It was nice to hear Jim Gilmore talk today and sound like a real, from-the-heart conservative. It's not that the Big Three don't sound like conservatives. They do, and in some ways, they all three are (you know, on some issues), but Gilmore just feels like the real deal.
I can't help but listen to a guy who made a name for himself opposing a car tax against Democrat and Republican opposition alike when he was governor of Virginia. And, who was chairing a commission on domestic terror threats, recommending government actions, a couple years before 9/11 hit.
Chaired by former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, this congressionally mandated commission functioned from 1999 to 2003. Five reports were presented to Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and the entire Congress each December 15th from 1999 – 2003. Of the Gilmore Commission's 164 recommendations, 146 have been adopted in whole or in part by the Congress and the federal government.
"There's no real conservative in the race," Gilmore said of the Big Three, and he's counting on bloggers and other Internet entities to talk about him when the rest of the media won't, which is why he sat down with a group of bloggers Tuesday in D.C.
Gilmore said he recognizes bloggers and other forms of New Media as a way to get around the old boys' club and "communicate directly with the people." He'd like to take that capability all the way to the White House, he said:
"When I become president, I would like to think about the way we communicate with the American people...needing to communicate on an hourly basis with the press...the truth is that the liberation of the Internet allows you to speak to the people. Why don't we do a blog and communicate with the American people?"A President with a blog. The medium obviously poses problems and risks for high-profile folks who are focused on pure message control, but he's right that you can't beat the medium for communicating important information quickly and efficiently to a whole bunch of people. It was in that context that Gilmore's thought about a presidential blog came up.
He recalled his response to 9/11-- he was governor when the Pentagon was hit. He needed to be in touch with local and regional first-responders, the media and Virginia citizens on a running basis, all day long. He used several press conferences and a TV appearance to do it, but he noted that it would have been helpful to put pertinent information up on a blog that day.
Improved communications between federal government and local and regional first-responders and among those first-responders themselves is one of the points the Gilmore Commission focused on in its largely ignored pre-9/11 reports, he said.
"It wasn't ignored-- not after the 9/11 attack. It was just ignored before 9/11/."
He ran through a description of the commission reports:
The first year, in 1999, we asessed the threat...Y2K was what people
were thinking about; Monica Lewinsky is what people were thinking
about...no one was thinking about terrorism domestically."
"We said, 'the likelihood of an attack on this country is extremely high. We have to have a national plan."
2000: "National strategy still needed."
2001: "There's still not a national strategy. We'll write it for you. What the heck?"
He noted there are still improvements that need to be made in response plans for homeland security. I'll run through a couple of questions from bloggers at the blogger briefing today:
"We didn't know we could actually make a campaign until 2006 and we didn't decide to do it until late 2006. George Allen was gonna be in the race. Mark Warner was gonna be in the race. How many Virginians can you run for President?"
"It became clear there was not gonna be a conservative in the race who could win."
"I've got a good national consultant...I've got people who stand ready to help me in some of the key primary states."
Part of his strategy, he said, is to rely on conservatives with blogs who will get word out about him when the other three are sucking up TV time.
Jack Yoest: When you were governor of Virginia, you had a mostly pro-life staff and appointed good judges. What would you do as president?
"No one in this race..has a better track-record in service of the pro-life community than I do."
Tim Chapman: Why did Republicans lose in '06?
"Because the American people lost faith in the party...They concluded majorities were more important (to Republicans) than the policies we ran on. We Republicans created an image that we were in it for ourselves."
"I think the Iraq war was a serious issue in this campaign. It wasn't that they wanted to do what the Democrats want...but the American people wanted to see some sense of direction and they weren't getting that from Republicans."
What about convincing the American people that the War on Terror is worth it?
"We protect this homeland and get it prepared...which we have not done."
"There are not any guarantees that there will not be an attack, but we'll be able to deal with that attack appropriately."
"We are on defense, here. They're the ones who want to come after us."
"We just have to deal with these people."
"We must not allow the Arab street to rally to them (extremists)."
MKH: What do you think about post-Bush Southern white guy fatigue and the effect it might have on your campaign?
"I think that it's an asset. The Republican Party has to be at home in the South and Southerners have got to be at home with the Republican Party. That being said, I don't want anyone here to think that I'm a regional type of guy."
"You can't escape your Southern culture and I'm rather proud of it., but I've never been in a narrow place in my life-- the University of Virginia is very urbane."
"I'm at home everywhere as long as I have th opp to explain to people everywhere that conservative principles are the best...The advantage we have is that our principles are universal."
He touted his military service and the time he spent in Germany, where he learned German.
On conservatism in the '08 race:
"We can still run a conservative race for the presidency in 2008. It doesn't look like it today, but there can still be a conservative race for the presidency in 2008. I think the moment is now. We can still do it."
There's been talk of a truly conservative Phoenix rising from the ashes of the Maverick, the Mormon, and the Mayor when conservative constituencies end up not responding enthusiastically to any of them. Could Gilmore be it? He has some bona fides--executive experience, fiscal and social-con cred, serious thinking on security, an RNC chairmanship-- and I think if this race hadn't started so soon, someone like him would have a chance to make himself known, speak impressively, endear himself, and take a good solid shot. But this race, as we've all seen, has kicked off a little earlier.
On the other hand, if conservatives hand a more conservative, less-known candidate the nomination, do they concede the race to Hill without the Rudy/McCain(and Romney to a lesser extent) star power? That's not an ultimate win for conservatism, is it? Tough choice.