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December 06, 2004

A Rockefeller Republican

Last week, I was suggesting that Bush should proceed "full speed ahead" with judicial nominations and noting that deacon, at Powerline, had used the term "kick some ass."

In this week's Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes writes that Bush is an activist president that his opponents still haven't figured out. Barnes points out Bush's penchant for big plans: "One of his most stinging criticisms is to label a proposal 'smallball' -- in other words, not big or bold enough for serious presidential attention."

I am therefore naming Bush an honorary Rockefeller Republican. For the benefit of those too young to remember Rocky, he was a multi-term governor of New York, a contender for the Republican presidential nomination, and, briefly, the Vice President of the United States under Gerald Ford. But wait! you say. Wasn't "Rockefeller Republican" a term denoting a liberal Republican? It sure was, but let me explain the irony.

In September 1976, when Rockefeller was VP and Ford was running with Bob Dole as his running mate, Rockefeller went to New York State to campaign for the ticket. While at SUNY/Binghampton, Rockefeller was heckled by students, some of whom greeted him with their middle fingers outstretched. Rockefeller, with a huge smile on his face, flipped the bird back at them. The photo below immortalized this gesture.

I'm a Rockefeller RepublicanA personal story goes along with this. In 1992, I came up with the idea of printing buttons with this photo on them and the legend "I'm a Rockefeller Republican." The idea was to flip (uh, sorry) the meaning of the term so that it signified a Republican who did conservative things without worrying about what the Washington Post thought. Two friends of mine helped on this project. But the problem was that this was 1992, before nearly everything could be found on the internet. We had to find a back issue of Time or Newsweek. This we did by going over to the Martin Luther King library in D.C. and searching bound volumes of back issues. When we found the volume, we discovered to our dismay that the volume was for reserve only and didn't circulate. So we made a photocopy of the photo and drove out to the shop where the buttons were going to be made. Unfortunately, the proprietor told us that the photocopy wasn't good enough and we needed the actual magazine. So we returned to the library and plotted strategy. The reference librarian was a dour white-haired lady and we expected her to turn down any request to borrow the bound volume, and we certainly had no intention of explaining why we wanted it. We found a young black clerk and told her our problem. She seemed skeptical at first, but when we showed her the photo and explained why we wanted to borrow the volume, she laughed and told us she'd help us. She went over to the dour librarian and told her that we needed the volume to make a good copy of a photo and would return it by noon the next day. The librarian agreed. We drove off and had the buttons made. I still have a few of them around.

And, as this animated gif file, a clip from the short video that circulated before the election, demonstrates, Bush is definitely a Rockefeller Republican. (Image via Arthur Chrenkoff and courtesy of political humor.)