PUTTING THE LAME IN LAME-DUCK…. Ryan Avent considers what could have been.

[George W. Bush] very easily could have asked Congress to send him a stimulus bill, even a modest one, amid an intensification of what will likely be the worst recession in thirty years, if not longer. It would have made a difference. It would have made the season a little more bearable for the growing numbers of unemployed, and it would have made Obama’s task a little less daunting.

Instead, he’s spending his waning days weakening environmental rules, helping his cronies get jobs in the professional bureaucracy, and preparing his pardons. What a stupid, despicable man. History can’t judge him too cruelly.

I am, not surprisingly, sympathetic to this perspective. But reading it reminded me of something: for all the talk in far-right circles about Bush not being conservative enough, some of his most painful disasters came because he refused to stray from his conservative ideas.

This is probably a little too casual an analysis, but it seems this touches on one of the more glaring differences between Bush and Reagan — both instinctually backed conservative ideas driven entirely by far-right ideology, but Reagan reversed course when those ideas failed. Bush didn’t.

When Reagan’s tax cuts didn’t work, he reversed course and approved significant tax increases (several times). When Reagan’s antagonism towards the Soviets didn’t work, he reversed course and compromised on arms control.

But Bush, with very few exceptions, could never own up to his errors.

Right now, he has nothing to lose by accepting a stimulus package, except his ideological pride. So it doesn’t happen, no matter how much it might help. His approach to the economy has been a spectacular failure, and when given a chance to go in a different direction, Bush has decided on a legacy of consistency, instead of success.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.