New ACU director takes aim at debt, poverty, big government

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NEWSMAKER INTERVIEW:

The American Conservative Union’s newly named executive director is setting an ambitious strategy, hoping to motivate and provide tools to conservatives that will help them reverse the growth of government, the mounting national debt and the spreading poverty he believes threaten the foundation of America’s freedoms.

“The very idea of America has not been in greater jeopardy since Woodrow Wilson was president,” said Dan Schneider, who left a prestigious post advising Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, this month to run the ACU and its annual Conservative Political Action Conference. “With the failure of Obamacare, people are scratching their heads. Right now, the American public is again starting to remember what freedom is.”

Mr. Schneider said he is impassioned about the opportunity to apply conservative values to solving America’s burgeoning problems with poverty and government dependence.

“The reason I’m a conservative is because I care about the poor. And our ideas are better at helping people who are impoverished and people in need to find ways to become self sufficient,” he told the Times.

Mr. Schneider believes the ACU, which hosts the largest annual gathering of conservatives in Washington each spring, is in a unique position to help conservatives reclaim the ideas agenda after years of failure.

For all its perceived influence, the American conservative movement has proved powerless to stop what its members see as an accelerating drift toward disaster. The next few years may be conservatism’s last chance — or last gasp — because Americans will have grown accustomed to depending on government instead of themselves under President Obama’s agenda, Mr. Schneider said in an interview with editors and reporters at The Washington Times.

At 47, with stints of practicing law and managing a private-sector mentoring firm under his belt, Mr. Schneider has spent much of his recent adult life in the obscure but critical role of helping top elected and appointed government officials such as Mr. McConnell and former Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao find competent, reliably conservative Republicans to fill important seats on federal boards and commissions.

“By law, there are over a hundred bipartisan boards and commissions with positions that the Senate minority leader gets to fill,” Mr. Schneider said. “I looked for the most aggressive, effective conservatives who will fight against the Obama agenda within the belly of Obama’s federal beast.”

One of the most divisive issues for conservatives has been military intervention abroad, and Mr. Schneider has strong sentiments about where the movement should go.

“Nation-building at the point of a barrel never works,” he said. “All you do is create more enemies, if that is your goal. When should we intervene? When our vital national security interests are at stake.”

But that is the criterion that interventionists and noninterventionists profess to follow.

Mr. Schneider acknowledged that it is a “more difficult calibration to make today than it was before globalization,” making it “trickier to find out if now is the time to act or not. But once you pull the trigger, you can’t put the bullet back in the gun.”

As for the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said that “in the Bush administration there was a belief we could promote democracy around the world. But not every society is open to democracy or capable of self-government. If the fundamental institutions within the society and fundamental beliefs are inconsistent with representational democracy, then how can a foreign power thousands and thousands of miles away force a government on people who are not interested in it?”

Managerial skills

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About the Author
Ralph Z. Hallow

Ralph Z. Hallow

Chief political writer Ralph Z. Hallow served on the Chicago Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Washington Times editorial boards, was Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Journalism at Northwestern University, resident at Columbia University Editorial-Page Editors Seminar and has filed from Berlin, Bonn, London, Paris, Geneva, Vienna, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Belgrade, Bucharest, Panama and Guatemala.

 

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