The new RNC report proves that compassionate conservatism is back

And at its core, the report is a glimpse of the party Karl Rove and George W. Bush, assisted by figures like Fleischer and Gerson, sought to create starting in the late 1990s. This was the party in which George W. Bush was elected, but one whose message shifted dramatically on September 11, 2001. From there, Bush ran almost exclusively as a national security president, and by the time he began pitching elements of Social Security privatization in his second term, the move was a non-sequitur and came with none of the halo of compassion of the earlier Bush years. The Tea Party represented a wing of the party — which included some, but certainly not all, of Bush’s own aides — who saw the ostentatious push for “compassion” as a veneer over policies that ought, they thought, to triumph on the merits; and who believed that the contrast with President Barack Obama meant that the veneer was no longer needed. Romney’s private suggestion of a class war between 53% of makers and 47% of takers in the American economy represented a particularly pure version of that.

Now, the Republican National Committee is returning to Bush’s original vision. The question is which policies — and in particular, what vision for solving poverty — will accompany that push.