A fair number of presidents get called forth from the dead when commentators need an appropriate historical predecessor to Bush. Wilson is invoked for his foreign policy instincts, FDR for boldness, Reagan for ideological agreement, but you rarely hear the one guy who fits: Johnson. Lyndon, after all, presided over the country in almost exactly the same way as Bush, although his domestic programs had, err, slightly different aims. His massive spending to support the Great Society erased our financial flexibility, but he nevertheless kept the outlays up while embroiling us in the ever-more costly morass of Vietnam. And indeed, the Great Society was bold, visionary, and crazily expensive. After pancaking Goldwater in 1964, enough liberal Democrats swept in on his coattails that he could, for awhile, pass most any program he wished. At least he could until the end, until the end when the country's deficit and the international gold crisis forced him to pull troops from Vietnam and dollars from America's inner cities.

Similarly, Bush has insisted on an agenda bold enough to broadside Democrats. His congressional majorities are smaller, but the lockstep party unity renders them equivalent, and maybe even superior, to what Johnson controlled. His domestic programs -- namely NCLB and the Medicare expansion -- have fought with his tax cuts to see who could blow through federal funds quickest (revenues reductions are, at base, just another way for the government to spend). Meanwhile, he locked us into a conflict that looks costlier all the time, and did so with no heed for fiscal contradiction.

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