"When George W. Bush first came on the scene in 2000, did you understand him to be a liberal in terms of spending?...Is that what Mr. Bush meant by compassionate conservatism?"
Before anyone hits me over the head with 9/11 and Iraq, I should point out that most of the spending increases have NOT come in defense, so 9/11 and Iraq are irrelevant to the spending issue.
I will buy the argument that Congress is responsible for a lot of the spending. However, Bush has signed off on everything the Congress has sent to him. At what point do we hold him accountable?
Remember Truman's "The buck stops here"? Apparently, Bush doesn't remember it.
There are three ways to look at Bush: One is that he is in the awkward position of having to defend his party's legislators, even as they spend like horny guys in a strip joint; or, two, Bush actually approves of the spending which is happening; or, three, a combination of the first two. I think it is number three, which does not bode well for the American public.
Back to Peggy Noonan's question: I think liberal spending was EXACTLY what Bush meant by compassionate conservatism. Unfortunately, the rest of us were hoodwinked by his little phrase.