When assembling his cabinet in 1980, newly-elected President Ronald Reagan tapped Texas scholar Mel Bradford to chair the Department of the Humanities. Bradford was a conservative’s conservative, a Southern gentleman, a brilliant thinker and indicative of the possibilities for conservatives with Reagan’s victory.

Of course, when it was “exposed” that Bradford had less than flattering views of Abraham Lincoln (mostly by neoconservative elements and beltway Republicans) the controversy destroyed Bradford’s chances.

The position instead went to William Bennett.

Bennett went on to become a marquee name in the mainstream conservative movement as the poster boy for the “respectable” (i.e. neoconservative) Beltway Right.

True to form, as an analyst for CNN, Bennett said tonight that George Bush is a hero to conservatives, that a Bush endorsement of McCain is an overwhelming positive in the general election and that the war in Iraq is a winning issue in a contest with either Hillary or Obama.

Talk about faith dictating facts! But this has always been the tactic of the neoconservatives – to alter reality and rewrite history according to their own ideology.

In 1996, Bennett suggested that Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan “flirted with fascism” and might be “racist” for suggesting the United States had an illegal immigration problem; that Buchanan was not patriotic and an “isolationist” for not supporting the Persian Gulf war and that he was an anti-capitalist, on par with Karl Marx, for opposing NAFTA.

Buchanan predicted illegal immigration would be a major problem for the U.S. It is. He insisted that U.S. intervention in the Middle East wasn’t prudent and that America would pay a high cost for our external empire. We have. And Buchanan believed that NAFTA would hurt American workers. MSNBC reported tonight that in one poll, 80% of Ohio voters – overwhelmingly blue collar, middle class folks – had a negative view of NAFTA. Today, even Obama and Hillary argue over who is more anti-NAFTA.

On each of these issues, genuine conservatives like Buchanan have been proven right and neoconservatives like Bennett have been proven wrong. Yet somehow Buchanan is an “extremist” and Bennett is respectable. Hmm…

And Bennett’s last comment as I write this blog – is that NAFTA was a great success, insinuating that Ohio voters are simply too stupid to know what’s good for them.

This is not the conservative movement I belong to. In fact, it isn’t conservative at all.

Thanks again Bill Buckley: