President George Herbert Walker Bush’s domestic policy stands in vivid contrast to his foreign policy. While Bush’s stewardship in the latter area won him praise and popularity, many of his decisions in the domestic sphere brought criticism from both the left and right and proved politically disastrous, playing a key role in his 1992 election defeat.
Although some accuse Bush of disengagement and disinterest in domestic affairs, the prevailing opinion voiced by conference participants in this volume (many of whom served in his administration) is that the president’s policies here were characterized by a deep commitment to principle and pursuit of the public interest, even at the expense of political considerations. Indeed, many argue that the Bush administration pursued policies that were both well intentioned and ultimately successful, but failed to communicate them successfully to the public. While some of the blame for this lies with a hostile news media and simple bad luck (especially the economic downturn beginning in 1991), much of the responsibility appears to rest with President Bush himself, a man reluctant to tout his successes and sully himself in partisan political combat. Thus, the picture that emerges of George Bush is that of a decent, principled man whose accomplishments in the domestic arena were unfairly devalued and widely misunderstood.
The first two parts of this volume concern the most significant domestic controversies of the Bush administration, those involving the federal budget and economy. In each of these areas the central issue concerns the degree to which Bush was a victim of unfortunate circumstances (including a Democratic Congress, a sizable structural budget deficit, and economic recession) or politically inept (as in his decision to renege on his “no new taxes” pledge). In addition, chapters 1–5 and