The Corner

Organic Cons

Last week, Rush Limbaugh took on Alex Castellanos’s NRO piece on the Right and this election. Alex Castellanos e-mails this response:

May 29, 2008

Dear Rush,

Thanks for your comments about my piece in NRO the other day. Your remarks on the Excellence In Broadcasting Network caught the attention of this faithful listener!

Fear not, Rush! I am not one of those Republicans who would water down our beliefs, “rewrite” or even “cede” our conservative principles, or serve as an apologist for big-government in Washington!

I argue for exactly the opposite — less government in Washington, as I wrote in the paragraphs following this letter.

My advocacy of the word “government” does not in any way imply I want a bigger industrial state or more “government” in Washington.

The word “government”, which I agree liberals have stolen, used to mean something else. I bet you can remember when it was not liberal property. Boxing was “governed” by Marquis of Queensberry Rules. The subject “governed” the predicate in a sentence. Parents “governed” the behavior of their children, as you “govern” your own conduct. The word derives from the Greek expression that meant to steer, pilot or direct a ship.

I am not willing to accept that everything that must be “steered, piloted, or directed” in life is within the purview of Washington. You note, “liberals own the term ‘government’.” Rush, you are exactly right. They do but they shouldn’t and I am not content to let them. I want my word back!

Conservatism is not incompatible with lives that are well-piloted or directed.

Anyone who believes that, I would argue, is not sufficiently conservative! Real conservatives have faith that conservatism is not only morally right, which it is; economically more productive, which it is, but also that it works better and has helped more people achieve progress and prosperity than anything else we have received from the hand of our Creator.

I believe conservatism works, Rush. I believe it works better than liberalism. I believe our faith in freedom has been the greatest force for good and improved the lives of more people than anything in the history of the planet. I believe it in large part because I’ve heard a radio program whose host celebrated this with “half his brain tied behind his back”.

If we believe that is true, let’s tell people. Let’s stand up and say conservatism works. Use your powerful voice to say we need less big-old-government in Washington, as I do, and that conservatism is a better way to “steer, pilot and direct” and so govern our lives.

I have had the good fortune to benefit from your words considerably more than you may expect to from mine. For that I am grateful — and since you wondered about the provenance of these so-called unknown “strategists” who commit punditry on television (Rush: “They must work for a candidate. They must work. Where do they work? Who are these people? I never heard of half of them! Republican strategist?”), I hope you will allow me one last moment to explain how I came to cloud your thoughts.

I do work for Republican candidates. I have for 32 years. I began working for Ronald Reagan in North Carolina in 1976 and have made thousands of TV commercials for Republican candidates. I’ve helped elect and re-elect a few Senators, Governors and a President here and there, from Jesse Helms to George Bush and recently plied my trade on behalf of Gov. Mitt Romney. I’ve done this all my working life because my parents brought me to this country from Castro’s Cuba when I was six years old. They had two kids, eleven bucks and nothing else their pockets but the promise of liberty. My parents gave up everything they had so their kids could live in freedom. I’ve seen what the coercive power of the state can do and I want to be clear to you — I am not its advocate.

If you could help me correct the impression I have left that I want any expansion of the old public-sector industrial state in Washington, something even liberals confess has failed, I would appreciate it!

Until then, I hope you will liberate as many cigars from communist tyranny as you can. I will do likewise.


Alex Castellanos

NRO Staff — Members of the National Review Online editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”


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