NORTH: Future leaders

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COMMENTARY:

ROME, Italy.

Our Fox News “War Stories” team is in the “Eternal City” making a documentary about World War II. From the headlines and news reports here, it seems like European clocks stopped in 1992 - when global media elites were giddy about the election of William Jefferson Blythe Clinton. Then, the potentates of the press were agog about “The End of History” and pundits waxed eloquent about a “New World Order.”

Today it’s all about how the election of Barack Hussein Obama and the appointment of Hillary Rodham Clinton as our secretary of state will assure a “progressive dynasty” in the United States and help sweep liberal governments to power around the globe. In short - the conservatives’ day is done. Or is it?

In 1994, Newt Gingrich, then a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Georgia, organized a Republican resurgence after the rout of ‘92. In a recent appearance on “Face the Nation,” Mr. Gingrich recounted, “I’ve been through the ‘64 collapse when the Republican Party was going to disappear, and the ‘74 Watergate collapse when the Republican Party was going to disappear, and the ‘92 defeat of President Bush. And in each case, I watched us within a short time focus on new ideas and new solutions, and within a very short time come back as a stronger and healthier party.”

According to the “experts” here in Europe and at home, the conservative message no longer resonates with the American electorate - or most Western democracies. Supposedly, we are in a new era of “redistributing wealth,” increasing demand for domestic government intervention and global economic interdependence.

Those who propound these ideas ignore history. No economic system has ever brought about prosperity by discouraging thrift. No society has succeeded in strengthening the weak by weakening the strong; or boosted wage earners by pulling down wage payers; or helped the poor by destroying the rich. It is impossible to keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn or to build character and courage by taking away initiative and independence. Nor has any government been able to help people permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.

These ideas are neither new nor mine. They are actually a paraphrase of the principles of governance applied by the first Republican president - Abraham Lincoln - in his campaign to preserve our Republic. Unspoken in Lincoln’s “platform” was his unequivocal stand against slavery. “Honest Abe’s” detractors believed his advocacy of abolition made him unelectable. They were wrong.

So too are contemporary critics like former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. She contends the Republican Party was “taken hostage” by “social fundamentalists” - meaning devout Christians who believe strongly in the sanctity of human life. What the GOP needs are more, not fewer, pro-life activists in its ranks.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal understands this dynamic - and is urging that his party look to his fellow state chief executives for future national leadership. He’s right. Gov. Sarah Palin’s pro-life, pro-Second Amendment message invigorated conservatives in this year’s presidential contest - making it a much closer race than it otherwise would have been.

But the Republicans can’t just fight for the White House. If Republicans want to make a difference, the party must not only have the right ideas - it must also run good candidates at every level - and particularly in the 2010 congressional races.

Today, only 129 members of Congress have served in our Armed Forces. Since the end of World War II, the ratio of veterans in Congress has been closer to 50:50. The GOP can fix that by reaching out to this generation’s best and bravest - the remarkable young Americans serving in our Armed Forces. They are all volunteers, part of the brightest, best-educated and most combat-experienced military any nation has ever had - and they don’t have illusions about how things are in the rest of the world.

From personal experience, they know America is one of a handful of places on Earth where you can drink water out of the tap or flick a light switch and the lights will come on. They are aware that in the United States you can go to a store and buy almost anything you want; that when you call the police you do not expect brutality to show up at your door.

The young men and women who have served our country in uniform know America is one of the rare places on the globe where you can get in a car and drive anywhere in the country with nothing more than a driver’s license and a credit card. They appreciate that every citizen has rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Military service has taught them that competence, courage, integrity, perseverance and compassion are rewarded. Those qualities make them natural leaders.

Recruiting them to fight for what’s right isn’t just political. For them, it’s personal. That would be good for all of us - even our friends here in Europe.

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