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CNN Live Event/Special

Broken Government: Where the Right Went Wrong

Aired November 01, 2006 - 23:00   ET


JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): It is a bitterly cold January morning in 2002. The president of the United States steps off Marine One and boards Air Force One for a flight to a small town in Ohio. It's a short flight, but it has been more than 70 years in the making.

An avowedly conservative president is going to sign into a law bill passed by a Senate and a House under Republican control, the Republican Party now firmly under conservative control, governing the country where three voters calling themselves conservatives for every two that call themselves liberal.


GREENFIELD: But, as President Bush and his entourage enter a public school in Hamilton, Ohio, this January day, look again at one of his traveling companions.


GREENFIELD: Yes, it's Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, the living symbol of contemporary American liberalism. And he's here because the bill President Bush is signing will vastly increase federal spending and federal supervision over the nation's public schools.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The new role of the federal government is to set high standards, provide resources, hold people accountable, and liberate school districts to meet the standards.

So, now it's time to spend billions of dollars and get good results.


GREENFIELD: You heard that right: an avowedly conservative president celebrating the spending of billions more dollars on education by the same federal Department of Education Ronald Reagan had once vowed to abolish.

Watching all of this was Mike Pence.

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: I didn't come to Congress to help Ted Kennedy move his agenda. I came to make the agenda of Ronald Reagan, the conservative of the Republican Party, real.

GREENFIELD: ... then a 42-year-old from Indiana serving his first term in Congress. As much as anyone can, Pence embodies the growth of conservatism in recent decades.

PENCE: Growing up in a large Irish Catholic family, for me, there was a picture of the pope and John F. Kennedy on the television set. And, from very early on, President Kennedy and his family really fired my imagination about public service.

I was the Democratic Party coordinator in Bartholomew County, Indiana, in 1976. But, by the time I got to college, began to think about the conservative values that I was raised to believe in, I was very much drawn to the philosophy of government expressed by President Ronald Reagan.


RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No government in history has ever voluntarily reduced itself in size. And that's what we're going to do to the federal government.


GREENFIELD: Mike Pence ran and lost twice for Congress preaching the gospel of conservatism.

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We believe in the power and the importance of the individual. Second...

PENCE: I spend a lot of time driving around southern Indiana in a Grand Prix with Newt Gingrich's GOPAC tapes strewn all over the floor...


PENCE: ... of our car.

Know that the time of politics...

GREENFIELD: In 2000, Pence finally won that seat in Congress. And he was ready to help rein in big government. But there was a surprise in store for him.

PENCE: I arrived in Washington, D.C., in 2001, greatly inspired by the ideals of Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich.


GINGRICH: Won't a little less money for government...



REAGAN: As you know, I have never liked big government. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PENCE: And the very first priority in the very first Congress I was a part of was the No Child Left Behind act that increased the federal Department of Education by 50 percent and introduced national testing in the fourth and eighth grade.

GREENFIELD: And that was only the beginning. Over the next five years, a growing number of conservatives watched with growing uneasiness at what unfolded.

BUSH: The bill I signed today authorizes $400 million.

This legislation will authorize $200 million per year.

There's no doubt we increased our budgets.

GREENFIELD: The biggest increase in discretionary domestic spending of any administration since LBJ's.

BUSH: Our government is finally bringing prescription drug coverage to the seniors of America.

GREENFIELD: The biggest new entitlement, the prescription drug program, since Medicare.

BUSH: In order to fight and win the war, it requires an expenditure of money.

GREENFIELD: A war in Iraq premised on a foreign policy that aimed to bring democracy to every corner of the globe...


SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There is an investigation going on by the Justice Department.


GREENFIELD: ... and embraced by congressional Republicans of the very behavior...

BUSH: I don't know him.

GREENFIELD: ... trading legislative favors for campaign cash and personal enrichment, that outraged conservatives when Democrats were in control.

PENCE: I believe that -- as a movement, that we have veered off course into the dangerous and unchartered waters of big-government Republicanism.

GREENFIELD: Mike Pence is far from alone.

In recent months, conservative have penned a stack of books, accusing Bush and congressional Republicans of abandoning the conservative cause.

And a growing number of conservatives have been asking out loud, what ever happened to the core conservative notion proclaimed by Ronald Reagan in his first inaugural?


REAGAN: Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.


GREENFIELD: It is a conviction held by the founding father of conservatism, who launched his "National Review" magazine half-a- century ago.

WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY JR., FOUNDER, "NATIONAL REVIEW": The government can't do anything for you, except in proportion as it can do something to you.

GREENFIELD: By a British-born, Catholic, gay libertarian.

ANDREW SULLIVAN, ANDREWSULLIVAN.COM: Why can we not say small government is the best government?

GREENFIELD: By a Texas-academic-turned-politician who helped win the battle for Congress and became one of its leaders.

DICK ARMEY (R), FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: I believe in small government. I believe in personal liberty.

GREENFIELD: And a Kennedy-Democrat-turned-conservative- Republican who is in his third term in the House.

PENCE: Millions of Americans who cherish the ideals of limited government and traditional values are not about power.

GREENFIELD: Although Pence is not among them, the discontent has grown so loud that, this fall, several well-known conservatives joined in arguing that: It's time for us to go -- saying that conservatives should actually welcome the loss of Republican majorities in the Congress.

(on camera): The conservatives' discontent with what has been done in their name is far from all-encompassing.

The president's conduct of the war on terror, his appointment of judges to the federal bench meet with widespread approval from the base. But what you will hear in this hour -- and you will be hearing only from conservatives -- is that, for a surprising number, what has been done under the banner of conservatism is not really conservative at all.

SULLIVAN: This is not just a betrayal of it. It's an attack on it. GREENFIELD (voice-over): It is the essential conservative creed: Government is too big, and it spends too much. But, while virtually all conservatives welcomed the Bush tax cuts, some of them charge that this president and this Congress have actually spent beyond a liberal's wildest dreams.




BUSH: I, George Walker Bush, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute, so help me God.

GREENFIELD (voice-over): Less than a month after President Bush began his second term, conservatives gathered again to celebrate in Washington at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the Woodstock of the American right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove.


GREENFIELD: There, they heard Karl Rove, the architect of Bush's reelection, as the president dubbed him, celebrate the conservative triumphs.

KARL ROVE, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BUSH: Republicans and conservatives control the White House...

BUSH: May God bless.

ROVE: The Senate, the House, the majority of governorships, and more state legislative seats than we have had in the last 80 years. That's a pretty remarkable rise...


GREENFIELD: And this building where conservatives met seemed a perfect symbol. It was the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, named after the larger-than-life hero who first gained real power for conservatives.

But the Reagan building is also symbolic in a way that makes many on the right uneasy. It's a billion-dollar baby, one of the most expensive government buildings of them all.

(on camera): Why is this symbolic? Because, while they talk conservative rhetoric, the president and the Congress have actually been spending the taxpayers' dollars at a rate faster than at any time since Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. And a lot of the spending is just the kind that drives conservatives right up the wall.

(voice-over): Federal education spending, up 27 percent in Clinton's eight years.

BUSH: What are you writing about?

GREENFIELD: Thirty-nine percent under Bush after just five years.

BUSH: I'm here to sign the highway bill.

GREENFIELD: Transportation, a $286 billion bill that included the infamous bridge to nowhere.


TOM DASCHLE (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: It was rigged. They stole the vote.


GREENFIELD: In 2003, the Republican congressional leadership twisted arms and bent the rules...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The yeas are 220. The nays are 215.

GREENFIELD: ... all to pass a prescription drug deal that, over the years, will add some $2 trillion -- that's trillion with a T. -- to federal obligations.


GREENFIELD: And, as if to rub salt in conservative wounds, look whose commitment to health care the president cited when he signed that bill.

BUSH: Lyndon Johnson established that commitment by signing the Medicare Act of 1965. And, today, by reforming and modernizing this vital program, we are honoring the commitments of Medicare to all our seniors.


GREENFIELD: And all this red ink has any number of conservatives seeing red.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Conservatives came to office to reduce the size of government and enlarge the sphere of free and private enterprise. But, lately, we have increased government, in order to stay in office.

SULLIVAN: They have increased the amount of government spending by a degree that no Democrat would ever dream of getting away with. Do we really think the Democrats could have spent more money over the last five years than the Republicans? And do you think they would have ever gotten away with it? Don't you think the president would have vetoed a couple of those spending bills?

GREENFIELD: Bruce Bartlett, who helped shape Ronald Reagan's tax ideas, said that, when Bush campaigned...

BUSH: It's conservative to cuts taxes. It's compassionate to give people their own money back.

Our conservative philosophy will lead to compassionate results.

GREENFIELD: Conservatives may have heard what they wanted to hear.

BRUCE BARTLETT, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: When we heard Bush say these things, like compassionate conservatism...

BUSH: I'm a compassionate conservative.

BARTLETT: ... we thought it was just campaign rhetoric. He was just saying this to get elected, and it didn't mean anything. But, once he got into office, it turned out that these terms, like compassionate conservatism, were, in fact, operational. They -- they actually meant something.

GREENFIELD: Indeed, no matter what the Congress has done in the way of spending, no matter how many hometown projects are stuffed into something like that $286 billion transportation bill -- you will hear a lot more about these in a few minutes -- President Bush has not vetoed a single spending bill in the nearly six years of his administration.

Why not?

GROVER NORQUIST, PRESIDENT, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: This is when I met President Reagan in New Hampshire. We raised $20,000 for him.

GREENFIELD: Grover Norquist, the head of Americans For Tax Reform, has a blunt, maybe even cynical explanation: Spending just doesn't mean that much to the coalition of conservatives gathered around the table.

NORQUIST: Around that table, they will walk, if you step on their toes, on their central vote-moving issue. There is nobody around the center-right table that moves on spending. So, you go to everybody in the room, they say, "I wish you wouldn't spend so much." But nobody walks out of the room because of that.

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: I mean, these are the guys that are saying the things that I agree with.

GREENFIELD: Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, a likely presidential candidate in '08, put it succinctly, as he worked a gathering of social conservatives in Washington recently.

BROWNBACK: Few people will come up to me in Kansas and say, you know, thank you for cutting this program. A number of people will come up to me and say, thank you for getting us this bridge.

PENCE: Annie (ph), I'm Mike Pence. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nice to meet you.

PENCE: Welcome. Welcome.

GREENFIELD: As he campaigns in Indiana this autumn...

PENCE: I hear we're going to get some pork today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to get some pork today. That's right.

PENCE: Yes. Yes. I mean the good kind.


PENCE: Yes, not the kind I'm fighting in Washington.


GREENFIELD: ... Mike Pence can hear from his own constituents that the question of federal spending may not exactly be at the top of their concerns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the war is an issue that is really significant to everybody.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pro-life and health care.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say illegal immigration.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The morals in our society going downhill.

GREENFIELD: But his own view?

PENCE: I think the real scandal in Washington, D.C., is runaway federal spending. I really believe that, to the extent that -- that millions of Americans are -- are frustrated with our national legislature under Republican control, it is a sense of frustration that a party committed to fiscal discipline and reform has not been about those things.

GREENFIELD: Big government means more corruption -- that's what conservatives have always said -- politicians using their power to swap tax dollars to insiders, in return for campaign cash and favors. Did that change when they took power? Yes. It got worse.




REP. JIM WRIGHT (D-TX), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Let me give you back this job.


GREENFIELD: May 31, 1989, the first major victory of the Republican revolutionaries in Congress, driving Speaker Jim Wright out of the Congress for selling both copies of his book to evade limits on speaking fees.


GINGRICH: They worked out a nice deal to get around the rules, and Jim Wright got some more money.


GREENFIELD: For Newt Gingrich, a Republican backbencher determined to end decades of Democratic rule, it was proof that corruption was a powerful political message.


GINGRICH: Hopefully, I would be able to convince them.


GREENFIELD: And, notes one of his top lieutenants, ex- Congressman Vin Weber, corruption meant something much broader than crime. It went to the heart of what was wrong with big government.

VIN WEBER (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: It doesn't necessarily have to mean that it corrupts them personally. It can mean, you know, you sort of corrupt the electorate by buying off their votes with government subsidies. And I think that -- that's -- that's a bedrock conservative belief.


GINGRICH: I pull the string, all right?


GREENFIELD: So, when the Republicans ended the Democrats' 40- year rule in 1994...


GINGRICH: We are going to change their world.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GREENFIELD: ... one key promise was to attack the traditional exchange of legislative favors for political and even personal benefit.


GREENFIELD (on camera): But conservatives have long argued, all power tends to corrupt. And, when they got their hands on it, they proved just how right they were.

(voice-over): Consider Tom DeLay, arguably the most powerful member of Congress during his 12-year reign as majority whip and then majority leader...


REP. TOM DELAY (R), TEXAS: The Republican Congress has found over $14 billion in waste, fraud and abuse.


GREENFIELD: ... until he resigned this year, under an ethical cloud.

He set out almost immediately to use the power of the purse to keep his party in power. DeLay did not respond to CNN's request for an interview.

ARMEY: Tom DeLay was, in fact, a man of very narrow vision. He was always more convinced -- concerned about politics, particularly his own political well-being. And he was always quite comfortable with the idea that whatever power we have should be used on our own behalf.


GREENFIELD: DeLay often put freshman Republicans who had won very close elections on the House Appropriations Committee, which controls congressional purse strings.


DELAY: This is about power.


GREENFIELD: Members like Anne Northup of Kentucky, for example, who had won by only 1,300 votes in 1996.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman Anne Northup has led the lobbying for a new hospital.

GREENFIELD: In every election since, she has run on her ability to bring home the bacon...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And don't forget on alternative fuel. GREENFIELD: ... or pork, as the case may be.

REP. ANNE NORTHUP (R), KENTUCKY: It's important that we have regional centers of excellence.

GREENFIELD: This was pretty much business as usual, even if it was the sort of business the conservative insurgents had promised to stop.

More dramatic was DeLay's so-called K Street project, named after the Washington street where powerful lawyers and lobbyists cluster.

Grover Norquist says the K Street project was nothing more than an attempt to get lobbying firms to hire people, including ex- congressmen and staffers, who were sympathetic to basic conservative notions about regulation and taxes.

NORQUIST: We say to K Street: Hire people who agree with you philosophically. If you want free trade, if you want to fight trial lawyers, if you want lower taxes, hire people who understand why that's good policy. Do not hire for access.

GREENFIELD: But conservative writer Matthew Continetti says, author of a book on the project, says, Tom DeLay's goal was actually very different.

MATTHEW CONTINETTI, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": He basically created a -- political machine by tapping those lobbyists for contributions, and asking them, what do they want from the Republican majority?

GREENFIELD: And nowhere did the influence of lobbyists have more impact on the Congress than with so-called earmarks, projects that individual members of Congress can slip into spending bills, usually without any oversight whatsoever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

GREENFIELD: They can include everything from the now infamous $223 million Alaska bridge to nowhere...


GREENFIELD: ... to $25,000 for mariachi music education in schools in Clark County, Nevada, to $225,000 for reducing wild beaver damage in Wausau, Wisconsin.

When he was president...


REAGAN: ... is look at this $87.5 billion budget-busting highway and transit bill passed by Congress.


GREENFIELD: ... Ronald Reagan had vetoed a bill with 152 earmarks.

In 2005, President Bush signed one with 6,371 earmarks.



GREENFIELD: Earmarks were how Randy "Duke" Cunningham was able to supply favors for business interests who gave him some $2.5 million in bribes.

They were how Congressman Bob Ney was able to do favors for lobbyist Jack Abramoff's clients, in return for campaign cash and other favors. All three are now in or on their way to prison.

But, to use a now classic observation, the real scandal isn't what's illegal, but what is legal. And the gap between what these insurgent conservatives promised when they took power and what's been done is more like a chasm.

CONTINETTI: Well, I think, if you look back, the Republican revolution wanted to drain the swamp of public corruption in Washington. They wanted to shrink government. And they wanted to kind of restore the national defense. That's something that is often overlooked. And, of course, now, in terms of that swamp, they find themselves up to their neck in the muck.

GREENFIELD: They're the so-called value voters. And they have been a key to conservative victories. But now some of them say they're being taken for granted. And other conservatives say, their causes aren't really conservative at all.





GREENFIELD (voice-over): September 2006 -- more than 1,500 people will crowd into a Washington hotel for a gathering that embodies the power...

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Washington is never going to be the same again.

GREENFIELD: ... and the tension of a conservative coalition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first thing you do....

GREENFIELD: This is the value voters summit of the Family Research Council, an organization formed to advance the cause of traditional conservative values.

DOBSON: Abortion is morally wrong. We're winning that battle. PERKINS: We did invite Hillary Clinton.

GREENFIELD: Council President Tony Perkins, one-time Republican politician from Louisiana, insists the council is not an extension of the Republican Party.

PERKINS: I know people look at us and say that you're fiercely partisan. Our folks are driven by the issues. I wish we had more Democrats that embraced the core family values. It would be good competition.

GREENFIELD: For now, the traditional values movement has become a key element of the modern GOP. At its summit, a parade of would-be Republican presidential candidates appear, and Congressman Mike Pence is here as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman, how are you?

PENCE: I'm great, Harvey. Great to be on...

GREENFIELD: Looking at (inaudible) of conservative radio talk show hosts, rallying the faithful.

PENCE: We need a Republican majority in Washington, D.C., and I challenge you, I challenge you to labor in the weeks ahead.

GREENFIELD: And faithful is the right word. In the last presidential election, at least 78 percent of white evangelicals voted for President Bush, and regular church goers chose Bush over Gore and Kerry by 20 points or more.

(on camera): When it comes to values, discontent has emerged on two fronts. Many of them ardent foot soldiers in the movement say the Republicans have taken them for granted, even sold them out. And many more traditional conservatives are strongly opposed to what this movement wants.

PERKINS: I think there is quite a bit of disappointment. You have a lot of folks that were involved in the Republican revolutions that have not seen the advancements that they wanted, and they have become very discouraged and in some cases frustrated and ready to throw in the towel.

Hey, Phil. How are you doing?

GREENFIELD: Phil Burress is one of those frustrated activists. He's president of the Ohio-based Citizens for Community Values. He led the successful fight in 2004 to ban gay marriage in Ohio, which just might have brought enough voters to the polls to give the state, and thus the White House, to Bush.

Listen to what he says he would say to Republican office holders before the Mark Foley scandal exploded.

PHIL BURRESS, CITIZENS FOR COMMUNITY VALUES: We voted for you because you're pro-life, pro-family, pro-marriage. And if you're going to go up there and use your influence to combat us in those arenas, you're going to lose this.

GREENFIELD: That is exactly why the Mark Foley story has the GOP so worried.

HASTERT: When you talk about the page issue and...

GREENFIELD: What the House Republican leadership did or didn't do played right into the conviction of any number of social conservatives that the party cares about their political clout but not about their deeply held convictions.

Underlining this belief, a new book by former White House aide David Kuo, which charges that high White House officials actually treated social conservatives in private with contempt.

But there's also a very different kind of conservative discontent on social issues. Whatever happened, some asked, to the root conservative belief that the size and the reach of government is at odds with individual freedom?

For Andrew Sullivan, conservative means that the government stays out of the bedroom and the boardroom, that religion is left to the private sphere, not entwined with the state. His book, "The Conservative Soul," argues that the capture of the Republican Party by the so-called religious right has done injury to real conservatism.

SULLIVAN: The founding fathers of this country kept God out of the Constitution for a reason. They had seen what had happened. But putting God into politics, putting God into partisan politics is to me blasphemy.

GREENFIELD: Conservatives may well argue that Andrew Sullivan is not precisely a representative source. British-born, pro-gay marriage -- openly gay, for that matter -- and a fierce critic of Bush's conduct of the Iraq war and his use of broad executive power.

So consider Dick Armey. Armey was a top lieutenant for Newt Gingrich when the self-proclaimed revolutionaries captured the Congress. An unapologetic partisan, Armey sees the dominance of the so-called religious right in harsh terms.

Here, for instance, is how he describes the Terri Schiavo case, when Congress and the president rushed to intervene in the case of the comatose young woman.

ARMEY: The Schiavo case was a case of our party hopelessly pandering to the most militant, aggressive and least thoughtful people in the Christian right movement, least appreciative of how America is about freedom, individual rights, personal privacy.

GREENFIELD: There is, however, one area where social conservatives and economic conservatives are united in praise of the Republican president and Congress: The appointment of federal judges. And social conservatives also point to an issue separate from traditional values that has won the president strong support from their ranks... BUSH: Homeland security.

GREENFIELD: His response to the threat of terrorism.

PERKINS: That is where social conservatives stand very firmly with the president, disproportionately to the rest of the population, because the president, as he has described it, this is a war between good and evil, and social conservatives understand the difference between good and evil and they stand with the president on this.

BUSH: In this time of war...

GREENFIELD: But as a whole, the conservative movement is deeply, even passionately, divided over the war in Iraq and over the president's sweeping redefinition of American foreign policy: To make America safer by spreading democracy worldwide.

BUSH: And we will win.

GREENFIELD: To many figures on the right, that is emphatically not what a conservative foreign policy is about.


BUSH: I, George Walker Bush, do solemnly swear ...

GREENFIELD: January 20th, 2001. One a rainswept midday at the start of the new millennium, a new president took the oath of office when the forces of history seemed to have swept away many of the terrors of the old millennium.

The Berlin Wall had fallen. Then the Soviet Union itself, our nuclear adversary for half a century, had literally ceased to exist.

And in his campaign the year before, candidate Bush had sounded traditional conservative themes.

BUSH: The need for limited government.

GREENFIELD: Caution, prudence, skepticism about grand ambitions.

BUSH: Our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power. And that's why we've got to be humble.

GREENFIELD: Eight months later, on a brilliant September morning, terror came calling.

Nine days after the attacks, President Bush rallied the country.

BUSH: America will do what is necessary.

GREENFIELD: With a promise of decisive action against the perpetrators.

BUSH: Eliminate the terrorist parasites.

GREENFIELD: But he announced something else -- the beginnings of the Bush doctrine.

BUSH: This is the world's fight. This is civilizations' fight. This is the fight of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom.

GREENFIELD: For five years, through an increasingly difficult and unpopular war in Iraq...

BUSH: Democracy is coming to the broader Middle East.

GREENFIELD: The president has been arguing that the spread of democracy is the best way to keep America safe.

BUSH: Every step towards freedom in the world makes our country safer.

GREENFIELD: And freedom, he argues, is a worldwide goal, even in the most unlikely of places.

BUSH: We also hear doubts that democracy is a realistic goal for the greater Middle East, where freedom is rare.

I believe that God has planted in every human heart the desire to live in freedom. And even when that desire is crushed by tyranny for decades, it will rise again.

GREENFIELD: Nowhere did he announce so sweeping a goal as in his second inaugural.

BUSH: So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

GREENFIELD: At first blush, it may sound like an extension of essential conservative thinking. After all, the two great heroes of the right seemed to say as much to the rulers of the Soviet Union.

SEN. BARRY GOLDWATER: I believe that the communism, will boasts it will bury us, will instead give way to the forces of freedom.

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.

GREENFIELD: And it's not just the so-called religious right that applauds this vision. The so-called neoconservatives, longtime advocates of assertive foreign policy also champion this view. And after the attacks of September 11th, says former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, the spread of democracy and American security became indivisible.

GERSON: The president has, as president of the United States, has embarked on democratic internationalism, that he feels, and which I think clearly is essential to the national interest. This is a case where the hope and liberty of peoples in the Middle East and other parts of the world is directly relevant to the future of American security.

GREENFIELD: But listen to other conservative voices and you hear a very different view. For instance, William F. Buckley Jr., for whom Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan were friends and allies.

(on camera): You seem -- and other conservatives -- look at Bush's foreign policy and say, this is not a conservative foreign policy.

BUCKLEY: Well, manifestly it is not. To suggest that we should undertake to import democracy into every country in the world is loony, and also unhealthy.

Now, if you say, OK, the American people were threatened by Iraq, and incidentally, if we win that engagement, we're also going to introduce democracy, that's a nice afterthought. But it is not something which retrospectively authorizes that military intervention.

GREENFIELD (voice-over): Buckley is far from alone. In the wake of Bush's second inaugural, other conservative commentators claimed they heard echoes of Woodrow Wilson's...

WOODROW WILSON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The world must be made safe for democracy.

GREENFIELD: ... make the world safe for democracy rhetoric. Whatever happened, they asked, to traditional conservative skepticism, especially about cultures so different from ours?

BARTLETT: I think that the soil of the Middle East is very, very inhospitable to at least a Western notion of democracy, and it was just crazy to think that that was our goal.

NORQUIST: Going into Afghanistan, taking out the Taliban government, hunting down al Qaeda, that clearly was part of making this a safer world. Was going into Iraq something that makes fewer terrorists in the future or more terrorists in the future? More stability, with America working with other countries, or less? You have conservatives who will argue that either way.

GREENFIELD: And while most conservatives do back the president's approach to global terror, others, like former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, warn against the president's assertion of broad, almost unlimited executive power.

ARMEY: Are we going to be so insecure in a world of terrorists that we will sacrifice our liberties in order to have security? People who sacrifice their liberty for security generally end up with neither.

GREENFIELD (on camera): Without question, most conservatives, however disappointed or frustrated, plan to vote this fall to keep their side in power. But others have taken their discontent a step further. They're actually saying it's time for their team to lose.

(voice-over): This conservative discontent over foreign policy raises a broader issue for the immediate political future. If you add up dissent on the right over spending, corruption, the war and foreign policy, even values, it might actually lead to a movement among conservatives to vote against the people they helped put in power.

Might? It already has.


GREENFIELD: October, 2006. Congress has shut down for the campaign season. And Congressman Mike Pence is, well, we'll let the kids at East Side elementary school in Anderson, Indiana, tell you.

It is a safe Republican seat. Pence won last time with 67 percent of the vote.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of people in my area voted for you.

GREENFIELD: But it took him three times to win that House seat, and he's taking no chances.

PENCE: Did you get a pancake? Did you guys get some pancakes? We've got to get some pancakes.

GREENFIELD: From the Youth for Christ, then breakfast in Anderson.

PENCE: Reelecting a Republican majority...

GREENFIELD: To a canal boat ride in Metamora...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're back in our neck of the woods.

GREENFIELD: ... to Tom Chelton's (ph) farm in Parker City.

Pence hammers out a warning for conservatives, however dissatisfied they may be.

PENCE: This is the toughest year in the history of the modern Republican majority. And this congressman and this Republican majority will stand with those who stand for freedom. But we have to take that case to our neighbors.

GREENFIELD: For a lot of conservatives, no pep talk is needed for the fall campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at tax cuts since Ronald Reagan. We've got a much stronger, robust military. Look at your foreign policy. Much more aggressive and robust. And even emphasizing things like human rights. Look at the pro-life or the marriage agenda.

GREENFIELD: Or they argue that the president deserves an A -- OK, maybe a B for effort.

WEBER: I give the president more credit for trying to be a conservative reformer of these core entitlement programs that are really the biggest problem we face in terms of the growth of government than people are willing to give him.

BILL BENNETT, FORMER EDUCATION SECRETARY: It's 22 past the hour, I'm Bill Bennett...

GREENFIELD: And talk radio show host and former Education Secretary Bill Bennett...

BENNETT: That really has a direct effect on presidential approval.

GREENFIELD: ... cites another reason for conservative support.

(on camera): What do you give President Bush the most credit for, would you say?

BENNETT: Conviction. Conviction about basic things and basic values.

GREENFIELD: But Reagan helped win the Cold War. What I'm asking is, in terms of accomplishment...

BENNETT: Keeping the country safe for five years.

GREENFIELD: But not every conservative is buying this argument anymore. Some, in fact, have begun to embrace an outright political heresy. Maybe, they say, the only way for us to reclaim our political souls is to lose our political power.

(voice-over): Last month, several well-known conservatives, including novelist Chris Buckley, who's William F. Buckley's son, argued just that. For some, it was tactical. It would make it easier to keep the White House in '08. Others said Republicans had forfeited their right to conservative support, while still others sang the praises of divided government.

BARTLETT: Who wouldn't go back to the days of the late 1990's in terms of the economy, if you could? I mean, you had massive budget surpluses, and the reason we did is because Clinton wouldn't support anything the Republicans wanted to do, and they wouldn't support anything he wanted to do. And as a libertarian, that's about as good as it gets.

SULLIVAN: A lot of conservatives are saying, I think, look, the problem is too much power, too long. Corruption. What we need is divided government for a while to try and put a check against this unrestrained power and corrupt power.

GREENFIELD: Against this argument, other conservatives offer less in the way of praise for the president and the Congress and more -- much more -- of fear and loathing at the prospect of what the other guys would do.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: The problem is deeper and greater than that.

WEBER: Nancy Pelosi, the would-be speaker of the House, is a lovely person and a friend of mine from our days serving together. She is not a Bill Clinton Democrat. She is a very liberal Democrat.

GREENFIELD (on camera): So this is like the funeral that the guy had to give a eulogy to and couldn't find anything to say but he says, well, his brother was worse?

WEBER: Well, that's a big part of politics, isn't it?

GREENFIELD (voice-over): Many on the right are asking the question that looks beyond the midterm elections. It goes to the heart of their 50-year struggle. Did we come all this way for this?


BUSH: Putting a little extra money in his pocket.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to fight.

SEN. JIM TALENT (R), MISSOURI: I believe marriage is a relationship between a man...

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: Victory based on issues.

GREENFIELD: Fall, 2006.

ALLEN: Victory based on ideas.

GREENFIELD: As the midterm elections near, Republicans find themselves sailing against the wind. An unpopular war in Iraq, lingering memory of Katrina.

HASTERT: We're now trying to correct the problem.

GREENFIELD: An unexpected scandal that has tainted congressional leadership have all combined to put the party's dominance in jeopardy.

But there are those in the conservative movement, foot soldiers and generals alike, who trace some of the current discontent with the failure of conservative politicians to turn their words into deeds.

From his home in Connecticut, William F. Buckley Jr. can look back at a half century of conservative successes -- from a small insurgency to the dominant political force in America. But he can also look ahead to a repudiation of what has been done in its name.

BUCKLEY: At the Republican convention of '08, there will be a lot of rhetoric which will deplore what has been done in the name of conservatism and Republicanism. And I think it will bring the house down. I think there is always a queasy feeling when you violate your own cannons.

GREENFIELD: And from his home in Indiana, Mike Pence, who was not even born when Buckley's career began, can look at the dangers that now face the conservative cause.

PENCE: What made us a majority in 1994 in Congress, what began a national majority and movement in 1980 with the election of Ronald Reagan was a commitment to the ideas of limited government. If we as a movement walk away from those things and we become the Democrat Party's agenda minus 10 percent, I think the Republican movement, the conservative movement does so at its peril.

GREENFIELD: Maybe there are bigger reasons why the conservative vision did not become real. Maybe most Americans, whatever they say, actually want a government actively engaged in their lives. Maybe George W. Bush meant what he said about spending more on education and prescription drugs. Maybe there never was a national mandate to move America to the right. Maybe, on a hot button issue like immigration, the split among conservatives is irreconcilable.

But for all that, the question that is haunting many on the right this fall goes far beyond the potential loss of political power. If we cannot or will not use the power we have gained to do what we said we would do, they ask, then what is the fight all about?