What does it mean to be a conservative? It is a simple question on its surface, but one that could potentially lead to a wide array of theoretical labels for elephant party members.
Washington, D.C., interns gathered together on Capitol Hill on Wednesday for Rep. Jack Kingston’s (R.-Ga.) last 2006 summer intern event called, “Better Know a Conservative.”
“It’s easy to be conservative, because that is what America is all about,” said Rep. Sam Johnson (R.-Tex.). “To be a conservative means to be for freedom.”
Johnson was held captive as a POW for seven years during the Vietnam War. “I didn’t know the Lord until then,” he said. He was tried as a war criminal in the country and was sentenced to the death penalty.
“Unless you had someone point a gun at you,” Johnson said, “you really don’t know what it is all about.” He said he was blindfolded by Vietnamese soldiers and taken to the middle of the jungle where five men armed with AK-47s were waiting for him.
Johnson said all he could do was pray to the Lord for his survival. All five rifles misfired. He said that at that point he started to laugh, after which the enemy soldiers started to beat him and left him in a ditch.
“I never had to fear them again because I knew the Lord was with me. The Lord is with the United States of America, we are a conservative nation and we don’t need to back down to anyone.”
Johnson said that when the U.S. withdrew troops from Vietnam territory and deadlocked government aid for its restoration process, North Vietnam came in and took over, which eventually spawned the nation’s present communist status.
“For the first time in Iraq, they are seeing what freedom is like,” said Johnson. He said that he hoped the U.S. would not make the same mistakes it made in Vietnam and continue to “fight for freedom against worldwide terrorism.”
Rep. Patrick McHenry (R.- N.C.) recommended interns read Johnson’s book about his Vietnam POW experiences in his autobiography, “Captive Warriors,” “so you can understand the concept of giving up your freedom [and] sacrificing yourself for a cause greater than yourself.”
“President Bush is pushing for freedom, his foreign policy goal, that people are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights that are not government granted, are not strong man granted, not granted by a king, but they are given to you by your creator, and everyone has the same rights from birth,” McHenry said.
Conservatives want to spread freedom and democracy, lower taxes to enable hard-working Americans to keep more of what they earn and for the promotion of traditional family values.
“We demand less government and more efficiency and they are for more government control,” he said.
McHenry said he was not afraid to call out members of Congress, like Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) who succumbs to mass media propaganda. “We should be ashamed that [McCain’s ideas] are conservative.”
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R.-Tenn.) said that when she thought about what it meant to be a conservative a quote from Margaret Thatcher came to mind.
“I like what Margaret Thatcher said about America being more than a superpower and more than a great nation, she says that America is an idea.”
Rep. Mike Conaway (R.-Tex.) said that there was a “broad spectrum” of what it meant to be a conservative, and this was evident when evaluating how conservative members of Congress vote. “Labels are dangerous,” he said.
“As we go about our work, as we go about our jobs, if you label yourself as a conservative, understand that it has a very broad definition,” said Conaway. “Understand what that means … and live to the conservative code.”
Herman Cain, author and radio show host for WSB 750, said that he was a conservative because “this is the greatest country in the world and we have to keep it that way.”
“I like thinking for myself,” said Cain.
In conclusion Kingston said, “When you go back to college,” remember that communism does not only exist in China, Cuba and North Korea, “but it also seems to be alive and well on many college campuses, in terms of their professors.”
“We want you to be able to agitate them a little bit,” he added, “and do so with a smile on your face.”