CLINTON vs. BUSH….A few days ago conservative economist Bruce Bartlett predicted that taxes would have to go up in the next couple of years and coyly left open the possibility that Democrats might do it more responsibly than Republicans.

Today he emails to say that I should be interested in his latest op-ed, which turns out to be yet another small step toward the dark side:

Conservatives should rethink the Clinton presidency….Bringing the federal budget into surplus is obviously an achievement….More important, from a conservative point of view, Mr. Clinton achieved his surplus in large part by curtailing spending….He even reduced the capital gains tax…entitlement spending also fell….Mr. Clinton signed welfare reform into law in 1996, the only time in American history when an entitlement program was abolished….Mr. Clinton was also steadfast in his support for free trade….On monetary policy, he reappointed Alan Greenspan….

By contrast, Mr. Clinton’s Republican successor has caused the surplus to evaporate, raised total federal spending by 1.6 percent of G.D.P., established a new entitlement program for prescription drugs and adopted the most protectionist trade policy since Herbert Hoover.

This is either (a) one very disillusioned conservative, or (b) a clever ploy to make sure there’s a Democrat in the White House when taxes are (inevitably) raised around 2006 or so. Or maybe a bit of both.

UPDATE: Brad DeLong also comments.