At least that’s how the 43rd president is quoted in a new book by one of his speechwriters, as reported by Byron York.
Bush was preparing to give a speech to the annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC. The conference is the event of the year for conservative activists; Republican politicians are required to appear and offer their praise of the conservative movement.
[Speechless: Tales of a White House Survivor author Matt] Latimer got the assignment to write Bush’s speech. Draft in hand, he and a few other writers met with the president in the Oval Office. Bush was decidedly unenthusiastic.
“What is this movement you keep talking about in the speech?” the president asked Latimer.
Latimer explained that he meant the conservative movement — the movement that gave rise to groups like CPAC.
Bush seemed perplexed. Latimer elaborated a bit more. Then Bush leaned forward, with a point to make.
“Let me tell you something,” the president said. “I whupped Gary Bauer’s ass in 2000. So take out all this movement stuff. There is no movement.”
Obviously, all of this should be taken with a pillar of salt. We don’t know for a fact that Bush said this. Latimer wants to sell books and it is easy to criticize an unpopular ex-president. But given the conservative movement’s unhealthy relationship with the Republican Party, it is not hard to believe. If anything like this was actually said, it is just another argument for conservatives to take a different approach to Republican presidents who create new entitlements, double the national debt, propose massive bailouts, increase discretionary spending faster than Bill Clinton, and otherwise offend conservative principles. A while back, I sketched what such an approach might look like.