Friday, February 20, 2009

Those Crazy Nixonian German Socialists

At AEI, Steven F. Hayward wishes he had seen Arnold Schwarzenegger's Nixon-like sellout of conservative orthodoxy coming five years ago:
In his prime-time speech to the Republican National Convention in New York in 2004, he went where no Republican has dared to go for the last generation: He offered enthusiastic praise for Richard Nixon. Newly arrived in the U.S. in 1968 as an aspiring bodybuilder, Schwarzenegger said, he found Nixon's views more compelling than Hubert Humphrey's "socialism" because Nixon "was talking about free enterprise, getting government off your back, lowering taxes, and strengthening the military. Listening to Nixon speak sounded more like a breath of fresh air." It was Nixon, never mistaken for a girly-man, who made him a Republican.

At the time I admired Arnold's moxie in embracing Nixon, whom most other Republicans have shoved down the same memory hole as Herbert Hoover. But perhaps we should have seen this as a portent of trouble ahead. After all, it was Nixon who proclaimed, "I am a Keynesian in economics" before slapping on wage and price controls and letting domestic social spending shoot up faster than it had under Lyndon Johnson. Like Nixon (and George W. Bush), in fiscal matters Arnold has governed more like a Keynesian than a Friedmanite; in regulatory affairs, he governs more like a German socialist than an Austrian-school liberal.

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