The Washington Times - May 5, 2009, 01:09PM


Having always admired former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, I was enthused at the thought of him leading the kickoff of a new effort by Republicans to reclaim what they think the party and its leadership have lost. Yet, like most conservatives, former President Ronald Reagan is also another great leader I admire. So when Jebby threw “The Great Communicator” (and conservative principles) under the bus by remarking that it’s time to give up on the “nostalgia” of the Reagan era, my enthusiasm waned. The dial on my conservative-cool meter went down a few notches for Jebby.

A familiar running joke about Republicans is that they are quick to “eat their young.” And although President Barack Obama has more undercarriage ornaments adorning his bus as of late, this recent stunt by Governor Bush and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, lends more credence to that notion. Not because Romney slammed Governor Sarah Palin in his interview with CNN’s John King. In fact, I don’t believe Romney actually meant any real ill-will toward Gov. Palin, he’s just bad at on-the-spot jokes. But it’s because they are feeding into the frenzy and taking the bait by allowing themselves to be sucked into the mainstream media’s obsession with dividing the party. It’s not the media’s job to appoint a Republican “leader,” or tell conservatives that they are “too conservative” for their own party. That’s for the party leaders, activists and voters to decide. When was the last time Democrats were in the minority, you heard the media tell the Democratic Party to tweak their “too liberal” ideals or let go of those looney lefties corrupting their party? Yet, Republicans fall for it hook-line-and-sinker, without reservation or apology. 

And now they seem more than willing to throw (God rest his soul) Ronald Reagan under the bus. And I’m scratching my head for a reason why. In the pursuit to “update” the party’s principles (a noble cause no doubt), just what is so abhorrent about reminding folks of what has worked in the past, why Reagan was actually successful, and why certain core principles will always be in vogue no matter whose in power? Ronald Reagan (who I was too young to vote for) is a hero. And heros leave legacies to championed not trampled on. In fact, what the economy could use right now, is a little more Reaganomics and little less socialism. 

It was Reagan who reminded us that:

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

The new group’s core issues - the economy, health care, energy, education and security - aren’t new. Supposedly, its approach at tackling them and ability to successfully communicate them, will be. Yet nowhere on its website do I see where that includes taking swipes at one another. To be sure, there are enough shining personalities and rising GOP stars to go around. They don’t have to tear down one to elevate the other. It’s a big tent party, all the swollen heads can fit, I assure you. Thus, I would implore Republicans, for the sake of seeking solutions to these pressing issues (and recapturing independents, moderates and conservatives), check the egos at the door.

While it is routinely agreed that in light of the recent election failures some tweaking is necessary in order for new party leadership to emerge, acknowledging what has and hasn’t worked, can only make the party stronger. Tearing one another down will only make them weaker. Accepting what new ideals might offer (without throwing out the baby) and highlighting pockets of promise across the nation are also key. Of note: Republicans are doing well in Blue Dog states like Connecticut where Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd is already in a battle-royal in his bid for re-election. Democrats who have done well in Southern states, have done so because they’ve run on pro-life, pro-gun platforms that buck the national party’s agenda. Furthermore, a majority of the American populist still veer center right and it’s why President Obama is now trying to convince us (with a straight face) that he really doesn’t want to be in the car ownership business (because despite his great personal appeal, his policies don’t garner the same enthusiasm).

If the new Republicans really want to “hear” what Americans are saying, they should also spend more time “listening” and speaking out at events like the D.C. School Choice Scholarship rally tomorrow, or the National Day of Prayer on Wednesday. Because while these social issues may not be “popular” with some in the media or those on the left, they are just as core to the party as the foreign policy, fiscal and pragmatic issues of the day. Each has its proper place.

As for Jebby? My mother always taught me that if you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all. So while I’m still a fan, that’s all I’ll say.

-Tara Wall is an editor at The Washington Times and editor of