Jewish World Review June 13, 2005/ 6 Sivan,
Look who's shaking things up now
He accompanied the challenge with a warning. "The opponents of
change are many, and its champions are few, but the champions of change are
the ones who make history. Be champions, and you will make America safer for
your children and your grandchildren, and you'll add to the character of our
Do you notice something odd going on here? Political definitions
have been turned upside down. A conservative president emphasizes change;
the liberals in Washington, who for decades were the agitators for doing
everything different, now suffer hardening of the arteries of the
imagination. Curiously, neither The Washington Post nor The New York Times,
the house organs of the liberal establishment, mentioned the president's
call for creative thinking in their accounts of the speech. The Washington
Times, whose editorial page defines the conservative resurgence, put it on
In a rare defense of the president's foreign policy, Martin
Peretz, editor in chief of The New Republic, the venerable liberal weekly,
observed that "if George Bush were to discover a cure for cancer, his
critics would denounce him for having done it without adequate consultation,
with a crude disregard for the sensibilities of others." Such critics are
the opponents of change and would rather depict the president as a dunce
than cut thought the cant of narrow-minded liberal shibboleths.
Underestimating a conservative president is a professional hazard for liberals. They found that out the hard way with Ronald Reagan. When mossback liberals afflicted with cataracts failed to see his vision, many traditional Democrats simply switched parties. A new book, "Why I Am a Reagan Conservative," edited by Mike Deaver, who was Ronald Reagan's deputy chief of staff and the author of his 49-state sweep in 1984, demonstrates why. (Full disclosure: I have a chapter in the book.) It wasn't easy to dissent from the received wisdom a generation ago. Mike Deaver notes that "liberal views dominated nearly every major institution for a good part of the century."
"Conservatism has become not only the ascending political
force, but the interesting intellectual one," wrote Robert Bartley, former
editor of the Wall Street Journal, in an essay published posthumously. He
tells how he flirted with liberalism when John F. Kennedy became president
with an open appreciation for intellectuals who promised to apply the
insights of the university to public life. Instead, the university soon
became the place where liberal intellectuals armed themselves with arrogance
and self-righteousness and offered stale pieties instead of reasoned
Bob Dole recalls the years of scorn and ridicule. "We were
lampooned as little old ladies in tennis shoes worried about communists
under the bed and fluoride in our water supplies, our overstuffed tycoons in
batwing collars were unwilling to look at the new moon out of respect for
the old one," he writes.
When I was invited to write a column two decades ago, "women
conservative columnists" were rare. There weren't many male conservative
Being a conservative requires continuing the transformation of old ideas into new applications. We can take a cue from George W. Bush, who described for the new midshipmen what "transformation" means in the military. In Afghanistan, our troops rode into battle on horseback to maneuver the tough terrain, but the "cavalry" was guided by advanced satellite communications when it called in air strikes: "They combined a staple of 19th century warfare with the most advanced 21st century technology." Winston Churchill got it right first: "The farther back you look, the farther forward you see." That's the secret of the conservative renaissance.
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