Conservatives will not absorb much blame for the Bush administration for the excellent reason that this administration was not particularly conservative. It was Bush, after all, who created a drug entitlement program, worked with Ted Kennedy to create a more nationalized education policy, declined for years to veto any spending programs, and doled out hundreds of billions in bailouts.Mirengoff concludes neo-cons will bear the blame if the Iraq invasion is not deemed a success over the long term (I believe it will be viewed positively once Bush is gone). But he acquits neo-cons on domestic issues:
But with the nation mired in an economic slump and still engaged in two wars, some ideology must take the fall. Accordingly, a scapegoat has been lined up: Neo-conservatism.
Neo-conservatives make convenient fall guys. They have long been despised by the left for having defected from their ranks, albeit decades ago, and even more unforgivably, for being right about the Cold War. And as former leftists, neo-cons have never been viewed warmly by certain elements of the right. Meanwhile, mainstream conservatives are just relieved to see the finger being pointed away from them.
Bush’s domestic policy was dominated not by neo-conservatism but by "compassionate conservatism." Compassionate conservatives believe, in Bush’s words, that "when somebody hurts, the government has got to move," but that the government should act less through its bureaucracies than through alternative private mechanism.
By contrast, neo-conservatives perceive no general imperative for government remedial activity. For them, the best reforms are usually ones that limit the government’s capacity to do harm. Welfare reform (implemented with the help of Bill Clinton) and the end of governmental race preference programs (opposed by George W. Bush) come to mind.