100 Most Inluential “Conservatives”
Posted by Joshua Price on November 3, 2007
The Telegraph in the United Kingdom has come it with its list of the 100 most influential so-called conservatives in America.
Several conservative talkers have articulated their take on this so I have decided to give you mine. This will be broken up into 5 posts, so check back often.
We’ll start with the top, 1-20 as ranked by The Telegraph:
1. RUDY GIULIANI
Republican presidential candidate
The clear Republican front runner and perhaps the only party nominee who could beat Hillary Clinton in 2008, Giuliani makes the top of our list despite his unorthodox brand of conservatism that is anathema to many on the Christian Right. Before 9/11, a thrice-married New Yorker in favour of abortion and gay rights and gun control would have struggled to survive the early stages of a Republican nomination battle despite his tax cutting and crime fighting credentials. But even many Christian conservatives who disagree with the former New York mayor on social issues now view national security as their number one priority.
Giuliani’s performance after 9/11 made him an international figure and helped make a nation feel good about itself just after its darkest hour. But 9/11 is the centrepiece of the Giuliani campaign in more than just that respect – he is determined to confront America’s enemies, including Iran, and has taken on an array of hawkish advisers. Meetings with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown while in London to receive an award from Margaret Thatcher underlined his global stature. All the stars are in alignment for a Democratic victory in 2008 but Giuliani has the potential to buck the historical trends and signal a dramatic shift in American conservatism by securing an unlikely win.
You have got to be kidding me. Mr. socially liberal? This guy is pro-choice, and who knows what he is when it comes to gay marriage, and he’s the most influential conservative? Get a new understanding of conservatism.
2.GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS
Commander of coalition forces in Iraq
We see this highly respected scholar-warrior, educated at West Point and Princeton, as a potential future president – he would be the first general to reach the White House since Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. In the meantime, however, the prospect of American victory or defeat in Iraq rests in his hands. Perhaps no figure in American public life was cited so frequently in Washington in the run-up to his September report on the progress of the “surge” when his integrity was attacked by the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org.
Although Petraeus, as a professional soldier, has properly stayed away from the political arena, he is a close friend of Bill Frist, the former Republican senator and surgeon who once saved the general’s life when he was shot in the chest during a training accident. But we judge that Petraeus’s pronouncements on the war on terror, and the clear thrust of his impressive testimony on Capitol Hill last month, place him firmly in the Republican camp on the number one issue for conservatives – the future of the war against Islamic extremism.
Great man. Great leader. Great soldier, but I don’t think he’s the second most influential conservative in America.
3. MATT DRUDGE
Internet journalist and talk radio host
When Matthew Nathan Drudge, 41, makes a move, the American news agenda and body politic shift with him. His Drudge Report website is the most influential news aggregator in the world. Such is the volume of traffic he generates, newspaper websites he links to regularly crash under the tsunami of extra hits. Drudge shot to prominence in 1998 when he broke the story of the Monica Lewinsky scandal as the mainstream media prevaricated.
Such is his current power that his biggest detractors – Hillary Clinton and The New York Times – are among those who seek to get out their information ahead of the news cycle by courting him. An intensely private man, Drudge, based in Los Angeles, is a former convenience store clerk and telemarketer whose father bought him a computer in 1994 because he was worried about his son’s indolence. A populist, anti-abortion, anti-tax, libertarian-leaning conservative, Drudge has his finger on the pulse of Middle America.
I enjoy Matt Drudge’s work, but again, is he really the third most influential conservative? This is one is the closest to being accurate though.
Former Speaker of the House of Representatives
He lead the Republican Revolution of 1994, when the Grand Old Party swept into power on a platform of smaller government, welfare reform and lower taxes – ending 40 years of Democratic rule in the House of Representatives. A towering intellect, Gingrich is a one-man powerhouse of conservative ideas. A polarising figure who still bears the scars from his battles with Bill Clinton over impeachment, he recently ruled out a presidential bid in 2008.
Phenomenally well read, Gingrich is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institute and runs his own ideas greenhouse American Solutions. He has taken on Al Gore over climate change, John Murtha over the Iraq war, Hillary Clinton over health care and George W. Bush over immigration reform. A supremely confident media performer, few politicians excite the conservative base as much or are as hated by liberals as Gingrich.
Well, it depends on if you think he’s a true conservative or not. I agree with Newt on a lot, but not trying to partner with Hillary Clinton on health care. Irrespectively, he’s not the fourth most influential conservative.
5. RUSH LIMBAUGH
Talk radio host
A national phenomenon, Limbaugh’s influence is massive and has endured the test of time. His recent contretemps with Senator Harry Reid was indicative of Limbaugh’s continued power – he raised $2.1 million for military and police families by selling on eBay a letter from the Democrats attacking him. As far back as 1996 he won the ultimate conservative accolade by having Al Franken, a left-wing comedian, pen a volume about him entitled: Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot.
For three hours each day, Limbaugh ranges from waxing philosophical to sounding off about political issues of the day. His theatrical style belies an erudition and painstaking research that his detractors often underestimate. His show began in 1988 and still tops the listenership lists. Often accused of going OTT, he courts controversy and relishes a battle. Any conservative Republican would chew off his own arm to appear on the Limbaugh show.
I have my issues with Rush like being too much of a Republican homer and therefore being an institutionalized Republican, not a conservative even though claims to be a conservative first, Republican second. I don’t buy that all the time, but he’s definitely top five and I still agree with him 70-80% of the time.
6. DICK CHENEY
Vice President of the United States
The former Wyoming congressman and Defence Secretary during the Gulf War is the most powerful vice president in American history. Freed from the burden of having to plot a future run for office, since 9/11 Cheney has dedicated himself to protecting America by offering unvarnished and sometimes unpalatable advice to George W. Bush about the steps he believes need to be taken. Deeply conservative and fiercely loyal to Mr Bush, he is supported by his wife Lynne who is herself a leading conservative who just missed inclusion on our list. Cheney is an enigmatic figure who keeps his own counsel when outside the Oval Office.
Unerringly hawkish, after 9/11 Cheney abandoned his 1991 qualms about US forces toppling Saddam Hussein, instead believing that Iraq, Iran, North Korea and Syria needed to be confronted and al-Qa’eda hunted down across the world. He recently laughed off his nickname of Darth Vader and has been content to insulate Mr Bush by soaking up Left-wing opprobrium. Cheney turned his office into a foreign policy powerhouse within the Bush administration, nurturing such figures as David Wurmsur, who recently stepped down as his Middle East adviser. If Bush does decide to take military action against Iran, then much of the credit – and the blame – will be laid at Mr Cheney’s door.
I admire and applaud Dick Cheney’s willingness to fight for what we believes in as opposed to laying down to the liberals, but I just don’t think he’s a true conservative in some ways. I know that’s heresy to say, but if you look at it closely it’s true. He is a Republican elitist.
A former CIA director who served for 26 years at the spy agency, George W. Bush’s decision to replace the ebulliently hawkish, supremely self-assured Donald Rumsfeld with the cautious, understated Gates appeared to mark a decisive shift. Viewed as part of the realist school of foreign policy associated with George Bush Snr, Brent Scowcroft and James Baker, Gates had already advocated engagement with Iran and expressed private criticism of the conduct of the Iraq war.
Gates immediately introduced changes, firing senior officers involved in overseeing military facilities keeping wounded soldiers in squalid conditions, briefing reporters in sit-down sessions rather than confronting them and giving generals more leeway to argue their case. Quietly, Gates is arguing against military action in Iran, holding the balance of power with Condoleezza Rice against Dick Cheney. He is also advocating a steady drawdown of troops from Iraq.
Um, no thank you. Robert Gates is a fraud as a conservative. Look at how passive he is on Iran. Bring back Don Rumsfeld!
8. JOHN ROBERTS
Chief Justice of the United States
George W. Bush will bequeath his successor a head of the Supreme Court who could be on the bench for the next 30 years, shaping the parameters of American life for the next generation and beyond. Roberts joined the court as chief justice in July 2005. He was originally nominated by the president as an associate justice to replace the retiring Sandra Day O’Connor, but was given the top job when William Rehnquist died. At 50, he was the third youngest man to lead the court.
Bush chose him as a reliable conservative and he has not disappointed so far. But the Christian Right’s holy grail of overturning Roe versus Wade and making abortion illegal is not among his plans, although he backs limiting practices such as partial-birth abortion. On issues such as the future of Guantanamo, the death penalty, the limits of what constitutes torture, the reach of executive power and conducting the war on terror, the Roberts court will have far-reaching influence. Already the Supreme Court under Roberts has become more conservative.
I haven’t seen enough out of John Roberts yet but things are looking good. He, along with Sam Alito, may be Bush’s only conservative legacy.
9. JOHN MCCAIN
Senator for Arizona and presidential candidate
The former US Navy pilot who spent more than five years as a PoW in Vietnam faces an uphill battle to win the Republican nomination after an outsider bid in 2000 that at one point looked likely to stop George W. Bush. A consistent advocate of more troops in Iraq, he is closely associated with the “surge” policy and has stuck doggedly to his guns even when his stance has appeared certain to cost him votes. Now 71, he would be the oldest ever US president when first elected.
An unpredictable maverick throughout his life, McCain has frequently bucked party orthodoxy on campaign finance reform, climate change and, in 2000, on the influence of the religious Right, whose leaders he branded “agents of intolerance”. Was recently damaged by his backing for immigration reform, which his opponents labelled “amnesty” for illegals and has taken a strong stance against torture. The Arizona senator probably won’t be president – though as a Giuliani ally he could be Pentagon chief. His contribution to his party and conservatism will be lasting.
Who knows? Some days John McCain sounds like a spokesman for the ACLU and others he sounds like a disciple of Barry Goldwater. I have many issues with John McCain, chiefly illegal immigration, but I can’t figure him out lately. He starting to sound like a conservative again, especially on our brewing situation with Russia.
10. MITT ROMNEY
The former Massachusetts governor is positioning himself as the conservative candidate in the race for the Republican nomination. An accomplished businessman and self-made multi-millionaire, he ran the consulting firm Bain & Company before rescuing the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City from a corruption scandal and cash crisis that threatened to sink it.
A Mormon, he has been reluctant to discuss details of his faith on the campaign trail and it remains to be seen whether evangelical Christians will back him. Perhaps more problematic is his recent shift from being a liberal Republican in the New England mould to being a purported rock-red conservative. He became an opponent of abortion rights at age 57 and only recently joined the National Rifle Association. Has sunk truckloads of his own cash into his well-organised and astute campaign that has him leading the polls in the crucial early-voting states. Despite lagging badly in the national polls, he is well placed to win the Republican nomination.
Not my first choice, but he’s certainly more conservative than Giuliani. He and I have religious differences but I respect him as a person. His health care plan on the other hand I can’t respect.
11. MIKE HUCKABEE
A seemingly ideal fit to be the 2008 vice-presidential candidate on the Republican ticket, the former Arkansas governor is a Baptist minister who fronts his own rock band and is almost universally liked. Poor fundraising and a very limited foreign policy background probably means the Republican nomination is beyond his reach.
A deeply religious social conservative, he achieved notoriety by losing 110lbs (nearly eight stone) and becoming a vocal proponent of healthy living. Holds classic conservative positions on abortion, gay marriage and gun ownership that would help boost the conservative credentials of a nominee like Rudy Giuliani. Arkansas background would also be ideal for hand-to-hand political combat with Hillary Clinton.
Seems like a good man, but he’s fiscally liberal.
12. CONDOLEEZZA RICE
Secretary of State
Plucked from relative obscurity as Provost of Stanford, Rice’s previous government experience was limited to being a Soviet analyst during the George Bush Snr administration. She was pitched into the government fray as National Security Adviser and failed to mediate effectively between the warring factions centred around Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney on the one hand and Colin Powell on the other. At one time viewed as a potential president or vice president, there are few calls for this now and she has shown no enthusiasm for running for office.
Her biggest asset was having the ear of George W. Bush as she slid away from her realist roots and the legacy of her mentor Brent Scowcroft and gradually aligned herself with the neo-conservatives as Bush himself accepted their analysis. At the State Department, she has moved back towards the diplomatic bureaucracy, favouring talks with Iran and arguing against military strikes. Her critics charge that she could end up being wrong on both Iraq and Iran – initially too hawkish, then too timid. Her push for Israeli-Palestinian peace seems belated and her legacy is likely to be a tarnished one.
To paraphrase Michael Savage, when has placating to Iran and helping destroy Israel been classified as conservative? Answer: It hasn’t, and she’s not that conservative, just look at what her Russian expertise has gotten us!
13. JOHN BOLTON
Former US ambassador to the United Nations
A controversial and relentlessly energetic and hawkish diplomat who was a key ally of Vice President Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld at the State Department, where he battled against what he saw as Colin Powell’s attempts to stifle George W. Bush’s directives. Led opposition to joining International Criminal Court and becoming entangled in international agreements that Might limit US room for manoeuvre as well as securing important deals to limit WMD proliferation.
Already a notorious critic of the United Nations, he was appointed as US ambassador to the world body and set about challenging every aspect of its work but was never confirmed by the Democratic-controlled Senate and his recess appointment eventually lapsed. A tireless negotiator who believes in confronting Iran and North Korea and argued forcefully for the invasion of Iraq, even his critics concede he worked effectively even for those Bush administration policies he disagreed with. Has close links to Britain’s Conservative party. Now back at the AEI think tank and with a new book out, Bolton is in touch with more than one presidential campaign. A senior Bolton appointment in a Giuliani administration would seem likely.
Finally a real conservative. Bush backed down to the liberals in the Senate on his re-nomination. He should definitely be higher.
14. PAUL GIGOT
Editorial Page Editor, The Wall Street Journal
Since 2001, Gigot has overseen the editorial page of the “Wall Street Journal” – the gold standard of American conservatism – after taking over from the legendary Robert Bartley, who had been in post since 1972. Gigot also hosts the weekly Journal Editorial Report on Fox News. Under Gigot, the page (it is actually two pages plus increasing online content) has lost none of its influence or bite.
A Pulitzer-winning columnist, Gigot’s background as a reporter in Chicago, the Far East and Washington is reflected in the Journal’s superbly written, closely argued and provocative opinion content which also includes original reporting from such Gigot-nurtured talents as Bret Stephens and Kimberley Strassel. Indeed, Gigot scooped the Journal’s own news pages recently by breaking the news of Karl Rove’s resignation by carrying a long interview with him. Gigot’s influence looks set to grow with Rupert Murdoch, the Journal’s new owner and an avowed admirer of the editorial page, planning to challenge the sway of the New York Times.
The Wall Street Journal editorial page used to be conservative but not anymore. Now it’s a billboard for telling us how great the global Republicans are and how social conservatives should just shut-up and vote Republican.
15. LAURA INGRAHAM
Talk radio host
Cut her political teeth as a speechwriter during the Reagan administration before completing a law degree and becoming a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Less polemical and self-consciously outrageous than Ann Coulter, to whom she is sometimes compared, Ingraham is an increasingly respected and prominent figure within the conservative movement. Although unapologetically Republican, she has given the party’s presidential candidates some of their toughest grillings.
A campaigner against the “pornification” of America through what she sees as the erosion of family values and patriotism, she is also a persistent critic of Hollywood and the United Nations. Ingraham, 43, has been a detractor of media coverage of the Iraq war and was attacked by liberals for encouraging her listeners to clog the phone lines of a Democrat hotline dedicated to resolving voter problems during the 2004 election.
Again, finally another true conservative. Laura Ingraham is a fantastic conservative talk show host.
16. HALEY BARBOUR
Governor of Mississippi
About to be comfortably re-elected as Mississippi governor, Barbour is one of the most accomplished Republican executives in the United States. As a successful Southern governor with immense experience, he is a potential future presidential candidate who would be a clever pick for vice-presidential running mate in 2008. Received national plaudits for his handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated Mississippi’s Gulf coast, while neighbouring Louisiana’s Democratic governor floundered.
Barbour, 60, has cut his state’s budget deficit in half without raising taxes and used the skills he honed as a Washington lobbyist to good effect in winning over a Democratic-led state legislature. A highly successful chair of the Republican National Committee, Barbour helped lay the foundations for the Republican Revolution and the takeover of Congress in 1994.
Yet another true conservative. Governor Barbour displayed how effective conservative leadership is during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina while New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco complained about not having adequate federal resources.
17. FRANK LUNTZ
Pollster and strategist
A baseball fanatic and political junkie, Luntz, 46, is an irrepressible force in Republican politics, shooting off vivid quotes that are lapped up by journalists and delivering a straight message to his clients even when his polls do not tell him what they will want to hear. Close to Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, it would be hard to name a prominent GOP political operative or member of Congress of the last 20 years who has not been advised by Luntz.
As well as running his own research consulting company, Luntz is a frequent pundit on an array of political news programmes. He has the ear of politicians and operatives alike. Master of the political message, Luntz’s fascination with the use of language has often helped redefine a political debate to the benefit of Republicans. A frequent guest on BBC’s Newsnight, a 2005 Luntz poll helped propel David Cameron to the Tory party leadership. Luntz, who did post-graduate study at Oxford, has also advised Tony Blair.
Keyord here is Republican. He’s not a conservative; he’s a Republican. There is a difference people. Further, with his Words That Work nonsense all he does is continue to make elections all about selling a candidate as a product, not as a representative. He’s just like 90% of the Republican consultants and pollsters that are just as bad the Democrat’s consultants.
18. GLENN BECK
Talk radio host
A reformed alcoholic and former drug addict who converted to Mormonism, Glenn Beck boasts the fourth most popular talk radio show in America with about five million listeners each week. His hour-long nightly television show on CNN is referred to by the network as “an unconventional look at the news of the day” and gives Beck’s conservative viewpoint an influential outlet in the American mainstream.
Beck recently stated he is “through with” George W. Bush, citing the issues of immigration reform and soaring government spending – a reflection of the views of many grassroots conservatives. A climate change sceptic and vocal advocate for more troops in Iraq. A persistent critic of political correctness, he has compared Al Gore to Goebbels and referred to Hillary Clinton as “Stalin in a pantsuit”. With a growing audience in the key 25-54 demographic, he is a potential heir to Rush Limbaugh.
I used to be a huge fan of Glenn Beck. I love his humor but unfortunately he’s sold out like many Republicans by covering nonstories on his CNN Headline News shows.
19. MIKE PENCE
A lawyer and former talk radio host who was elected to Congress in 2000, he has described himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order” and called for a “return to the values” of the 1994 Republican Revolution. Just 47, and youthful despite his white hair, a future presidential bid is a near certainty for this articulate, forceful Indiana congressman regarded on both sides of the aisle as a rising star.
Chair of the Republican Study Committee, a conservative congressional caucus, Pence is a campaigner for small government, low taxes and the outlawing of abortion. But he departed from the Republican Right orthodoxy over immigration, introducing a compromise bill that was an imaginative attempt to split the difference between George W. Bush and congressional Republicans.
Great Congressman and he’s helping fight against the “fairness doctrine.”
20. ED GILLESPIE
Counsellor to President George W. Bush
Gillespie recently stepped into one of the most difficult jobs in politics – directing the communications policy for an embattled, unpopular president approaching the final year of his second term. Already, he appears to have steadied the ship somewhat, most notably issuing aggressive rebuttals of press criticisms of the Iraq “surge” policy. Mainly through success on the ground, but abetted by Gillespie’s efforts, opinion has begun to shift decisively.
A Republican operative who has worked at the coal face since making night-time telephone calls for the Republican National Committee from a basement in 1985, Gillespie worked for Dick Armey, then House Majority Leader, and helped draft the 1994 “Contract with America”. Rose to become RNC chairman and became a successful lobbyist working alongside Jack Quinn, former chief of staff to Al Gore. Gillespie is a strategist who will play pivotal roles in future presidential campaigns.
Not a conservative, just another Republican elitist and ardent Bush supporter.