How to Revitalize the GOP

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," May 4, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: And now the Republicans scramble. Some Republican big names are scrambling to revive their party. On Saturday, Congressman Eric Cantor and former governors Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney held a town hall-style meeting at a strip mall pizzeria in Virginia, the first of a series of events that are -- they're calling the National Council for a New America.


FORMER GOVERNOR JEB BUSH, R-FLA.: (INAUDIBLE) that I was talking about the past was really candidates running for office that have a kind of a nostalgic view of the world. That's a perilous thing, and I think to President Obama -- candidate Obama's credit, he waged a 2008 campaign that we relevant for people's aspirations. Whether you agree with him or not, it was not a look back, it was a look forward.

And so our ideas need to be forward-looking and relevant. I just -- I felt like there was a lot of nostalgia for the good old days in the messaging, and you know, it's great, but it doesn't draw people towards your cause (ph).

REP. ERIC CANTOR, R-VA.: The essence of being a Republican is the belief in free markets, the belief in individual responsibility, the belief in the faith in the individual, the faith in God. These are unifying principles in our country. This is what's made us so great, the entrepreneurial spirit embodied in Ed McKey (ph). These are the kind of things that point us towards opportunity. And we are and should be an inclusive party, and that's, again, what the National Council for a New America is about. We are about the people. As was just said, as Mitt said, this is what our party is about, and we're going to go forward in that same vein.

FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS.: Our country has gone through a number of debates over the years. And going back to history, in the very beginning of our country, there was a revolutionary thought that came forward from people like Jefferson and Adams and Washington and Franklin, and so forth. And the thought was this, that instead of the government or the king being sovereign, that the people would become the sovereign and the government would become the servant. That was this whole, you know, breathtaking, revolutionary idea.

The monarchists disagreed. They said, No, no, no, you can't leave a country to the people. They'll make a mess of it. You've got to have the king or the government leading. This was the big battle, and we had a lot of folks living here who were monarchists and others who were revolutionaries. And the revolutionaries won and we became the nation that we are.

Interestingly, we've gone back to that same debate. The liberals in some corners actually think that government does know best and that a nation run by government, manipulated by government pulling the strings will make a stronger nation than a nation that gives to the individual the power to make their own choices.

We are the party of the revolutionaries. They're the party of the monarchists. I don't mean they're trying to create a king or a superpowerful president. That's not what I mean. What I mean is they're the party that believes that government knows best and that the government the sovereign. And we're the party that believes that the people and free people and people pursuing their own dreams are what make America the strongest nation and the most powerful nation on earth.

And we're going to fight for those principles. We're going to continue to be revolutionaries. And we're going to, in this council, to come together and talk about our vision, our plans for each of the issues you've spoken about and make sure that we once again lead the American revolution and keep America the strong and vibrant nation it's always been.


VAN SUSTEREN: Now, Rush Limbaugh was not impressed by the town hall meeting.


RADIO TALK SHOW HOST RUSH LIMBAUGH: If Jeb wants to run around and say that they've got something and we don't have anything -- I mean, the Democrats got something. We have to admit it. If we don't have something, it's the fault of the people that Jeb is meeting with in Arlington, Virginia, not conservatives and not conservatism and not the grass roots!

(INAUDIBLE) what's -- I have to laugh. Specter and all these people talk about how far right the party's moving? It's the exact opposite. This party has muddled its identity to the point that they have to do this tour to come up with a new brand, that they're rebrand the Republican -- why? Because in many places, you can't distinguish it from the Democratic Party.

Something else you have to understand. These people hate Palin, too. They despise Sarah Palin. They fear Sarah Palin. They don't like her, either. She's -- according to them, she's embarrassing. A lot of this is aimed at Sarah Palin. When you -- when you -- when you strip all the talk that the Reagan era is over and we got to stop all this nostalgia and stuff, clearly, in last year's campaign, the most prominent, articulate voice for standard run-of-the-mill good old-fashioned American conservatism was Sarah Palin.

Now, everybody on this "speak to America" tour has presidential perspirations (SIC). Mitt Romney's out there. He wants to be president again. Jeb may some day. Eric Cantor, some of the others, McCain -- I don't think he does, but you never know. So this is -- this is -- this is an early campaign event, 2012 presidential campaign, primary campaign, with everybody there but Sarah Palin.


VAN SUSTEREN: As an aside, it sounds like the Republican gentlemen were listening to Rush Limbaugh today. Just in to FOX, Governor Sarah Palin has accepted an invitation to join the Republican rebranding effort.

Joining us live is Republican congressman David Dreier from California. Congressman Dreier is one of the founders of the National Council for a New America. Welcome, Congressman.

REP. DAVID DREIER, R-CALIF.: Always good to be with you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, all right, let's talk this intrigue about Governor Palin. She wasn't at the strip mall pizzeria the other night and has now -- what happened? She was asked subsequent to this town hall meeting that you had to join?

DREIER: Well, the National Council for a New America was really the brainchild of Eric Cantor and John Boehner and other Republican leaders, and it just has been established in the last few weeks, and it's a building organization. I mean, today, not only Sarah Palin but Senator John Ensign indicated that they're going to be part of it. And the notion here, Greta, is to be a forward-looking organization that is going to find common-sense solutions.

We're spending a lot of time remembering the great Jack Kemp, who inspired me to run for Congress three decades ago, and Jack Kemp really epitomized in his life the kinds of things that the National Council for a New America is pursuing. The most important voice here? The American people, whether it's from middle America, where I grew up, or Manhattan or even in Hollywood, where they are a lot of people who are concerned about the direction that the country is pursuing right now.

This organization is in the process of listening, and the idea of going to and sharing ideas, extending invitations for our organization to visit is what we want to be all about.

VAN SUSTEREN: But it just looks at this point that the governor of Alaska, who was the vice presidential nominee of the Republican Party, was dissed. You've got two governors there. You've got Governor Jeb Bush, Governor Mitt Romney, and it just looked sort of like that when Rush -- I mean...


VAN SUSTEREN: When was she asked?

DREIER: You know, I was -- she was asked actually a while back. In fact, it came out that she was asked days before. I brought her name up at one of our leadership meetings, and Eric Cantor, who, as I said, has organized this, said that the invitations had been sent out. She was invited. Others have been invited.

But again, this is an organization that is in a building mode right now. The American people elected Barack Obama. We all know that. The fact is, we need to do everything that we can to do what James Madison wanted, and that is create that clash of ideas. And we welcome input from independents and Democrats, as well as Republicans. And I know that Sarah Palin and others who are going to be involved in this process will welcome the loudest voice, which will be from the American people.

VAN SUSTEREN: I like the idea of the strip mall pizzeria for some reason. Who's the brainchild out of that? Who came up with that idea?

DREIER: You know what? Any of us who like pizza liked the idea of going there. I'm a big pizza eater. I like California Pizza Kitchen (ph), among other places, so maybe we'll be able to have a meeting out there.

But you know, this is -- this is going to be an organization that's going to go across the country. And we know full well that having a strong two-party system in this country is something that has made us the great nation that we are. My dream is that the Republican Party might be one of those two parties.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, even Speaker Pelosi...

DREIER: And I think that the...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... agrees with you on that. I mean, Speaker Pelosi said she wants two strong parties.

DREIER: And she's right about that, and I agree with her. And that's why I believe the National -- this organization, this National Council for a New America, while welcoming input and not being a particularly partisan organization, will help those of us in Republican leadership positions build a Republican Party that can address these needs of ensuring credit for small businesses, helping young people have access to college loans so that they can get their higher education so they can compete in the global economy...

VAN SUSTEREN: Give me a little bit...

DREIER: ... getting our economy back on track.

VAN SUSTEREN: Give me a little bit of a history lesson. How does this differ, your concept, with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America" in the early '90s?

DREIER: Well, you know, there are a lot of different entities out there, Greta, that are focused on getting ideas from people and building and coming forward with creative solutions, and this is another one of them. I mean, there are a lot of great groups with which I am proud to be associated, and there are organizations out there that have yet to be heard from and will be established. And I think that the idea of allowing the people to have a voice, which is what the National Council for a New America is all about, is something that is creative and innovative in and of itself.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I hope you guys, if you hit all the pizzerias, you at least (INAUDIBLE) go light and get (INAUDIBLE)

DREIER: Thanks. Come and have pizza sometime, Greta. We welcome you to pizza anytime. I'll buy.

VAN SUSTEREN: Love to cover it. Anyway, Congressman, thank you.

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