Two prominent reporters and political analysts, Fred Barnes and Steve Bartlett, have taken to task President George W. Bush. Barnes touts the view that the President isn’t merely a conservative but a radical conservative. Steve Bartlett insists that Bush has betrayed – yes, betrayed – the conservative cause. Other commentators are expressing almost every intermediate view. What is a poor Midwestern grown-up boy to think?
My friends, I should have known that Rush Limbaugh would have the answer. Last week on his broadcast, Rush said that Ronald W. Reagan thought of himself as the leader of a movement. In his Inaugural Addresses, in his State of the Union Addresses and in many other speeches, Ronald Reagan utilized the pronoun “we” and phrases such as “you and I together can…” By contrast, George W. Bush frequently speaks phrases such as “I will not cut out and run” or “I will not betray your trust” – in short, the first-person singular rather than the inclusive first-person plural.
Reagan, said Limbaugh, thought of himself as leading a movement. There were many people behind him ready to go around the established order. George W. Bush, on the other hand, sees himself more as a person who has kept his campaign promises. He has returned the White House to decency, returned 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to a place of honor and fulfilled as many campaign pledges as he has been able.
Limbaugh has a point. Each winter in Washington there is a conservative-movement gathering commonly called CPAC. It has grown to be a huge event. Several thousand young eager conservatives, seasoned citizens and those between gather at one of the few Washington hotels which can accommodate such a large crowd. An entire row is reserved for radio talk shows. Some stations broadcast live. When Reagan was Governor of California CPAC was much smaller – perhaps 800 attending the Friday evening banquet. But Reagan always was there. He did not miss speaking to this convention when he was Governor or when he was out of office, and he seldom missed keynoting as President from 1981 through 1988.
I say this as someone who himself did not always participate in CPAC. In retrospect it is surprising how faithful Ronald Reagan really was. At the time I looked upon Reagan’s speeches as a bit dull and uninteresting. He was feeding me principle. I was seeking action. Has George W. Bush spoken at any CPAC gathering? Does he feel the need to be there since, after all, he is not the leader of that movement?