February 8th, 2008
09:10 AM ET
13 years ago

Bush urges conservative unity

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/02/08/art.bush.ap.jpg caption=" Bush addressed CPAC Friday."]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


Filed under: President Bush
soundoff (74 Responses)
  1. AJ

    Wow – did McCain hide?
    Just what everyone wants, a pat on the back from G.W. Bush.
    Cant he just go away? I'm tired of looking at his simian face.

    February 8, 2008 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  2. let's be real

    Sadly, a Republican in the White House will doom us all.

    February 8, 2008 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  3. jamil

    Where has HE been living for the last EIGHT horrible years? He is so out of touch that the Republican party is forever damaged.

    February 8, 2008 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  4. Charlotte

    Where are the people that give him 30% approval or is that the least you can get period?

    February 8, 2008 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  5. Dan

    This is all a Republican trick. The are just trying to separate McCain from the Republican party to trick Americans into believing that he is not like the rest of the Republicans. Do not be fooled! He will continue the same agenda's as G. W. Bush and the Republicans. Think about it! You have people like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham saying that they will vote for Hillary Clinton over McCain.? Do you really believe that? What it will do is make all the republicans that are sick of their own party (and there is a lot of them!) and the independents and all the undecided voters and make it easier for them to vote for a republican candidate because he must not be like the rest of the republicans if the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham don't like him. It's a brilliant trick but a TRICK none the less.

    February 8, 2008 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  6. Emily Coletta

    He's got Bush's support? That's it–McCain will never get my vote. That's all this country needs is another 4 years of a Bush-like administration.

    February 8, 2008 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  7. TheLeftNut

    Flip-Flop-Flip-Flop-Flip-Flop

    February 8, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  8. Brian - Ohio

    His legacy:

    1. A broke goverment – from record surplus to a record deficit
    2. A country hated by many around the world
    3. A no ending, absurd, unecessary and costly war
    4. An economy collapsing
    5. A record increase in the cost of petroleum while oil companies (with subsidies from his administration) are having record earnings....

    DO I NEED TO CONITNUE ON????

    February 8, 2008 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  9. William A

    Go Bush..... Your support for McCain will surely seal his fate!
    BYE BYE John! 🙂 🙂

    There is a GOD!

    February 8, 2008 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  10. Mike Glenn

    Um, maybe I'm just unable to read between the lines, but could someone point-out to me where Dubya 'signaled' support for John McCain?

    ....And, would John McCain really *want* it?

    February 8, 2008 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  11. Theresa

    ...once again proving facts will not get in their way.

    February 8, 2008 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  12. Chris Texas

    The final nail in the conffin for Republicans.

    Even if you agreed with Bush and his terms, and support him as some conservatives do, surely you would sit back and gasp at his support for McCain over Huckabee?. Also, support McCain so we can keep the White House...

    It's still going to take a miracle for the Republicans to win the White House this year. 5 – 6 Red states converted Blue in the Primaries (Much Higher Democratic Voters). And whether it be Obama's spirited pep rally style or Hillary's political machine vs McCain. He's been settup for failure.

    Democrats will win the Presidency in '09. You will be shaking the hand of either Obama, or another Clinton Bush. Not the hand of a Republican.

    February 8, 2008 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  13. RJ, SV, AZ

    An endorsement for McCain from Bush would be the greatest endorsement the democratic candidate could possibly hope for.

    Is 30% of this country STILL that delusional?

    February 8, 2008 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  14. Jorge UU Boosh

    The results are in!

    BUSH SUKKS!!!

    February 8, 2008 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  15. j williamson

    Go Bush! (And take Cheney with you!)

    February 8, 2008 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  16. Chuck

    How can the GOP stand it's ground when McCain picks GRAM as his VP.???

    February 8, 2008 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  17. Rodney Dallas TX

    Is being supported by George Bush actually a good thing? If I were McCain, I'd say "NO THANK YOU"!!!!! Regardless of who the Republican nominee is, they don't stand a chance. People have suffered 8 years of Republican Bush and I'm quite sure they don't want another one in office so soon. Whether it be Clinton or Obama, a Democrat will be President.

    February 8, 2008 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  18. GOBAMA

    What a surprised! (being sarcastic)

    Go OBama

    February 8, 2008 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  19. PeeWee

    He's a symbol of the failure of political conservatism; it stinks like he does.

    February 8, 2008 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  20. rich

    Good. That should ensure a Democratic victory in November. For once, he does something right.

    February 8, 2008 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  21. keith Franklin, Tn

    Hooray!!!!!! The Bush kiss of death. McCain should immediately disavow any connection to Bush if he intends to win.

    February 8, 2008 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  22. schratboy

    This is news?

    February 8, 2008 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  23. Eric

    Time to vote in Obama so we can laugh at his Third World approach to politics.

    If there is anything resembling America left after his 4 years, Mitt can return to rebuild!

    February 8, 2008 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  24. Bodo, Allegan, MI

    That's probably the only group that will even listen to him anymore. It seems he thinks by saying he was right enough times, somebody besides himself might actually believe it. History will contain the facts of his legacy, which will be much different than his grand dilusions.

    February 8, 2008 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  25. beth

    you capitalized the U in bush on the main page

    February 8, 2008 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
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