RUSH: Memphis, this is Russell. You’re up next on Open Line Friday. Hello.
CALLER: Hey, Rush, happy Friday to you.
RUSH: Thank you. Same to you, sir.
CALLER: I was reading an article this morning, and it was talking about the similarities between this year’s election and the 1992 election because Bush 41 had lost a lot of backing from conservatives, and obviously because of the raised taxes, you know, one reason, but my question is, were there other reasons conservatives abandoned Bush other than the taxes, and if there were, what were they?
RUSH: Yes, there were a couple reasons. You have to remember, to fully understand this, you have to go back to the 1980 Republican convention. Let’s actually start in ’76. Reagan was no doubt the sentimental favorite in Kansas City in 1976. He lost out to the Republican establishment that year as a conservative trying to take over the establishment. But he was the sentimental favorite. He gave a great, great, great speech. The establishment gave us Gerald Ford, but the hearts in that convention, the delegates pledged to Ford, they were really with Reagan. So that takes us to 1980. 1980 in Detroit and Reagan, this is his time, and we’re coming off of this horrible Jimmy Carter four years. We also had a third-party candidate in there, John Anderson, but the primary opponent to Ronald Reagan in 1980 was George H. W. Bush. And George H. W. Bush campaigned against Ronaldus Magnus on, among many things, one thing he said that supply-side economics, trickle-down economics is voodoo economics. And tell you what, the conservative antennae went up because supply side works every time it’s tried. It’s not voodoo.
When you lower tax rates on upper income earners, it boosts the economy every time it’s tried. It works so well, the Democrats have engaged in revisionist history to try to convince people it doesn’t. It was a pretty vicious campaign between Reagan and Bush. For party unity, Reagan picked Bush and brought in some of Bush’s people, like James Baker into his campaign, into his administration and so forth. Then, 1988, George W. Bush 41 wants his shot at the presidency. He campaigned — and what got it for him was his acceptance speech at the New Orleans convention. It was New Orleans. Up until that time, Republicans even then were iffy about George Bush because of the voodoo economics. There were stories that Nancy and Barbara Bush didn’t really get along and so forth. I don’t remember if H. W. Bush was pro-life, pro-choice, but he was perceived to be a moderate establishment blue-blood country club Northeastern Republican, not a conservative. That speech, his acceptance speech in New Orleans at the Superdome was a great speech, and he played up his military service. They played the film of his being shot down in the Pacific and being recovered on that aircraft carrier. His theme was completing his mission and it rallied conservatives to him. And in that speech, he said ‘Read my lips: No new taxes.’ Because people were still, on the Republican side, very, very alarmed of this voodoo economic stuff, because like what’s happening with McCain now: What does he really do, versus what does he say?
In this case, if Bush said back in 1980 in the campaign against Reagan, ‘It’s voodoo economics, does he really still believe this?’ So he came out with, ‘Read my lips, no new taxes.’ Then, didn’t take long before it became obvious that Bush 41 liked working with certain Democrats, among them Tom Foley, who was the speaker of the House. He liked Foley. He didn’t particularly like George Mitchell, who was one of those partisan Democrats in Washington. They got along with Rosty Rostenkowski, yeah, got along with him, but he thought he could do business with Foley. And it’s amazing. You’re very prescient here in asking about this, Russell, because throughout the first term of Bush, the only term, what in the world, we’re supposed to beat these guys, we’re supposed to defeat these guys. We’re not supposed to get along with them. Reagan set out to defeat them politically and did, particularly in the first term. Then he broke the tax pledge. It wasn’t just that he broke the tax pledge, Russell, it was that it confirmed many years of conservative doubt about the conservatism of George H. W. Bush, not his honor, not his integrity, nobody ever doubted any of that, just like people don’t question McCain’s honor and integrity.
You couple that with going into the 1992 election, there was an economic downturn that was not a recession — maybe a mild recession for a month, but that gave Clinton and Gore the opportunity to claim it was the worst economy in the last 50 years. It also gave rise to H. Ross Perot. During the first six months of 1992, the conventional wisdom in the Bush camp and throughout the whole Republican Party was, there’s no way that this guy Clinton is going to win, it just can’t happen, somebody from Arkansas? Remembered his lousy speech at the previous Democrat convention where he was booed off the stage after speaking like Fidel Castro for hours and hours and hours it seemed, he recovered by going on The Tonight Show, playing the saxophone with Johnny Carson a little bit, but nobody thought — and Bush didn’t take him seriously, and Bush didn’t take Perot seriously. And everybody, ‘When are you going to wake up?’ He gave the impression he didn’t want it. He gave the impression he really wasn’t that desirous. Whether he was or wasn’t, is not the point. The voter perception was that H. W. Bush 41 didn’t get in gear ’til it was too late, and that was partially to vanquish Perot. Then we go to the ponytail guy debate in Richmond, Virginia. And there were two things about that debate.
This is the debate moderated by Carole Simpson, ABC News, and the ponytail guy says to the candidates, Perot, Clinton, and Bush, the ponytail guy says, ‘When, and which one of you, are going to treat us like your children and start taking care of us?’ And Clinton made a beeline — they all had hand-held mics — and Clinton made a beeline to the guy, (doing Clinton impression) ‘I am your guy. I want you to look at me as your father. I can be legitimate. I can be illegitimate. Don’t ask me for support, but I’ll take care of you.’ He didn’t say that. Bush looked at his watch, and he didn’t care. I’m not saying this was mine, but this was the public reason, looked at his watch, he was bored. This was the perfect stickup question for George H. W. Bush to pronounce conservatism, to teach conservatism, to tell the American people, ‘This is not what presidents do. This is not what your government does. You are responsible for yourself.’ Perot, I forget what he said, because at that point in time Perot was making plans to get out already because he was doing much better than he ever thought he might, he looked like he might win, and he didn’t really want to win. He had another agenda. So if you want to draw comparisons to then and now, you said some newspaper article you read made such comparisons? Given what I just said to you, what did this newspaper article you read today, Russell, say were the similarities?
CALLER: Well, it was a Newsweek magazine, and on the cover of it, it said, you know, there will be blood and —
RUSH: Oh, is this the cover with McCain and me and a bunch of talk show hosts on it?
CALLER: Yeah, yeah, Ann Coulter, Hannity, you. I was in the waiting room, so I don’t have it with me, and I don’t remember exactly what it said–
RUSH: Well, that’s a great testament to the writing in Newsweek. You read it and don’t remember what it said. I like that, Russell, that’s not your fault. That’s typical. It’s like somebody watching the CBS Evening News and not remembering the network.
CALLER: Well, but I remember right before it was talking about conservatives’ displeasure with Bush 41. I believe it had your name specifically right before that.
RUSH: Unhappy with Bush 41?
CALLER: Yes. Yes.
RUSH: Well, yeah, because early on in 1992 in those primaries I endorsed the wild-card candidacy of Pat Buchanan.
CALLER: Oh, did you really?
RUSH: I did, and I did this knowing full well Buchanan had no chance of winning the nomination. I was trying to infuse conservative debate in the primaries, because I figured if Bush was going to win again in ’92, he had to go back and do what he did in ’88 and start espousing conservatism, and I was right. And it all happened on Bush’s side too late.
CALLER: Right, and he obviously lost that reelection, but would you say that his son now, he was elected twice because he had more sound conservative principles?
RUSH: George W. Bush?
CALLER: Yeah, the one who’s president right now.
RUSH: That would be George W. Bush.
CALLER: Yeah, yes, sir.
RUSH: Well, you know, it’s almost a replay. If you go back to the 2000 campaign, George Bush started sweeping up all these small, individual contributions, five, ten, 15, 25, 50 bucks. He was just smoking everybody in 2000 with money and came out of nowhere. I mean everybody was talking Jeb Bush, Jeb Bush is the next Bush that’s going to be in the White House, George W. comes out of there and starts going nuts. When he got close to getting the nomination or even after he had, he goes out, I think state of Washington, makes a speech and defines himself as a compassionate conservative, everybody went, ‘Oh, no, here we go again.’ From voodoo economics to compassionate conservative, because compassionate conservative is code word, compassionate conservative means there’s two kinds of conservatives, mean-spirited, extremist, racist, sexist, bigot, homophobe, and other conservatives who are nice people. Real conservatives said conservatism doesn’t need a modifier. Compassionate conservative is falling right into liberal trap of accepting the notion that we’re all a bunch of scalawags. You put conservative in front of it, oh, no, here’s a guy trying to pander to the left, oh, no. So there are some similarities. But Bush heard — and he stopped talking about it.
I’m running out of time, but what kept Bush’s support solidified among the Republican Party through the 2004 election was the 9/11 circumstance and the war in Iraq. The Democrats were trying to destroy Bush and destroy our party and destroy the presidency, and even though he had wandered off the reservation on things like McCain-Feingold and illegal immigration, we were not going to sit around and let the Democrat Party with lies and mischaracterizations, not just destroy him but secure defeat in the war in Iraq, so, look, you’ve given me a transition. I’ve got a story here, I was thinking about passing on this today, but in the next hour, I’m going to get into it. It’s a column by a guy named J. B. Williams, a businessman, a husband, a father, a writer, a no-nonsense commentator on American politics, American history, American philosophy, hard-hitting columnist, and his headline: ‘Is the RNC Trying to Destroy the GOP?’