What Is Bush Thinking?

BUSHLEAVESPaulJRichards:AFP:Getty

It's somewhat mysterious given his graceful silence since leaving the White House. But it's not at all clear he saw himself as the tip of the spear in the conservative movement. Here's a fascinating anecdote from a forthcoming book, by a former speech-writer (they all write memoirs apparently), reported by Byron York:

Latimer got the assignment to write Bush's [2008 CPAC] speech. Draft in hand, he and a few other writers met with the president in the Oval Office. Bush was decidedly unenthusiastic.

"What is this movement you keep talking about in the speech?" the president asked Latimer.

Latimer explained that he meant the conservative movement -- the movement that gave rise to groups like CPAC. Bush seemed perplexed. Latimer elaborated a bit more. Then Bush leaned forward, with a point to make.

"Let me tell you something," the president said. "I whupped Gary Bauer's ass in 2000. So take out all this movement stuff. There is no movement."

Bush seemed to equate the conservative movement -- the astonishing growth of conservative political strength that took place in the decades after Barry Goldwater's disastrous defeat in 1964 -- with the fortunes of Bauer, the evangelical Christian activist and former head of the Family Research Council whose 2000 presidential campaign went nowhere.

Now it was Latimer who looked perplexed. Bush tried to explain.

"Look, I know this probably sounds arrogant to say," the president said, "but I redefined the Republican Party."

He didn't. He just broke it.

(Photo: Paul J Richards/Getty.)