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. Damian

    This guy is delusional. A certified border-line mental case, sociopath!
    Luckily he's virtually illiterate, so he won't have the opportunity to define his own version of history with a book.

    February 8, 2008 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  2. Bob

    That should just about wrap up the general election for McCain.

    February 8, 2008 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  3. Texan

    An endorsement from Bush ( a newly "Born Again" conservative) is the best news the Demo`s could hear. –Talk about a "Flip-Flopper". McCain needs to keep as much distance between himself and Jr. as humanly possible.

    February 8, 2008 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  4. Anonymous

    Oh, Bush will leave a legacy all right....

    February 8, 2008 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  5. Skip

    His speech reminds me why he really is not President to all Americans, and only represents white conservatives. He has never lead the country as a whole. Mr. Bush is the first president in my life time who is not a national leader in the traditional sense. His administration has accomplished very little other than posturing and the disastrous war in Iraq. January 2008 cannot come soon enough.

    February 8, 2008 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  6. David R

    This piece is particularly biased against Huckabee, and against the Republican party. Just as in the last debate, CNN portrays itself as the liberal King-maker.

    To suggest the Bush has signaled to McCain - is itself to make a signal that McCain will only bring more of the same as Bush. And that's not what the Republicans really want to bring in November.

    February 8, 2008 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  7. Ian

    If you want our troops home then you might want to take another look at Ron Paul. The Democrats promised to bring them home in '06 and look where that got us. Just as the Republicans blocked any bill with a timetable, the Dem's could have blocked any more funding for the war. The point isn't to blame either party but to point out the fact that there is a candidate out there who says point blank that he will bring our troops home. I'm all for protecting ourselves, but not at the expense of hundreds of thousands of other people. Personally I think that by having our troops home we would be able to come up with a proactive approach to security rather than a reactive one.

    February 8, 2008 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  8. Bubba

    Bush says ".....it will show that we were right.” I say, yes too far to the right, made him wrong in every case.

    February 8, 2008 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  9. Donald Wilmarth

    “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.”

    I'd like to hear just one thing that went right during this administration. Does this guy actually believe what comes out of his mouth?

    February 8, 2008 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  10. Devon

    I believe the proper spelling is "addresses."

    February 8, 2008 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  11. r sisk, nevada

    This man is so out of touch with reality it's scary. I suppose it's nice for him to have a small group that support his maniacal policies so he does have someone to give a speech to. The sight of this man make me want to hurl. And lets not even go to his command of the English Language.

    February 8, 2008 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  12. rhs

    The only thing history will decide is if in fact Bush is the worst president we have ever had. His so called "conservative" leadership has been an utter disaster and there is very little chance that historians can make an 8 year car wreck look good without appearing utterly delusional.

    February 8, 2008 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  13. Tim

    This kind of stuff makes my head hurt. McCain was at the same meeting yesterday falling all over the lunatic fringe of the right wing claiming he's as looney as they are. They just want him to make a few more promises before they'll support him......what essentially amounts to wanting him to run for Bush's third term. He tumbleld and bought in and will do the bidding for these loonies...meaning we get more of the same counter-intuitive policies and incompetent management.

    The loud sound you heard yesterday was the rest of the wheels coming off the "straight talk express". Now McCain will have the opportunity to come to the rest of us......maybe 85% of the voters and tell that he was only kidding when he made those commitments to the right wing loonies. That he's really a "moderate" and didn't really mean it. So....who is the real McCain?

    This should certainly arouse the support of independents....who despise the right wing agenda and continued occupation in Iraq.

    Bush will now has the chance to lend his considerable popularity to this cause. Remember, this is the same Bush who crucified McCain 2000 by having his surrogates accuse McCain of being mentally unstable.

    I predict a drubbing on the scale of the Goldwater shellacing of 1964.

    February 8, 2008 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  14. Liam Burke, Buffalo, NY

    There goes the Republicans chance.....

    February 8, 2008 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  15. Wayne, Greenville TX

    Based on Bush's low approval numbers, his endorsement of anything or anyone can be looked on as the Kiss of Death.

    As each day goes by, things are looking better and better for my fellow Democrats.

    February 8, 2008 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  16. Shannon Shiflett

    he belongs in a room full of hateful people. impeach and convict the bush administration.

    February 8, 2008 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  17. M. Rogers

    Bush stood his ground on the controversial issues, and yes, the results are in. The republicans lost both houses of congress in 2006 and they will soon be thrown out of the White House. He has been proven wrong.

    February 8, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  18. Robert NYC & Miami

    "proving us right."

    The Idiot President is also a parrot. Repeating lies does not make it true, though.

    February 8, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  19. Nate

    I cannot wait 'til Jan 20, 2009.

    February 8, 2008 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  20. Sandi

    Wolf – you really do need to learn to spell – should be "aDDressess".

    Who cares what Bush does.....counting the days.

    February 8, 2008 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  21. JEB BUSH

    Cheney returning to South Texas site of hunting mishap

    CORPUS CHRISTI — Here's to better luck this time.

    Vice President Dick Cheney is returning this weekend to the South Texas ranch where he accidentally shot a hunting companion two years ago. Anne Armstrong said Cheney was expected to arrive today at the Armstrong's 50,000-acre ranch.

    February 8, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  22. jyfranca

    Bush will have my vote over and over again.he is the only person i agree with in every issue am proud to be part of 30% who support him.And am happy 30% are right,and 70% are flags going wherever the wind goes

    February 8, 2008 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  23. Paul

    I don't undrstand how he can say those words after all the $ he has put in war.
    If it is one of his pet projects it is OK, if it is someone elses idea it is no good.
    Without a doubt he is the worst President I have seen in my 62 years.
    I hope the next President can clean up the mess and get our friends back, and put some $ back in the till.
    God help us

    February 8, 2008 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  24. Brian, San Jose, CA

    Come on, CNN. Can't you be better than all the other major news outlets? I had to scrounge for an mp3 file of Ron Paul's speech to this same CPAC meeting because no one else was reporting on it. Ron Paul was clearly much more well-received than McCain. In fact there weren't any boos (though there could have been some jeering, but, again, I could only find an mp3 file of his speech). He was cheered from start to finish, making it clear that the conservative base of the GOP doesn't really want McCain. Too bad for them Paul won't win the nomination. Too bad for the country too.

    February 8, 2008 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  25. CaptainL

    Mr. Bush has become the poster child for denial!

    February 8, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
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