Yet even as he has assiduously courted the right on tax cuts, he has veered around the ideological map on other elements of his economic agenda, exhibiting what could be characterized as either political pragmatism or opportunism. He pursued expanded trade with other nations, but he also imposed temporary tariffs on imported steel. On one entitlement program, Social Security, he sought to reduce the role of government, but on another, Medicare, he embraced the biggest expansion in decades, a prescription drug benefit.
He railed against increased government spending, but signed an agriculture-subsidy bill portrayed by critics as a bloated giveaway to special interests. He championed deregulation, but signed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which created strict new oversight of corporate finance.