- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 18, 2010

Leaders of major conservative groups on Wednesday signed a manifesto vowing to push the country to return to constitutional principles, saying they’ve grown tired of having to accept government expansion at the hands of liberals.

“It’s our turn. We’ve had about enough of you. We’re going to take you on, and it’s time to defeat you,” said Mark Levin, a talk-radio host and president of the Landmark Legal Foundation.

Orchestrated by Mr. Levin’s one-time boss, former Attorney General Edwin I. Meese III, the manifesto - labeled “the Mount Vernon Statement” because it was signed near the first president’s home - is designed to update a 1960 declaration issued by conservatives that heralded the rise of 1964 Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater and, eventually, President Reagan.

The new statement, signed by dozens of leaders of conservative lobby groups, is more a declaration of battle than a list of ideas. It says the ideas of the Founding Fathers are under attack and must be defended, and says calls for change are “an empty promise or even a dangerous deception.”

The statement was issued a day before the annual Conservative Political Action Conference kicks off in Washington, and comes at a time when the “tea party” movement has stolen much of the attention from traditional conservative organizers.

“It shall define us, unify us and remind us of our vital mission to secure a free and just society for every future generation,” said Edwin J. Feulner, president of the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Some conservative leaders and blogs have panned the manifesto as empty, but those involved said it was a step to try to define the political right in a cacophonous debate.

But Michael B. Keegan, president of the liberal People for the American Way, said the statement is a rehash of old talking points that continues to tie conservatives to the past.

“Maybe someday they’ll move beyond the same old anti-government, anti-choice, anti-gay dogma,” said Mr. Keegan. “But not today.”

It is the first major statement of conservatives’ goals since 1960, when conservative intellectuals gathered in Sharon, Conn., at the home of William F. Buckley Jr. to write down the principles that became the founding document of Young Americans for Freedom. That effort provided the seed that led to the conservative movements twin peaks of political success: the Barry Goldwater factions overthrow of the liberal Republican establishment in the early 1960s and Ronald Reagans political triumphs of the 1980s.

Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, said he would sign the statement and said politicians who can’t agree to the basic precepts “are part of the problem and should be replaced.”

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