Tony Blankley

The Republican Party must break with its long-established cautious instincts and make a bold stand for first principles of freedom and constitutional limitations on government -- from full repeal of Obamacare to rolling back multitrillion-dollar deficits. This is not so much reproach of past Republican conduct as it is recognition of new opportunities.

The post-World War II conservative movement was born in the shadows of towering liberalism. As a result, when conservatism intermittently gained political power via the Republican Party, there were practical limits to how much liberalism they could plausibly try to dismantle. I know -- I was there with the Goldwater campaign and with the Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich governing efforts.

For example, in 1982, Reagan's Department of Education (where I was deputy assistant secretary for public affairs) tried to dismantle the Department of Education. But we could not find even one Republican member of the House Education and Labor Committee to introduce our bill.

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A dozen years later, when Speaker Gingrich (for whom I was press secretary) again proposed killing the Department of Education, the opposition (even among Republicans) was so powerful across the country that further effort became futile.

There has been a strong national presumption of legitimacy for most of the statist programs, policies and rulings introduced by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon Baines Johnson and the Supreme Court. To challenge them drew sneering ridicule, not just from the usual liberal suspects, but from most mainstream Republican voters.

Creeping statism simply had become normative. A politician who, for example, called for strict adherence to the 10th Amendment was marginalized and rejected as a crank by both American politics and American culture.

As a result, Reagan, Gingrich and the conservatives who supported them could, by and large, only slow down the growth of government. The only major reversal of statist policy we gained was the 1996 reform of welfare -- and that only after two vetoes by President Clinton.

Tony Blankley

Tony Blankley, a conservative author and commentator who served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich during the 1990s, when Republicans took control of Congress, died Sunday January 8, 2012. He was 63.

Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.

In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.

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