The Republicans’ fading colours – The Spectator Magazine

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Web exclusive: The Republicans’ fading colours

11 February 2012

CPAC Review essay by White House 2012 writer David Cowan published on The Spectator magazine website


Growing up in the 1960s, my primary school in Cambridge had an outdoor roofless boy’s toilets, and we happily enjoyed urinating up the wall. It was a sign we were getting further up the school when one day we were able to urinate over the wall itself — much to the annoyance of people on the other side. This memory came to mind this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington DC over the weekend, the annual gathering of some ten thousand political activists. This year CPAC was a pissing contest to see who was the most conservative.

The three Republican frontrunners, Santorum, Romney and Gingrich, in that order, sought to reach the base and convince activists about their conservative qualities. The themes they all offered were: what’s wrong with the Obama administration; a shopping list of what conservative policies would work better; an appeal to American exceptionalism; and a return to the founding principles of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

The three candidates are looking for the right to fight an Obama administration seen as somewhat Carteresque, from failed election promises through to the ideological infighting. Obama, though personally liked (Ann Coulter joked he would make a nice neighbour, unless you’re Chinese, then he’d keep borrowing stuff), is seen as ineffective and evasive.

To reenergise America, the candidates laid claim to the mantle of Ronald Reagan, frequently invoking his name and sunny disposition. Yet herein lies the rub. Reagan defeated Carter with ideas for the economy and foreign policy, successfully combining a conservative vision and charm to appeal to swing voters. At CPAC 1974, Reagan gave his famous ‘bold colours, not pale pastels’ speech, asserting conservative principles. This weekend showed that some of the colours have long since faded.

Things were certainly off-colour last time I was here, back in 2009, as defeated activists sought to pick themselves up after Obama’s coronation. The biggest cheers then were for Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh, as they offered succour. Newt entered to his incongruous theme tune ‘Eye of the Tiger’, but instead of entering stage right he walked in through the crowd, parting them Moses-like, shaking hands and hugging supporters.

The danger three years on is, of course, an election that will see CPAC 2013 take place after a second Obama inauguration. Expect then a sinking sense of what might have been. For many American conservatives a Republican failure this year will exacerbate what they fear most: n irreversible dependency culture and Europeanisation. Daniel Hannan flew into DC to warn on just this point, expressing his amazement to rapt delegates that while Europe is driving off the cliff they can see America in their rear-view mirror, overtaking them.

Back in 2009 something else happened at CPAC. Sarah Palin was slated to speak, but failed to appear either in person or via a hastily announced satellite link. This was the signal that Sarah was taking the celebrity high road, rather than the political low road. This year, however, she did appear as closing speaker to offer the benediction — but not the one most people expected. She did not endorse Gingrich, as he himself alluded to in his own speech by quoting her husband Todd. She called for unity, but convoluted as ever, Palin said ‘whoever our nominee is we must work together to get him over the finishing line, and then next year we will have a true conservative in the Oval office’ — only to go on Fox news on Sunday afternoon to say she is still to be convinced Romney that is indeed a conservative.

Despite this, and despite the Santorum surge, Romney will see this conference as mission accomplished — reinforced by the CPAC Straw Poll narrowly backing his candidature. Out of the three candidates it looks seemed that Romney pissed the highest this weekend. And, while still divided, all the delegates would agree about who should be standing on the other side of the wall, on the receiving end.

CPAC and Sarah Palin mark a turn to unity


A vintage fiery performance: Palin told delegates we'll keep our guns, God and Constitution, and Obama can keep the change.

The most remarkable event of today’s CPAC was Sarah Palin endorsing unity. Instead of showing her support for any one candidate, she called for unity, saying that whoever the nominee is the GOP must defeat Obama. Whoever the nominee is conservatives must work together, she told an ecstatic audience, and the nation will have a true conservative in the White House.

The unity message, great!

It followed the announcement that Mitt Romney had narrowly won the CPAC Straw Poll, following his mission to the conference to prove his conservative credentials. It seems it may be mission accomplished. Certainly Romney will be feeling a lot better about his appeal to the conservative base after today.

The other remarkable performance came from the ever-popular Daniel Hannan, British Member for the European Parliament. Warning America not to go down the European road, he was amazed that while Europe is driving off the cliff they can see America in their rear-view mirror and overtaking them!

After his talk, I had a good conversation with him, as we walked through the hotel, including a detour through the kitchens! I asked him if he endorsed any candidates? He, just a little coyly, suggested it was difficult to choose, but stressed it was important for the party to unite behind a candidate and get Obama, who earlier in the day John Bolton called the “first post-American President”, out of the White House.

Daniel Hannan warns America not to follow Europe down a path and off a cliff

Hannan also urged me to write that the GOP must stop having so many debates, as it is only serving to divide the party. He also said Republicans need to focus on the budget, not all the side issues that divide conservatives. With that he headed for the airport, though many didn’t want him to leave and asked if he could be made an honorary American instead.

This has been an important few days for conservatives, and may finally signal the road to unity. Romney should start to pull firmly into the lead, and though Santorum and Gingrich will no doubt continue, they will see their numbers dwindle.

The New York Times carried a report ahead of Sarah Palin’s speech that she didn’t think a brokered RNC would be a problem. This is just a liberal wet dream. The reality is, Sarah Palin has signalled this important moment, and shown that there is less stomach for infighting.

I picked up my media credentials on Thursday at CPAC fearful of a divided party that would succeed only in rolling out the red carpet for President Obama. After three days, I happily left making my way through the handful of sorry-looking OWS protesters feeling that I can see November from here.

Mitt Flashes His Credentials with a Smile: See His CPAC Speech in its Entirety Here

Will Romney show his conservative rivals the door?

Bookmark and Share  A smiling Mitt Romney came to CPAC today with one thing on his mind, the need to prove his conservative credentials to the base of conservative activists. Telling the audience that he knew many of them came to conservatism via Hayek or Edmund Burke, Romney said his path to conservatism was paved by family, faith and his work.

Romney said he believes “we are poised for victory in November”, but beating Obama is only the first step to saving America, which has suffered from weak leadership and a bankrupt ideology. Obama has created so much unnecessary pain for Americans, he told the audience.

Romney reminded listeners that America is made exceptional by the people, before making the obligatory attack on Washington. He said Obama is the poster child for arrogant government.

It has always been clear that Romney’s kind of conservatism is fiscal, and he argued “if you are not fiscally conservative, you are bankrupt”. He told a cheering audience that he will finally get rid of the deficit, and “as the first step I will eliminate Obamacare.”

Referring to his competitors for the nomination, Romney said GOP nominees are not different in opposition to Obama or conservatism, but by experience and judgement. He also distinguished himself by saying “I have never worked a day in Washington.” He then joked “I served in government but didn’t inhale.” He said he wants to take his experience to Washington, ending his speech by declaring “I will come to Washington, I will change Washington, then I will go home to the family I love.”

After his speech, Romney joined the crowd, no doubt to judge just how much this crowd has embraced him as a conservative.

Politics IS a Contact Sport

Newt hopes to land knock-out punch with attack ads, but is Mitt's mitt bigger and stronger?

So, Newt has launched an attack ad on Mitt, and no doubt the Democrats are watching with glee.  There are no doubt worries that attack ads damage the Republican Party, just as many worry that American politics is too divisive. Does all the “infighting” damage Republican chances?

Well, no.

Attack ads are part of politics. Politics is divisive. This is because folks disagree, and they rightly disagree on important points of principle and policy. Of course the candidates attack each other, and why not? The prize is big; these are passionate people who feel they deserve a run at the number 1 job on the planet. Otherwise, they might as well play paper and scissors for the right to run.

Cast your mind back to 2008, and the exchange of “shame” accusations by candidates Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton.

You can see her attack here: and Obama’s response here: You can also see the Obama attack ad, comparing Hilary Clinton to Big Brother in Orwell’s 1984, which is quite a laugh given that Democrats are the Orwellian nightmare party!

Both parties share the tactics of attack, and it goes a long way back. Hilary’s barb that Obama was following Karl Rove’s playbook was foolishness; it doesn’t take a village to work out that attacking the candidate, or in soccer parlance playing the man rather than the ball, goes back a lot further than Rove.

In fact, the earliest example of attack ads was launched by Lyndon B Johnson in 1964, in his attack on Barry Goldwater. Known as the “Daisy Spot”, it showed an innocent girl picking daisies followed by a countdown to nuclear catastrophe, which shocked audiences at the time. The idea was that Goldwater’s aggressive stance on the Cold War would lead to nuclear destruction. [You can view the ad here:]This will be the same Johnson who thought escalating Vietnam was a good idea.

Hilary and Obama attacked each other without pulling their punches. She lost, Obama won, and despite all the punches Hilary laid on Obama he won the White House. Like Hilary’s husband said in 2008, “This is a contact sport, politics. You can’t complain about being attacked. It’s like Yao Ming complaining about being fouled playing basketball.”

The narrative that the attack by candidates is damaging is simply a way of attacking the Republicans, while President Obama as incumbent and the official nominee come September can stand serenely above the action and appear, well, presidential. That is, until his Republican opponent is selected and can turn his attention to attacking Obama’s record 100%.

For this reason ending the attacks is important, we need to see the main bout start. The chief result of Newt’s attacks on Mitt is to bring Mitt onto the canvas ready to land his punches. Newt’s attack ads are the last attempts to land some body blows on Mitt, but Mitt’s mitt appears to be the bigger and stronger of the two. Once the attacks are done, the choice is made, the Republican nominee can step onto the canvas and win the prize fight that will take him to the White House.

Bill Clinton was right, this is a contact sport. He was wrong to compare it to basketball though. This is a fight, and it is a fight to the end. Unlike Johnson’s Daisy ad the countdown is not to nuclear destruction, but losing to Obama will see more destruction of the American economy and the nation.

Secret Service Names, This Week’s White House 2012 Crossword Puzzle

Bookmark and Share The Secret Service provides each member of the First Family with code names. This week White House 2012 presents a crossword puzzle based on these names. And for extra credit try to guess who each code name belonged to.

#6 – Secret Service Code Names

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In order for someone to win, someone has to lose and thankfully, history is filled with Democrats who are losers. This week, WH12 offers you a crossword puzzle that is based on a handful of those names.

#5: They Also Ran

Democrat Presidential Nominees Who Lost the presidential election

Use last names only


1. FDR was his running mate in 1920

2. He voted for the war before he voted against it

4. Im fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.

7. This Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals resigned from the bench to lose to Teddy Roosevelt

8. He had the misfortune of running against Eisenhower, not once, but twice

10.- Willie Horton hurt him big time

12.- He was known in the Senate as the Happy Warrior



1. In 1888, he won but he lost

3. A hero of the battle of Gettysburg who was later directed to supervise the executions of Lincolns assassins

5. -This candidate won 43.82% of the popular vote but won zero electoral votes

6. -Three times he tried and three times he lost

9. Hoover trounced this New York Governor

13.- He lost by one electoral vote and what many called the corrupt bargain

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Who Said That? This Week’s WH12 Crossword Puzzle

This week, White House 2012 offers a selection of quotes from Republican Presidents. And from them you will find the answers to the to the fourth WH12 wordpuzzle. Enjoy


1. “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.
3. “A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”
7. “The President of the United States should strive to be always mindful of the fact that he serves his party best who serves his country best.”
8. “We Americans have no commission from God to police the world.”
9. “Finishing second in the Olympics gets you silver. Finishing second in politics gets you oblivion.”
10. “The extravagant expenditure of public money is an evil not to be measured by the value of that money to the people who are taxed for it.”


2. “The problem is not that people are taxed too little, the problem is that government spends too much.”
4. “Every immigrant who comes here should be required within five years to learn English or leave the country.”
5. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
6. “The business of America is business.”
7. “America’s present need is not heroics but healing; not nostrums but normalcy; not revolution but restoration.”
8. “Blessed are the young for they shall inherit the national debt.”

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White House 2012 Crossword Puzzle: Republican Presidential Nominees

Use the last names of the following Republican presidential nominees

2. The tenth Chief Justice of the United States
3. After Governing New York he became an Associate Justice on the Supreme court, resigned, ran for President and was later reappointed to the Supreme Court as its Chief Justice.
6. He renamed the presidential retreat in the mountains of Maryland after his grandson, David.
8. “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. ”
10. A young woman sitting next to him at a dinner party confided to him that she had bet she could get at least three words of conversation from him. Without looking at her he quietly retorted, “You lose.”
13. This dominant republican leader of the 19th century, was a two-time Secretary of State who ran a close race against Grover Cleveland.
15. He was a Roughrider

1. He was a compromise choice at the Republican National Convention who ran an “America First” campaign that promised a return to normalcy.
4. Born in Iowa, this engineering graduate of Stanford went on to become Commerce Secretary under two Presidents.
5. Known as the “Great Pathfinder” he was the first candidate of the anti-slavery Republican Party for the office of president of the U.S..
7. His grandfather served as the 9th President of the United States.
12. This former Governor of Kansas died in 1987 at 100 years old and once held the record for the biggest landslide loss of all presidential elections.
14. Twice he tried, twice he lost even though newspapers declared him victorious.

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White House 2012 Word Search Puzzle for Week of March 6, 2011

Find these Freshmen Republican Names

Game 2

Click here for a larger version to print out

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White House 2012 Crossword Puzzle for Week of February 27, 2011

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Use the last names of the following influential conservatives of past and present


2. This former Chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee is now Vice Chair of the House Subcommittee on the U.S. Constitution and a possible candidate for Governor of a Mid-West state.

3. Considered by many to be a Neo-con, this man recieved a recess appointment to a job at the U.N. by President George W. Bush.

5. This Anglican priest and an influential theologian, emphasised reason, tolerance and the value of tradition and is considered by historians to be the father of conservatism.

7. He is said to have sold reaganomics to Ronald Reagan.

9. Her radio commentaries are heard daily on over 600 stations, and her radio talk show on education called “Eagle Forum Live” is heard weekly on 75 stations.

10. The 17th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.


1. He warned liberals that they would have to rip his gun from his cold, dead hands.

3. His second blog endeavor, broke the ACORN scandal that brought the group to its knees.

4. A strand of pubic hair on his can of Coca-Cola almost kept him from getting his job.

6. In December of 1971, he publicly broke with the Nixon administration, criticizing “the presentation of liberal policies in the verbal trappings of conservatism.” In 1972 he challenged Nixon for the GOP presidential nomination.

7. From 1985 to 1988, he served as assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs. An outspoken conservative and sometimes a controversial figure, he twice for U.S. Senate from Maryland and once in Illinois.

8. This daughter of two Philippine citizens is a blogger, political commentator, and author whose weekly, syndicated column appears in a number of newspapers and websites nationwide.

11. The first and only woman to serve as National Security Advisor to the president of the United States.

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