Did Thornburgh really call for “moderation”?

The most recent Madonna and Young Political Uncorrected commentary claims that former Gov. Dick Thornburgh’s congressional testimony wasn’t about defending his client Cyril Wecht, who is under indictment from the Department of Justice or about accusing the Bush administration of only targetting Democrats in their investigations (excluding Jack Abramoff, former IL gov. George Ryan, Congressman Bob Ney, of course).

Rather, they claim his testimony was about Bush’s policies not being “moderate” enough:

Bush’s Justice Department may have been Thornburg’s subject, but Bush’s policies were his real object.

In tackling Bush policies, Thornburgh now stands as the token moderate in a party where moderates have been described as an endangered species. Ultimately this makes him a paradoxical figure; one of a large majority in a nation now tacking to the center, but also one of a distinct minority in a party whose presidential candidates are veering to the right.

But Thornburgh, out of step with his party, is in lock-step with the country. And he reminds what the GOP no longer seems to remember: to win elections, Republicans must inevitably move to the center or risk a rendezvous with electoral disaster it will rue for a political generation.

I’m not sure which policies Madonna and Young are talking about – but a “call to move to the center” is exactly the Karl Rove strategy which backfired on Bush and Republicans. In fact, many of the reasons Republicans lost in 2006 was because they were viewed as the party of “Big Government” . The mainstream media and, Moveon.org, and the like claim Bush and Congressional Republicans are all radical conservatives, which is one reason why Chris Voccio is launching a new newspaper in PA – starting off with a post titled George Bush, Liberal.

For further evidence, consider the records of Bush and Thornburgh on spending. David Lightman writes that Bush is the biggest spender since LBJ – with No Child Left Behind, the largest Medicare increase in history, the 2002 farm bill, and the 2005 Highway funding bill (complete with the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere”) fueling this spending binge. Steven Slivinski has crunched the spending numbers here.

In contrast, Gov. Thornburgh was – in terms of total spending – the most fiscally conservative administration in recent PA history. As the chart below illustrates, he saw the the smallest increase in inflation-adjusted spending; even less in 8 years than the first 4 years under Governor Rendell.