Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh is now standing up for former Vice President Dick Cheney after Cheney took aim at the White House, Democrats and even Colin Powell. Powell suggested that Republicans need to move toward the political center to survive and Cheney took a shot questioning whether Powell was even a Republican anymore.
Limbaugh commented on the matter, saying “What motivates Dick Cheney? Love of country. National interest. He doesn't need this abuse. He's the lone voice. But if we're going to moderate and try to make ourselves look like we're on the same page as Obama, well, he is going to get all the credit for all the good and we’re going to all the blame for all the bad and there is going to be no reason to ever vote for Republicans.”
David Frum is a conservative columnist and editor of newmajority.com and was a speechwriter for former President George W. Bush. He spoke to Kiran Chetry on CNN’s “American Morning” Tuesday.
Kiran Chetry: How troubling is it when you have two very polarizing figures like Rush Limbaugh and former Vice President Dick Cheney taking up a lot of air time for the Republican Party? As a Republican, does that concern you?
David Frum: Look, Dick Cheney is a great man and one of the most effective and knowledgeable people in the Bush administration and all of Washington. The country owes him a great deal. But this kind of dispute reminds me of those t-shirts you sometimes see at boot camps and things like that... the beatings will continue until morale improves. The firings from the Republican Party will continue until the party gets bigger. I don't think what we need is a fight between Dick Cheney and Colin Powell.
A Republican Party that’s not big enough to include Colin Powell – well that’s not a very big party… Many people inside Washington think of Colin Powell as a figure who’s about domestic politics. But in the eyes of America he is the general who won the only unequivocal victory this country has seen in any war since World War II. So if you want to say we don't have room for him, well we have room for all the generals for the losing wars we don’t have room for the generals from the winning wars and I don't think that's a very appealing message.
Chetry: You said Dick Cheney is a great man. And we’re not questioning that. The problem is he is wildly unpopular with the general public. I think he has a 19% favorability rating. Even among the GOP I think it’s something around 50%. When he takes shots at someone like Colin Powell, he said I'm questioning whether or not he is even a Republican, how does that help the GOP brand?
Frum: Well look, we've got a breakdown here in some of the conventions and etiquette of one administration to another. I don’t think most people understand this. The U.S. government isn't very good at preserving a memory between one administration and another. You have to get on the phone sometimes. The new president has to call the old president and the new vice president has to call the old one. If you are shooting at each other, it makes it impossible for that kind of conversation to happen. And the country loses.
At the same time you have the Obama administration talking about prosecuting people from the Bush administration for actions done in the course of their public duties and that is unprecedented, too. I think we all need a drink of cold water. And we need to understand the old president and the old vice president should not be criticizing the new administration. And the new administration should not be threatening to prosecute the old administration.
Chetry: On his radio program yesterday, Limbaugh said the GOP needs to show a strong contrast to not look like Democrats. What is your response to that? You have to stake out some sort of ground that is not necessarily we agree, but here are the slight places we disagree with the president?
Frum: Well, he is right on the principle. A party wants to draw a contrast between itself and the other party. Sharpen the choice. You want to do it in a way that puts the larger share of public opinion on your side and the smaller share on the side of the party you're fighting. Rush Limbaugh seems bent on determining the opposite. There are only about 1 out of 5 Americans who strongly disapprove of the job President Obama is doing.
There’s a larger group who have some anxieties and doubts about it. You need to talk to them. You need to talk to not just your core 20% but to that bigger group in order to get to 51. About a third of the country describes itself as conservative. That would be a great base for a political party in Italy. But in America, you need that 33%, plus another 18 and those are the people Republicans need to be talking to now.
Chetry: If you had your dream face right now of the people we would be talking about for the Republicans, not necessarily Rush Limbaugh and not the former vice president, who do you think you need to keep an eye on?
Frum: The Republican Party will recover from the states. That is where its strength always comes from. I'm very excited about governors, like Governor Huntsman in Utah who has some very interesting environmental ideas. He’s pro-life but open to a softer line on some of these more contentious social issues like same-sex unions. Governor Crist, in Florida, who’s accomplished one of the most important environmental achievements of any politician in America by reclaiming the Everglades from the sugar industry. Those are two exciting leaders, we have a lot of others. Governor Pawlenty. Governor Jindal I think is very promising. So that is where our rescue will come from, from actual governance, actual achievement at the state level. That is the history of the party.