Transcript: Richard Viguerie (conservatives betrayed by Bush), Jul 30 2007

Richard Viguerie, one of the grand old men of the Grand Old Party, or at least of the American modern conservative movement. His book, "Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause". He's also a co-founder of the American Freedom Agenda, along with Bruce Fein, Bob Barr and David Keen.

Thom Hartmann interviews Richard Viguerie 30 July 2007

[Thom]: Right now Richard Viguerie is with us. Richard Viguerie, one of the grand old men of the Grand Old Party, or at least of the American modern conservative movement. His book, "Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause". He's also a co-founder of the American Freedom Agenda, along with Bruce Fein, Bob Barr and David Keen. Bruce Fein and Bob Barr both have been on this program in the last week and a half. Richard Viguerie, welcome to the program.

[Viguerie]: Good to be with you again, Thom.

[Thom]: Thank you, good to have you back. The couple of things I wanted to talk with you about; one of them being the American Freedom Agenda, and this administration and the second being the Republican Party and your concern about it. And I guess the third, in that context, Fred Thompson. You've been editorializing about Fred Thompson recently and your concerns about him. He, it's hard to tell whether he's really a serious Republican candidate or not, but there's a lot of buzz around him right now.

[Viguerie]: Well, I think he's, you know, planning on being a serious candidate primarily because there is such a vacuum out there, Thom, among the base of the Republican Party; the people who are right of center politically and ideologically. And there's nobody at the top tier that quite frankly has a serious chance of being elected president, is ringing conservatives' bells. There's just a vacuum there. Unfortunately, conservatives feel that there's just no obvious heir apparent to Ronald Reagan, so we keep looking for Ronald Reagan, and clearly that person is not on the horizon at this time.

[Thom]: But Fred Thompson's sort of a Rorschach test at this point, isn't he? I mean, people see in him what they want to see? Well, [cross talk]

[Viguerie]: Well said. Yeah.

[Thom]: For 20 years he was a lobbyist. I mean, nobody even talks about that. That was his major career contribution.

[Viguerie]: Well, in this article that I put out that you referenced, you know, he's very much clearly a Washington insider and, you know, a lobbyist and the only distinction he has, when he was in the Senate for 8 years, is basically being a key mover and shaker behind the McCain Feingold legislation, which is an anathema to conservatives. So, there's very little in his background that really endears him to conservatives. So, I suspect he'll come on the scene some time in the next few months and probably not go very far and still leave a vacuum and at some point I think we'll see Newt Gingrich probably coming into the race simply because there's still going to be that vacuum that conservatives are looking for to someone fill the Ronald Reagan role.

[Thom]: Do you think that the conservatives - the old line conservatives - people that, whose point of view you're representing, within the Republican Party are still strong enough in the Republican Party that they could bring forward someone like Newt Gingrich as a candidate, as a serious candidate for president in 2008? Or do you think that the party is leaving behind conservatives and they're going to go for somebody who's more centrist; Mitt Romney, for example, who just, you know, a couple of years ago, was all pro-choice and now he's all, you know, pro-life; that sort of thing. [cross talk]

[Viguerie]: Well Thom, I think it shows the strength of the conservatives that most all the candidates are trying to make nice with the conservatives. Certainly the conservatives are the base of the party. If they don't have the conservatives, the base, there is no meaningful Republican Party. But Newt also is not seen as the heir to Ronald Reagan; he's a Washington insider, the same as Thompson and most of these other top tier candidates. And he's not seen by conservatives as a, you know, as a reincarnation of Ronald Reagan. He's not a liberal but he's a Washington politician that can kind of play it any way you want to play it.

I've had an epiphany, by the way. About two, three months ago I was reading a wonderful book by a friend of mine, Bill Middendorf. He wrote a book called "A Glorious Disaster", which is an insider's look at the draft Goldwater movement. And Bill Middendorf was there. In fact, he was the treasurer of the draft Goldwater movement. And he wrote this wonderful book, behind the scenes look at the whole effort to launch Goldwater on the national stage and to launch... [cross talk]

[Thom]: This in 63 or 59?

[Viguerie]: Beg pardon?

[Thom]: Was this in 63 or in 59/60?

[Viguerie]: Well, it started early, I'd say in 61, probably 62, and that's when Bill was involved, and I came to Young Americans for Freedom as the executive secretary in the summer of 1961 in New York and that was really the beginning of the draft Goldwater excitement, energy and passion. But I'd read the first page of the book and I put it down and I began to think and feel like the Lord took the scales off my eyes and I could see clearly. For at least 15, 20, maybe more years, Thom, every conservative I know has been looking for Ronald Reagan. Is he around that corner over there? Maybe he's behind that door, down the street, whatever, you know, we just keep looking for Ronald Reagan.

And it occurred to me, 'that's wrong, we should not be looking for Ronald Reagan. We should be looking for Barry Goldwater'. Because it was Barry Goldwater, who when he announced in January of 1964, he knew he would never be president of the United States, but he launched to his campaign for one simple reason, which was to launch the conservative movement. And he did. And you can draw a straight line from Goldwater's race for the presidency in 63/64 to Ronald Reagan's election to governor in 66 and the, you know, take off... [cross talk]

[Thom]: Yeah. No, and I remember the energy around that. I mean, I was 13 years old in 64, my dad was in the county Republican Party and I went door to door for Barry Goldwater, and within 3 years I was absolutely on the other side, but nonetheless I remember those times. And I've always been mystified by why conservatives are so enamored of Ronald Reagan. Here's a guy who ran up more debt that every other president in the history of the United States combined, who presided over an incredible bloating of the federal government, who had more senior officials of his administration convicted of crimes - serious crimes - and sent to prison than any other president of the United States, arguably the most scandal-ridden presidency in the United States, you know, I don't see what he accomplished? What was conservative about him other than his rhetoric?

[Viguerie]: Well, we, you know, what did he buy with the debt? What he bought, Thom was the end of the Soviet Union; the evil empire. The world was... [cross talk]

[Thom]: The CIA was predicting that in 1970. Back in the 70s the CIA was saying that the Soviet Union had less than 20 years to go. Gorbachev himself has come out and said, 'we knew this thing was falling apart, this had nothing to do with Ronald Reagan'.

[Viguerie]: Well, that may be so, the socialist and the left, Gorbachev etc., likes to think that, you know, Ronald Reagan didn't have anything to do with it. Gorbachev didn't have anything to do with it. Well he did, and this thing had been predicted to collapse for 75 years, and it was Ronald Reagan who through building up before we can build down. How right he was. He also was right in another way. He said we weren't going to defeat the Soviet Union so much and we were going to transcend it. We were going to go around it, over it, under it and that's what happened. No planes flew, no armies marched, no tanks rolled and we woke up one day, the Soviet Union had gone away.

Contrast that, Thom, with this president who campaigned in 1999/2000 against nation building, and he has become the biggest nation-building president in American history and Ronald Reagan, you know, won the cold war by bankrupting the Soviet Union. I'm afraid this president could bankrupt America and lose the war.

[Thom]: So George W. Bush clearly no Ronald Reagan. Bruce Fein, on this program a week and a half ago called for the impeachment of both George Bush and Dick Cheney for crimes against the constitution, and Bob Barr called for an investigation into that. Are you, as part of the American Freedom Agenda, of similar mind to Bruce Fein?

[Viguerie]: No, I don't think it's appropriate to think in terms of impeachment. I think that, you know, we need to, you know, alert the American people, and educate them, inform them how this administration has seriously abused the rights and privileges afforded them, accorded them under the constitution. And every president tries to get more power than they're supposed to have. It's kind of natural. But this president has abused that.

[Thom]: But if Clinton had done these things, wouldn't you wouldn't you have wanted to impeach Bill Clinton if he had done these things that George W. Bush is doing?

[Viguerie]: No, I don't think, you know, well who knows. You know, I wouldn't, that didn't happen at the time and so, you know, who knows what you would have done and ... [cross talk] but I'm very... [cross talk]

[Thom]: Let's, if you can stick around [cross talk] around, if you can stick around over the break, Richard Viguerie, can you stick around over the break, here?

[Viguerie]: Absolutely, like to.

[Thom]: I'd like to get your thoughts on what happens if Hillary becomes president and she has the powers that George Bush has taken on to himself, and what's the future of the conservative movement in the United States and the Republican Party. 16 minutes after the hour, we're talking with Richard Viguerie, author of "Conservatives betrayed".


[Thom]: So, the ten points of the pledge of the American Freedom Agenda are:

  • No Military Commissions Except on the Battlefield.
  • No Evidence Extracted by Torture or Coercion.
  • No Detaining Citizens as Unlawful Enemy Combatants.
  • Restore Habeas Corpus for Suspected Alien Enemy Combatants (and everybody, presumably).
  • Prohibiting Warrantless Spying by the National Security Agency in Violation of Law.
  • Renouncing Presidential Signing Statements.
  • Ending Secret Government by Invoking State Secrets Privilege.
  • Stopping Extraordinary Renditions.
  • Stop Threats to Prosecuting Journalists under the Espionage Act, and
  • End the List of Individuals or Organizations defined as Terrorists Based on Secret Evidence.

This the pledge put forward by Bruce Fein, Bob Barr, David Keen and Richard Viguerie, the American Freedom Agenda. Richard Viguerie is with us and Richard Viguerie also author of "Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause". Mitt Romney refused to sign this thing, and you said that he was unfit to serve as president. George Bush is the embodiment of the antithesis of this.

[Viguerie]: And I think he's unfit to serve as president, as I put forth in my book that you just referred to, "Conservatives Betrayed". You know, he lied to the conservatives, which means he lied to America to become president and he's been a disaster. He may go down as one of the worst if not the worst American president.

[Thom]: Then how do we hold him to account?.

[Viguerie]: Well...

[Thom]: And how do we, perhaps even more importantly, how do we make sure that the next president, and, you know, for purposes of making you shudder, let's imagine that it's Hillary Clinton, doesn't have these same powers?

[Viguerie]: Oh, well, unfortunately, he's set a precedent. and that's why it's so dangerous, what he's done. I think that, you know, this needs to become part of the political debate, Thom. I think everybody, whether you're Republican, Democrat, conservative, moderate, liberal, you should be concerned about this because, you know, time goes on, there'll be some Republicans elected, some Democrats, so it won't always be our own person. so to speak, and everybody should be worried about the abuse of power. Congress has basically just kind of rolled over here for some years and let the president run amok in too many areas.

[Thom]: But here we have, you know, attempts by the Democrats in Congress to change some of these things and Republicans filibustering them in the Senate. It just, I don't see any, it seems to me that we are already in a constitutional crisis, and if Congress is being blocked by the Bush Administration, and the loyalty of them by Republicans in the Senate, from doing things about this, what other remedy is there than impeachment?

[Viguerie]: Well, I think that, you know, pretty, that sounds to me like a political solution to the problem. I'm not sure...

[Thom]: But it's a political problem, isn't it?

[Viguerie]: Well, in some ways, but you said it's a constitutional crisis.

[Thom]: Right.

[Viguerie]: And Thom Jefferson said, "Let no more be heard about the goodness of man but tie him down by the chains of the constitution" and we, Americans only give up their freedoms basically in time of crises, and you referred to crises and that's I'm afraid, that whether a Republican is president or a Democrat, people, whether it's health care or war against terrorism, that they're going to feel that we have to give up freedoms and we're heading into very, very dangerous times, where all of our freedoms are being eroded, you know, and I think it's going to happen whether a Republican's in office or a Democrat.

[Thom]: Yeah, I would say we're not heading there, we've been there for the last three or four years.

[Viguerie]: Right, and that's why you've seen such interesting coalitions come together; American Freedom Agenda, we've been talking to a lot of people on the left about joining, here, and you've got Bob Barr, the ACLU, a lot of other people coming together in interesting coalitions, here, because we are losing our freedoms, you know, rapidly.

[Thom]: Yeah. Yeah, you and I, I mean, you know, we could have probably a loud and vigorous disagreement about, for example, national health care, you know, what you would call big government, what I would call the 'we' society or whatever, but on these issues of the absolute civil rights of Americans, this stuff came about when this country did not have political parties.

[Viguerie]: Yep, absolutely.

[Thom]: This transcends political.

[Viguerie]: You said before the break there, what's the future of the conservative movement?

[Thom]: Yes.

[Viguerie]: If you [cross talk] left of us here, let me just say that I think what conservatives need to do is think in terms of a third force, Thom; not a third party but a third force. The left has been enormously successful with third force. They have the environmental groups out there, consumer groups, the civil rights groups, the unions and all of these have their own agenda, their own membership, their own source of funds, and they pull everybody in politics in their direction. And I think conservatives have made a lot of mistakes. Number one, perhaps, above everything else, they became an appendage of the Republican Party. They just got far too close to the Republican Party. We need to, you know, sue for divorce and focus on our own issues, our own agendas, and we're not going to come to power in 18 months; just not going to happen. Even if I were able to select the next president we wouldn't have a conservative House, Senate, governors, legislators, so conservatives are going to have to go back and, you know, spend a lot of hard years working to re-launch the conservative movement.

[Thom]: Could could that be, Richard Viguerie, because America isn't where you guys are at?

[Viguerie]: No, no, it means, because like my book, "Conservatives Betrayed", we were lied to. George Bush and other big gov. Republicans lied to the country, and they said they were something that they weren't. And his father did the same thing. His father said, 'I am a conservative, trust me, if I become president, I will govern as a conservative'. Well, he's lied to us; he didn't govern as a conservative. They can't get elected on their own views and values so they have to lie to the voters.

[Thom]: Yeah. Interesting. Richard Viguerie is the author of "Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause". Richard Viguerie, thanks for being with us today.

[Viguerie]: Always a pleasure, Thom, thank you.

[Thom]: Good talking with you.

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