RUSH: Washington Times yesterday had the following headline: ‘Jeb Bush, GOP: Time to Leave Reagan Behind — Jeb Bush said Saturday that it’s time for the Republican Party to give up its ‘nostalgia’ for the heyday of the Reagan era and look forward, even if it means stealing the winning strategy deployed by Democrats in the 2008 election.’ What was that strategy? (interruption) What? Be conservative? Oh, he’s talking about conservative Democrats, not Obama. I don’t know what Obama strategy we’re supposed to steal and still be who we are. But a lot of people are gonna read this, that headline, ‘Time to leave Reagan behind.’
I’ve listened to what Jeb said, and I’ve read what’s reported. I don’t think he actually said that. I just think he’s talking about forward-thinking rather than wishing for another Ronald Reagan to come along. We’ve got some audio sound bites of this that we’ll get to here in just a second. Jeb said, ‘You can’t beat something with nothing. And the other side has something. I don’t like it, but they have it, and we have to be respectful and mindful of that.’ Let’s go to the audio sound bites. This was in Arlington, Virginia, at the National Council for a New America town hall meeting. This is the one being led by McCain and Eric Cantor. Mitt Romney is on this tour, and they’re calling this ‘A Conversation with America.’ Here is a portion of what Jeb said.
JEB BUSH: My reason for being here is that I think ideas have consequences and we ought to have a thoughtful discussion about those ideas. And from the conservative side, it’s time for us to listen first, to learn a little bit, to upgrade our message a little bit, to not be nostalgic about the past — because, you know, things do ebb and flow, and it’s nice to remember the good old days when the good guys, if you’re a conservative, were in power. If you’re a liberal, you remember nostalgically when they were in power. None of that matters right now. What we need to do is to listen, to learn, and then there will be a new generation of leaders that will lead. Listen, learn, lead.
RUSH: Now, this is interesting to me on a number of levels. One thing that — as you know and I’ve said this countless times on this program. I’m weary of the same people who drove us to this point, telling us what we have to do now. I’m not including Jeb in that. Jeb was not part of the campaign last year. Leave Jeb outta this for a second. I’m going to talk about Jeb here in just a second. But everybody else on this bus tour for the most part is responsible for where we are. We did it their way in 2008. We did it with the candidate and approach that they thought would work: pandering. ‘We gotta listen to the American people.’ I maintain when a politician says, ‘We have to listen to the American people and learn,’ we are pandering. We’re not leading.
You simply listen to what people say they want and then come up with a series of policies that give them what they want. What if what they want is destructive to the country? What if what the people want is destructive to your own party? What if what the people want is something they don’t even really understand? Where is leadership in this equation? Listen, learn, lead. After you’ve listened and after… So did Eisenhower run and take a poll of all the troops designed to invade D-Day? Did he listen to them? To learn what their concerns were and then come up with the plan? I mean, this is not how this generally works. Now, when Jeb says they have something, the Democrats have something and we don’t…
We do have something. We have conservatism. Conservatism is timeless. Conservatism is freedom. Life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. Conservative is the nation’s founding. I’ll speak for myself — and I can probably speak for a couple of other people who are on the same page with me. The nostalgia is not for Ronald Reagan to come back to life. The nostalgia is not for Ronald Reagan himself to have his campaign studied and people emulate him. It’s not that at all, and it’s not really nostalgia. Nobody wants to bring the twenties back. Nobody wants to bring back the Roaring Twenties, thirties, whatever. Nobody wants to bring that back. Of course everybody lives in the present. I especially live in the present and the future.
What’s missing in the Republican Party is what Reagan was, not the cult personality figure, but his beliefs. What’s missing is a candidate that can articulate conservatism, pure and simple. So when you have a policy that’s ‘listen, learn, and lead;’ the ‘lead’ is irrelevant. It’s just you’re not leading people anywhere; you’re pandering to them. You know, conservatism is all about ideas! It’s not about people. Conservatism isn’t about personalities. If Jeb wants to run around and say that they’ve got something and we don’t have anything, meaning the Democrats have something, and 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 grassroots. I have to laugh at Specter and all these people talking about how far right the party is 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. A new brand? You have to rebrand the Republican Party. Why? Because in many places you can’t distinguish it from the Democrat Party, on several key, core issues. So this battle is been joined and it’s going to continue. Believe me, Jeb may be on the fence on this. As I read the story I don’t actually see him say the words ‘leave Reagan behind.’ They’re saying that when he says this nostalgia, we can’t be back to that.
But, I’ll tell you what, whether Jeb is saying it or not — and we’ve discussed this countless times on this program. There are people in the, quote, unquote, conservative movement or in the Republican Party who sure as hell want to leave Reagan behind. Everything Reagan stood for, the man, policies, and everything else. And it is a battle. It’s an internecine battle that is going to go on in the Republican Party. Hell, let me tell you a story. I haven’t had a chance to get into this. You know, last Tuesday I went out to Los Angeles to the Milken Institute to participate in that political forum — and before we went out on stage, they served dinner to all of the speakers and some hangers-on in there. I didn’t eat because of the wonderful diet I’m on. (I’m now down 42 pounds, by the way, 248 pounds total, and 42 pounds lost in 53 days. It will be eight weeks Wednesday.) So I wasn’t eating but there were some people in the room, and apparently the people that had been there, had been there all week.
I just flew in for the event and flew home, and one of the people, doesn’t matter who, took me aside and said, ‘Rush, I have to tell you about this reception that we went to last night here in Beverly Hills.’
‘Oh, really, was it fun?’
‘Well, it was quite telling, Rush. It was very, very informative.’
‘It was 75% liberal Republicans –75 % very, very wealthy Republicans — who said this party has no prayer until it gets rid of the pro-life issue. It has no prayer. It isn’t going to win a thing. It’s not going to get our money.’
And I gotta tell you, it was not news. This is history repeating itself. I have told you how many times, the same thing happened to me in 1994, at a party one summer out in The Hamptons, where the same kind of people came up to me and jabbed me with a finger in the chest and said, ‘What are you going to do about the Christians?’ Liberal Republicans, Northeastern guys, said the Republican Party isn’t going to go anywhere. This conversation happened at dinner, and I said to one of the panel participants, I said, ‘Yeah, Ronald Reagan won two landslides. I don’t think he was pro-choice,’ and the participant said, ‘Well, he wasn’t really identified big time as pro-life.’ ‘Are you kidding? You may not have thought so, but the people voting for him did.’ It was not something Reagan hid. It was not something he swept under the rug.
There’s just… I do think that the abortion issue is one of the centerpieces that is resulting in this fracture, both in the conservative movement and in the Republican Party because there just are a lot of liberal Republicans who just don’t want the issue to be part of the party for a host of reasons. A, they do think it’s a guaranteed loser, which it’s not. Look at public polling data, and you’ll see that public polling on abortion-on-demand is lower than it’s ever… Well, not ever been, but lower than it’s been in ten years. But beyond all that, it’s embarrassment, too. You know, you go to the Republican convention and you’ve got the delegation from South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina, West Virginia, and all pro-lifers out there.
The Northeastern people (gagging), ’cause they get laughed at and made fun of by their liberal Democrat buddies when they get home and resume the cocktail party circuit. So social concerns are clearly part of it as well. But the bottom line here, ladies and gentlemen: conservatism’s about ideas. Leaving Ronald Reagan behind? If somebody says leave Reagan behind, it’s to miss the point because nobody here wants Reagan again. Conservatism is what has been left behind, and the courage to articulate it, which has many of us mystified because it’s the blueprint. It’s the blueprint for landslide victory, and everybody knows this. So it’s the blueprint, yet why, in the Republican Party and the conservative movement, are so many people opposed to it?
Abortion. I guarantee you. I guarantee you that abortion, and whether you be pro-life or pro-choice, is one of the unspoken issues. It’s the elephant in the room, and everybody is dancing around it because nobody wants to say it publicly. They’ll come up to me Tuesday night at dinner before the forum and they will say that to me, as though it’s my responsibility to fix it. But when we get on stage and actually on the panel, it won’t come up. Nobody will bring it up. They want it dealt with behind the scenes. It’s fascinating. I’m not lumping Jeb Bush in here with any of this. I’m moving on from there. We’ve got a couple more sound bites from the Listening to America Tour that the Republicans engaged in.
RUSH: I have a story here, folks, in my formerly nicotine-stained fingers. It’s from a year and a day before The Messiah was immaculated. And here’s the quote from Obama: ‘I think it’s fair to say the Republicans were the party of ideas over a pretty long chunk of time there, over the last 10-15 years, in the sense that they were challenging conventional wisdom.’ He was talking about Ronald Reagan. Obama himself said Reagan and the Republican Party have been the party of ideas. He said this a number of times during the campaign, and they invoke Reagan constantly, the left does, and they use him a lot. Our side wants to throw him away. So let me just explain, when you see anybody, I don’t care who it is, a headline writer or a Republican, a blogger, I don’t care who it is, when somebody says you gotta leave Reagan behind, the era of Reagan is over, however it’s said, it is said by Republican politicians who don’t believe in conservatism, pure and simple. They don’t believe in conservatism, they believe in something else. They can’t explain what they believe in, but they believe in something else.
So they run around and say we must listen, what we gotta do, we gotta listen, learn, and lead. So they don’t know what they believe. I’m telling you that the elephant in the room is abortion, pro-life, and just the fact that these people hate that it’s a political issue, that is an issue that has defined the Republican Party. They wish it would go away. They don’t care about it one way or the other. These people are not conservatives when they say Reagan’s finished, leave Reagan alone, Reagan era behind, it’s over, whatever. These are people that don’t believe in conservatism. They don’t know what they do believe in so what they say is we need to reform conservatism. We need to redefine conservatism; we need to rebrand it. No, no, no, no. It’s timeless. It’s timeless. It’s the way people live their lives. It’s the basis on which the country was founded. Here are more audio sound bites from the National Council for a New America town hall meeting. There was an unidentified guy in the audience, and he had this exchange with Jeb Bush.
MAN: Kind of have to disagree with what you said, Governor Bush. I really think the past is important. It is surprising that Barack Obama was elected and he goes around apologizing in every country he goes to when people are spoon-fed years in high school and college of anti-American history. I mean, quite honestly I think people learn more from listening to Rush Limbaugh’s show than they do in high school and college.
JEB: The context that I was talking about the past was really candidates running for office that have 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 was relevant for people’s aspirations, whether you agreed 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 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.
RUSH: Who in the world’s he talking about? Where was the nostalgia in our campaign for the good old days? And where was the good old days messaging in our campaign? Well, I don’t think he is talking about McCain. No. Something else you have to understand, these people hate Palin, too. They despise Sarah Palin. They don’t like her, either. According to them, she’s embarrassing. McCain said, ‘I was there with Ronald Reagan.’ McCain didn’t pull it off with any conviction. I mean no Reagan voter ever understood or ever was made to believe that McCain was, too. No Reagan voter ever believed McCain was a Reaganite. Look, there are a couple more sound bites coming up, time constraints here, but a lot of this is aimed at Sarah Palin. When you strip all the talk, it’s Reagan era is over and we gotta stop all it is 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. Mitt Romney is out there. He wants to be president again. Jeb may someday. Eric Cantor, some of the others, McCain, I don’t think he does, but you never know. So this is an early campaign event, 2012, presidential campaign, primary campaign with everybody there but Sarah Palin. If you’re going to talk about who looked back in the past, I disagree with Jeb again. Obama looked back to the past every time he made a speech. He ripped it to shreds and then promised something brand-new. Hope and change without any specifics whatsoever. This need to praise Obama, too, that kind of leaves me a little wanting.