- The Washington Times - Friday, January 19, 2007

President Bush’s policies, including the Iraq war, have left the country in a “disastrous” state, according to several prominent conservatives.

The leaders, including current and former presidential candidates, outlined their objectives for a revival of conservatism during a panel discussion yesterday hosted by the Free Congress Foundation, a conservative Washington-based advocacy group. The leaders’ recommendations, covering economic, military and social policy, would be largely different from those implemented by the Bush administration.

“We disagree on a lot of things,” Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, said of Mr. Bush. Mr. Hunter is seeking his party’s 2008 presidential nomination on a platform of military expertise and a desire to confront China on economic and trade issues.

“We have a competition which is not free trade, it’s not fair trade, it’s rigged trade,” he said of the China’s trade tariffs, which many critics argue have hurt American businesses.

“The state of the union is disastrous,” said William Lind, president of the foundation’s Center for Cultural Conservatism. “We are fighting and losing two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Using language that at times mirrored that of liberal critics of Mr. Bush’s foreign policy, Mr. Lind said an interventionist U.S. foreign policy is creating, “a hostile relationship with the growing world.”

Former presidential candidate Gary Bauer was critical of Mr. Bush for what he described as the president’s failure to more deeply inspire Americans after September 11.

“The president made a colossal mistake after 9/11 by simply asking people to shop,” said Mr. Bauer, president of the conservative group American Values.

Some panelists did have kind words for the current administration.

Ambassador Henry F. Cooper, director of the Strategic Defense Initiative during the first Bush administration, praised Mr. Bush for backing out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which he said stood in the way of an American missile-defense program.

However, Mr. Cooper said he thinks “relatively limited progress has been made,” on other issues.

Mr. Hunter also praised what he called Mr. Bush’s record on fighting the war on terrorism.

“He was willing and he was aggressive,” he said of the White House’s response to the September 11 attacks. “He’s kept them off balance.”

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