Activists on Right Fear Waning Influence; Neocons Seen Winning Bush's Ear

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 21, 2003 | Go to article overview

Activists on Right Fear Waning Influence; Neocons Seen Winning Bush's Ear


Byline: Ralph Z. Hallow, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Conservative activists fear that they are not exercising as much influence on the Bush White House as they did in previous Republican presidencies.

In a memo to hundreds of fellow conservatives, a former Reagan administration official says traditional views are being edged out by a neoconservative "national greatness" ideology that accepts big government and advocates interventionist foreign policy.

"Today, most conservative pressure ends up as simple cheerleading for the White House," Donald J. Devine, who was President Reagan's director of the Office of Personnel Management, wrote in the memo. "That can be helpful, but there is nothing that pushes politics further to the right, leaving conservatism and the Republican Party to drift."

For nearly half a century, conservatives nudged American politics, Republican ideology and government policy toward modern conservatism's founding principles. Chief among those principles is limited government.

Yet "government keeps growing," says Mr. Devine, now vice chairman of the American Conservative Union. "Journalistic conservatism is silent about this growth of government, which is especially fueled by neoconservative dreams of empire and which threatens the whole project of American liberty."

Veteran conservative journalist M. Stanton Evans agrees. "By far the biggest political disappointment for me and I think for many other conservatives has been our failure to get a handle on the problem of big government," he says. "This very much interacts with the question of the GOP, which always runs pretty hard on this issue, but has trouble translating its rhetoric into practice."

The close identification between the conservative movement and Republican politics is part of the problem, said former Reagan administration official Floyd Brown.

"The Republican Party is becoming more and more entangled with big government," said Mr. Brown, now executive director of Young America's Foundation. "As that trend continues, the movement needs to stand up and differentiate itself from Republican politics not that I am not a supporter of the president's, because I am."

At a recent White House briefing, visiting conservative leaders urged the administration to fight harder for Senate confirmation of judicial nominees, even though some of the nominees were considered moderates who had served in the Clinton administration. …

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