in an election year. Bush-critics NR editor Rich Lowry and other NR-ites say yes; Bush defender John Podhoretz says no, shut up and present a united front. It’s the hottest debate in the blogosphere.
For my part, I say lay it on. Like Steyn I’m worried, because not only is all the Bush spending not likely to buy the votes it’s aimed at, but in these terror-troubled days, we need to spend not broadly but smart. Here’s how Steyn puts it:
“A government with its fingers in every pie is unlikely to have enough left over for the handful of pies it should have its fingers in. It was summed up by Americans’ only glimpse of the president on the morning of 9/11: the commander-in-chief being informed of the first attack on the American mainland in nearly 200 years while he was speaking to grade-schoolers in Florida. That image encapsulates everything that’s wrong with both parties’ approach to government.
“As we learned in the days after, because of incompatible computers, the FBI was unable to e-mail pictures of the 9/11 killers to local offices. Yet there’s money for rock ‘n’ roll nostalgia, and an ’indoor rain forest’ in Iowa. The president should not be the National School Superintendent, the Pharmacist-in-Chief, the Curator of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or the Inspector-General of Janet Jackson’s Breasts. And, if neither politicians nor the electorate understands that at a time of war, then republican government is doomed.”