WASHINGTON (CNN) – On Friday, in the midst of a campaign year defined by President Bush’s potential impact on his party’s political fortunes, he offered conservatives a defiant account of his historical legacy – and a plea to rally behind the Republican nominee, and hold on to the White House.
Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, Bush pointed to his decisions on a host of controversial issues that have defined his presidency – from tax cuts and judicial nominees and stem cell research - and described their outcome in defiant language that has become familiar in recent months.
“Critics had a different view…. We stood our ground,” he said repeatedly. “On these issues, both sides have made their case. The results are in. And they are proving us right.”
Friday marked the president’s first – and final – visit to CPAC since he arrived in the White House.
He was here this morning with an eye towards the history books, and his legacy – not just as leader of the nation, but standard-bearer of the conservative movement. And this annual gathering, which draws thousands of activists from across the country, was the ideal venue to make his case.
Bush has had a complex relationship with the conservative base. They embraced his presidential candidacy early, and were key footsoldiers in both his White House runs.
While his approval rating from the public at large has remained mired in the low 30s for much of his second term, conservatives have consistently given him far higher marks in the same opinion polls.
But some of these ideological partners have been unhappy with decisions by his administration on federal spending, and its failure to push harder to appoint conservative judges, among other policy disagreements. Other activists at CPAC this week have gone further in recent months, saying publicly that in their view, the president is not a conservative at all.
The president received an enthusiastic reception from the crowd this morning - but some did not join his supporters in standing ovations. A few in the audience sat impassively throughout his address, and did not applaud at all.
At last year’s CPAC – the final meting before this year’s Republican primaries – White House hopefuls barely mentioned its current occupant, focusing instead on the legacy of Ronald Reagan.
This year, that pattern has continued through the GOP’s primary season presidential debates, where his name is rarely referenced, and Reagan’s is frequently invoked.
Some Republican presidential candidates, like former White House contender Mitt Romney, have been publicly equivocal about some aspects of the president’s term in office. Others, like Mike Huckabee – who accused the administration of an “arrogant bunker mentality” in its foreign policy decisions - have been openly critical.
GOP frontrunner John McCain – who has had his own complicated relationship with President Bush - is tied, as no other candidate in the race, to the defining issue of Bush’s presidency, the war in Iraq. And Democrats will be looking to make the fall election, in part, a referendum on his support for that war.
The president did not mention McCain directly on Friday, but told the crowd that, “soon we will have a nominee who will carry the conservative banner into this election and beyond. The stakes in November are high. Prosperity and peace are in the balance.”
And he described the state of the Iraq conflict in language that – unlike the rest of his address – asked listeners to look forward, not back, for vindication of the decision. “We refused to yield when the going got tough,” said Bush. And when the history of our actions is written, it will show that we were right.”
– CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand
And the village idiot speaks! God Bless America! Let us murder more people! Let us hate more people! Let us support the Republican party!
I wish Bush would have stood his ground with the Constituton. Instead, he sells the Constitution down the river with the Patriot act. The next conservative will do the same.
This man has done more to harm the reputation of the Presidency and the United States than any president in the last century. Who wants to bet he won't leave the White House and immediately take a high paying job with one of the Big Oil companies or defense contractors he conveniently subsidized in the last 7 years? I'm sure he'll get a pretty nice bonus.
the only thing you as a president has confirmed, is that you've lied to us from the start. You said you would bring both parties together. You would unite them, HA, you've pushed & shoved & broken laws and became a dictator. Saying that everything you want is presidental privilage. Your vice pres follows in your footsteps as a NOT TO BE TRUSTED PERSON. You said just what Obama is saying now, CHANGE, BRING TOGETHER< UNITE, and look where you got us. In 2 wars, one the people were behind, and then you pushed it for your own agenda, to finsh what your father SHOULD HAVE FINISHED and left them at Saddam's mercy. You've got to live with all the deaths of our soldiers. Yet you preach about overturning Roe, you send our soldiers to be murdered. Not very consistent in caring about peoples lives are you. It seems as if you've broken so many laws, I don't know why you haven't been impeached unless everyone just figures you've already dug your own grave in history as the worst preseident this country has ever had.
"I'm the uniter."
Haven't we heard this before?
"The results are in. And they are proving us right.”
It must be nice living on Planet Bush.
In light of the strong and as many point out over and over again a historical democratic primary that will no doubt evolve into a historical presidential run regardless of the nominee, the republicans really can't affoard a relationship with the incumbent president that would be even remotely reminiscent of that of the Al Gore campaign and Bill Clinton in 2000. Therefore if the republicans want to win this election and president Bush feels keen on his ideological brethren writing the next chapter of his experimentation in the field of foreign policy, he better do his best to paint John McCain conservative asap, seeing as McCain is the only presidential contender who too, like Bush, looks forward and not back when it comes to Iraq.
George Bush preaching party unity is almost as funny as Hillary preaching unity among Democrats! There is a large, underestimated block of Democratic voters who will never cast a vote for her and somehow the mainstrean media is ignoring this fact. But then again, what would one expect from CNN – The Clinton News Network? They ought to have their biased Hillary Clinton shill, Wolf Blitzer break the news.
Republicans unite your base and if she's the nominee, Merry Christmas, the White House is still yours!
It's touching that CNN is still worried about Bush's base. Even though he DID received more votes than any other president in history, and even after thousands of mindless anti-peace protesters expressed their disloyalty. Is CNN obsessing again??
Is this man really that oblivious to the damage he has caused? Thank GOD he is on his way out!
What a joke.
The chimp thinks that his legacy will be positive. what is he smoking?
He'll get my support also, if the democratic nominee is Hillary.
Isn't that the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome? But then the Conservative trained seals just nodded and clapped, didn't they?
the chickenhawk has set this country back 30 years. Hopefully whoever wins the Prewsidency will undo all the harm, he has inflicted.
Anyone still listen to this guy?
Great news! GW Bush endorsing McCain! Now if only Hillary drops out of the race, Obama could close the deal.
McCain is going to run as the old conservative establishment candidate who believes in Bush's tax cuts and continuing the war in Iraq. Obama is the clear choice for the Democrats to contrast himself from McCain.
"It's a brilliant trick but a TRICK none the less."
LOL. How stupid. What makes you different than the rest of the Conservative morons? Nothing.
30% percent support, huh. Reminds me of the old joke that 70% of the people think Bush is doing a terrible job and the other 30% think Adam and Eve rode to church on a dinosaur. Maybe the same 30%!
At one time Bush wanted to unite the country. Now he is settling for uniting the Republicans, and it seems he is failing miserably at that as well. Par for the Bush course: lower expectations, and then fail to live up to even those.
Regarding the Reagan "Legacy", remember it's only conservatives who put Reagan on this iconist pedestal. I don't think he was that great of a President, see Iran Contra and in his last few years Nancy was running a lot of things because he was detoriating mentally. It just kills me that conservatives put everything in Reagan terms. Remember if Bush was running in 2008 he would not be considered a Reagan Conservative. Even Bill Bennett said Reagan wasn't Reagan into well into his first term. All-in-all, Conservatives are isolating themselves because the majority of the country either doesn't remember Reagan or does not think he was this huge Icon that Conservatives think he was. He was not as great as Conservatives think he was.
Bush may still poll well among the GOP, but does this man not understand that he is viewed as a liability by the Democrats? Even those GOP who adore him certainly can't be thrilled about these sort of public engagements.
Further evidence that Bush lives his life in a state of denial.
Worse. President. Ever.
I might think about voting for McCain if he is man enough to admit the Republican Congress and White House under Bush did a terrible disservice to this country and apologized.
Nevermind, forget I said that. The Rush leading closed minded Neo-Cons hijacked the party and country. They will never get my vote again until their hatred is gone. The so called conservatives are the United States version of "extremism".
Resign in disgrace today. Otherwises, it just keeps more disgraceful.