Sat, 28 Feb 2009 20:21:16 +0000 – By Peter FerraraDirector of Entitlement and Budget Policy, Institute for Policy Innovation/ General Counsel of the American Civil Rights Union
If you expected the rise of the Obama regime to leave conservatives dispirited, you would be wrong. This year's CPAC was the largest ever, with close to 9,000 in attendance, full of spirited young people ready to fight for the future, as well as long term veterans of the battle.
For me, the highlight of the conference was Newt Gingrich's speech on Friday at noon. The Republicans have several young stars with a future in the national leadership, but no one today with the commanding presence and the cutting intellect able to redefine the debate and reframe the issues like Gingrich.
And that is exactly what Gingrich did in his CPAC speech. He started by referencing Attorney General Eric Holder's recent speech in which he described America as "a nation of cowards."
"Let me say to Attorney General Holder I welcome an opportunity to have a dialogue with you about cowardice anywhere anytime. Why don't we have the dialogue in Detroit and see if Attorney General Holder has the courage to talk about the failure of the Detroit school system, the failure of the Detroit teachers' union, the betrayal of the future of thousands of young people. Let's discuss the total failure of the Detroit political system which has taken a city of 1,800,000 with the highest per capita income in the United States and has driven it into the ground so there are now fewer than 900,000 people there with a per capita income that is 62nd in the United States. And it's the function of bad government, bad politicians, bad bureaucracy, and bad ideas."
Gingrich then continued:
"Now I listened carefully to the president's speech the other night...but what I was truly struck by was that if his attorney general thinks we are a nation of cowards, his administration thinks we are just plain dumb. To suggest to us that he is opposed to earmarks when the very next day the Democrats are going to bring up a bill with 8,000 earmarks in it... I was startled that he was saying to us he was opposed to earmarks [but not those 8,000 earmarks]. So I said to myself I wonder how dumb they think we are that we wouldn't notice 8,000 earmarks?"
He went on:
"But then the final educational lesson of the evening came when the president having promised he would not raise taxes on anyone below $250,000 mentioned...that he is for an energy tax... I said to myself, let me get this straight, we are not going to raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 per year, unless you use electricity. And we are not going to raise taxes on anyone under $250,000 per year, unless you buy gasoline, ... [or] unless you buy heating oil, ... [or] unless you use natural gas... And I thought to myself how dumb do they think we are that they can pretend that an energy tax is not an energy tax and ... that every retired American who uses electricity is not going to pay it, and every person in New Hampshire who uses heating oil is not going to pay it, and every person who drives a car isn't going to pay it. I just want to report to Attorney General Holder and President Obama that this is a nation of people courageous enough...to insist that we not be governed by people who won't tell us the truth."
Then Gingrich totally redefined the debate by criticizing the Bush administration on the same terms as Obama:
"The great irony of where we are today is that we have a Bush- Obama big spending program that was bipartisan in its nature. Last year the Bush-Obama plan had a $180 billion stimulus package in the spring which failed. It came back with a $345 billion housing package in the summer which failed. It then had a $700 billion Wall Street spending package in October which failed. It had a $4 trillion Federal Reserve guarantee which failed... We got big spending under Bush, now we got big spending under Obama. And so we have 2 new failures. The lesson I draw from this is that we have a party of the American people... that was led by Ronald Reagan and on the legislative side reached its peak with the Contract with America and the election of a majority actually dedicated to reforming welfare, cutting taxes, and balancing the budget. And there is a party of big government and political elites and tragically in the last few years the Republican party became the right wing of the party of big government and political elites. And that is why there is a Bush Obama continuity in economic policy which is frankly a disaster for this country and cannot work."
Gingrich concluded with a redefining vision for conservatives:
"And so it is time to recreate the party of the American people and to recognize that that is a much bigger party than the Republican party. In every major political speech Ronald Reagan reached out to Democrats and Independents as well as Republicans, and he understood to govern in America you have to bring people together in a tripartisan majority. We are bigger than the Republican party, we stand for principles that transcend the Republican party, and we're going to fight for the principles that lead to economic growth and jobs."