Edwin J. Feulner

Edwin J. Feulner

No Permanent Victories,

No Permanent Defeats,

Only Permanent Battles

Edwin J. Feulner

Edwin J. Feulner was our keynote speaker for our 54th annual dinner on October 14. This essay is the speech that he shared with us. Edwin J. Feulner was the founder, and long-time President, of the Heritage Foundation. He is now retired. For almost 50 years, The Heritage Foundation has advanced the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. It has led the way for reforms in every policy area — from taxes and regulation to crime and national defense.

Thank you, President Barry MacDonald, and thank you, Chairman Michael Swisher. And thank you to all of the members of the Religion & Society Foundation Board, and all of the staffers at the St. Croix Review.

The St. Croix Review is an integral longtime leader of America’s conservative movement. The conservative movement is where a myriad of institutions — national, regional, and local —  work together to promote our shared ideas and ideals: Ideas based on individual responsibility, our Founding Documents, the rule of law, a free economy, and a world safe for America and Americans.

I have been Washington’s congenital conservative optimist for the last 55 years that I’ve been involved in the public policy process.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me begin with a bit of “scene setting,” specifically about my alma mater, The Heritage Foundation.

At Heritage our vision is simple: “The Heritage Foundation is committed to building an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and civil society flourish.”

Our aims are also clear: We believe in advancing public policies consistent with limited government, the free enterprise system, a strong national defense, traditional American values, and adherence to the rule of law.

I say this because I assume I am with a group of conservatives who share these commitments with me, so that tonight I am not in the business of conversion but rather in the business of a conversation with like-minded conservative friends.

So, let me make three basic points this evening:

We’ve been electorally down before in recent history. In the past, with the right leadership, endorsing and advancing proven good ideas, we have prevailed. There are clear ways ahead for America to change to a more positive outlook for our political future.

  1. We’ve had big challenges before:

  • There was Barry Goldwater and the “Glorious Defeat.”
  • There were the seeds of an emerging conservative movement, led by Richard Viguerie, who invented new communications tools, such as direct mail advertising.
    • The Philadelphia Society brought ideas, and idea people, together.
    • Yes, we were down in 1964.
  • We were back in 1968 with Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew.
    • We ended the war in Vietnam.
    • Nixon resigned, and Gerald Ford acceded to the presidency.
  • After the Watergate scandal, the American people refused to identify as Republicans, and the Republican National Committee actually ran TV ads headlined “Republicans are people, too!”
  • There was the Carter malaise, and the misery index, with out-of-control inflation and interest rates.
  • The Carter presidency paved the way for the Heritage Foundation, and the “Mandate for Leadership” with Ronald Reagan in 1980-81.

My point is: we’ve been here before. I believe we will overcome our present-day hurdles, including those several new hurdles that we, as a nation, and as a conservative movement, have never had to deal with before.

2. We will find the right leadership to keep us moving in the right direction. What are some of these challenges?

Big Tech — Yes, they control too much of our communication channels across the political spectrum. Yes, they are hard left, and anti-conservative in their outlook, and in their controls. But — for those of you in the younger generation — I remember when TV had only three networks, all of them controlled by the establishment Left; when print media was dominated by The New York Times, The Washington Post, and a few others — all controlled by the Left. It was our add-on small publications like The St. Croix Review, The National Review, and Human Events that held the flag high for conservative ideas and policies.

Today, we do have our daily printed outlets: The Epoch Times, The Washington Times, The Washington Enquirer, and The Wall Street Journal editorial page.

Electronically, we have: Breitbart, Fox News, Fox Nation, Real Clear Politics, The Daily Signal of the Heritage Foundation, The Daily Caller, The Federalist, etc.

We have podcasts from dozens of groups and individuals, including a good friend of mine, Bill Walton. There are also the Heritage Foundation’s three to four podcasts produced every week on issues of concern to all of us. The American Enterprise Institute has podcasts also.

So, before we despair, look around at what unites us — not just what divides us —and at what challenges us. To be successful, we have to add and multiply, not subtract and divide.

I look to Ronald Reagan’s “Mandate for Leadership” in my chronology. Today, some of us call the Reagan era the “golden age of conservatism.” It was, in many ways, but there have been other inspiring successes since the Reagan era. In1994, for first time in 40 years, the Republicans took over the House under the leadership of Newt Gingrich, with his “Contract with America.”

Where are we now?

3. Several months ago, I gave a conservative perspective on President Biden’s first hundred days to a London audience. Here is the short list of what I opened with:

  • The Biden Administration canceled The Keystone Pipeline, disrupting relations with our neighbor and our largest trading partner, Canada. The cancellation cost 41,000 jobs, and sacrificed America’s role as the world’s leading energy producer and supplier.
  • The Biden Administration OK’d the Russian Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, waiving sanctions on the Russian company building it, and on the former East German intelligence officer who is the company’s president. Nord Stream 2 makes Europe, especially Germany, much more dependent on our shared adversary, Russia.
  • As we saw at the G7 meeting, NATO and the G7 love us again, because the Biden Administration is not holding them accountable for paying their fair share anymore.
  • The Biden Administration ignored the cyber-attacks on our fellow American companies: Colonial Pipeline and JBS Foods. These American firms were hacked by criminals located in, and almost certainly controlled by, Russia.
  • Meanwhile, Russia is amassing troops along its border with Ukraine.
  • North Korea is testing missiles again, and resuming its nuclear weapons program.
  • China? Well, that’s a separate subject for a whole speech, but let me just say again that even with Biden in the White House, the U.S. is not going to go back to the “good old days” of the George W. Bush and Obama presidencies regarding U.S. policy towards China.
  • Closer to home, our southern border is a disaster, with illegal crossings at a level not seen in more than 20 years.

The Economy

  • Gas prices are up 56 percent in 12 months (highest since Carter).
  • Steel is up 45 percent.
  • Lumber is up 300 percent.
  • Wheat is up 25 percent; soybeans is up 71 percent; the overall food price index is up 35 percent.
  • Copper is up 50 percent; oil is up 65 percent.
  • 6.1 percent of the U.S. population (about 4.9 million) are currently receiving unemployment benefits, while 9.3 million jobs remain unfilled. Why the imbalance? Because so many workers are making more take-home income than they did in entry-level jobs.
  • The consumer price index is up over 5 percent in 12 months, but is up 2.9 percent since Biden became President, which is an annualized rate of 9 percent!
  • Meanwhile, the Administration is proposing a tax policy to penalize entrepreneurs and businesses, and also to significantly increase the death tax to hurt the little guy.
  • Government spending: How can we even measure it?
  • A trillion is a thousand billion, and a billion is a thousand million, and we are calmly talking about two, or three, or maybe four trillion? That is four thousand billion!
  • No wonder no one in Washington is upset when we learn that stimulus checks totaling an estimated $400 billion ($400 x 1,000 x 1 million) have been stolen from the government’s payouts by state actors in China, Russia, Iran, and even Nigeria.

That was the situation in May. Here we are, five months later, and:

  • We’ve now been exposed to the disastrous and humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan.
  • We’ve seen the likelihood of an expansion of big government far beyond even the dreams of President L.B.J. and his Great Society cronies.
  • We’ve seen the expansion of “woke” society, and “woke” laws, redefining our whole traditional set of moral standards.
  • Illegal aliens are flooding into the U.S. at unparalleled levels, affecting the social services and the basic institutions of civil society throughout our nation.
  • We’ve been told by “the scientists” that COVID-19 restrictions mean we can’t go to church, but we can go to casinos; we can’t celebrate Christmas, but we can riot, steal and murder in our cities. As a native of Chicago, I cry every day for the lawless disorder prevailing there and elsewhere, as is reported in the national news.

So, in circumstances like these, how can we be optimistic? Why should we have a happy face when we confront these national policy proposals?

America has always had just the right leadership, at just the right moment when America needs leadership — whether it’s Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, William Buckley, or Milton Friedman. We always find the right leadership, both politically and intellectually, when we need it; and we can reply to the Left with specific alternatives to the insanity that confronts us, both in Washington, D.C., and in St. Paul. But meanwhile, let me return to Newt Gingrich.

He’s at it again, returning to the role he played in developing and building the conservative majority in the House during his tenure as Speaker in1995 to 1999. His theory:

build an American majority — not Republican, not even conservative, but American — on issues that are overwhelmingly endorsed by a majority of the American people.


Yes, overwhelmingly! Here are some specifics of what his polls have revealed:

The Southern Border — 90 percent of all Americans want everyone entering the U.S. illegally to be tested for COVID-19 before U.S. Customs and Border Protection releases them — so say 92 percent of Latinos, 90 percent of Democrats, and 85 percent of African-Americans. The Pelosi political machine has been blocking every effort to have a vote on this simple issue. Eighty-seven percent of respondents want mandatory deportation for noncitizen gang members, including MS-13 gang members and others. The Democrat machine opposes a vote on this issue. Seventy-five percent oppose taxpayer-provided giveaways to illegals (welfare, health care, free college), including 60 percent of the Democrats.

Law enforcement — 80 percent of Americans want the police fully funded (69 percent of Democrats; 57 percent of African Americans; and 70 percent of Latinos). Seventy-four percent want mandatory life sentences for cop killers (67 percent of Democrats). But we’ve seen no action from Democrats in Congress. Seventy-two percent of Americans want mandatory prison sentences for attacking police (61 percent of Democrats).

School Choice — COVID-19’s positive result: 81 percent of all Americans favor school choice for every student in America (including 74 percent of Democrats!), despite the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Associations hold by the Democrat politicians. COVID-19 gave us a shift in public attitudes that Milton Friedman and we policy wonks could never achieve!

Other Issues — 81 percent want photo ID requirements for voting. The bill HR1, For the People Act, says no.

We are witnessing “wokeness,”gender neutrality, and insanity when the Deputy Budget Director testifies about payments to, in her words, “birthing people,” because she could not use the word “Mother,” as it might offend some people. The Democratic House passed new rules, in the House rules document, on the first day of the new Congress to eliminate 25+ gendered terms, such as man, woman, mother, father, son, daughter, etc. Even among Democrats, 62 percent favor using traditional terms, like mother and father. As Newt Gingrich says, on behalf of the American majority: “It’s just crazy!”

Big tech— 75 percent of all Americans support anti-trust legislation applied on Big Tech to protect competition, free speech, and privacy.

Taxes and Economy — The Biden Administration wants higher taxes, but 75 percent of all Americans want their federal taxes cut (40 percent “strongly”), including even 72 percent of Democrats.


Green New Deal vs. America —75 percent of all Americans want the U.S. to maximize the production of American oil and natural gas to keep America energy-independent, including 61 percent of the Democrats.

Health Care — 85 percent of those polled want more consumer choice through private sector competition and consumer choice in health care, including 83 percent of Democrats. Sorry, Bernie Sanders!

Newt Gingrich and his colleagues are winning the polls on these and other issues where the clear majority of Americans is on the rational side of virtually every issue.

So, yes! — there is still a solid majority of the American people who are on our side on all these major questions.

One of the main lessons I have taken from my decades in Washington is that in Washington there are no permanent defeats. But neither are there permanent wins for those who are in the battles. In conclusion, let’s continue to read The St. Croix Review, and support the Religion & Society Foundation. Thank You for being here tonight!      *

Tuesday, 05 November 2019 12:56

Reflections of an Early Trump Fan

Reflections of an Early Trump Fan

Edwin J. Feulner

Edwin John Feulner Jr. founded the conservative powerhouse think tank, The Heritage Foundation, and served as its president from 1977 to 2013, and again from 2017 to 2018. This is a speech he delivered to thought leaders in New York City, on September 10, 2019.


Introduction: Americans accept the fact that complex issues, which no other person in the world can resolve, are routine fare for our President. After more than fifty years of observing this phenomenon, I believe that our current President’s plate has been filled with more such challenges than most of his 44 predecessors as President of the United States. And this phenomenon has grown steadily in complexity, magnitude, and urgency. Last month I was privileged to speak to a group of New York leaders about my own perception of the challenges we currently face as a Nation. The text of that lecture follows. —Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D.

. . . Yes, I was an early supporter of Donald Trump.           

Candidate Trump called me in July 2016 and asked me to head up his domestic policy transition team. I accepted his invitation and assembled a team to outline a positive policy agenda on subjects ranging from rolling back the Obama-era regulations on the economy, designing a tax cut program, developing new welfare reform policies, answering immigration questions, changing Obama’s energy policy, dealing with agriculture issues, and a host of other policy challenges. Our policy team of several hundred volunteers worked side-by-side with our colleagues dealing with foreign policy issues. Even today, some of our proposals are just seeing the light of day, two and a half years after we closed up the transition shop.

Some of my friends asked why I volunteered — did I really think Trump was a true conservative? “No! I’ve been around Washington long enough to know a politician who has really internalized our conservative, limited government principles.” But candidate Trump was saying good things about policy questions.

A second reason I could relate to Trump was a personal one: my father had been a real estate developer/entrepreneur in Chicago. I had grown up hearing about how properties were bought and sold, and how the process worked. I could relate to an outsider who came from that real estate background and who wanted to come into Washington and make a real difference for our Nation.

Thirdly, Trump and I were both Whartonians, and proud of it.

And, finally: November 2016 would be a binary choice. Would I support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton? I made the obvious decision, and have not regretted it.


What’s it like to work from the outside with him?

Let me share a couple anecdotes:

Early 2016, my successor as President at Heritage, former Senator Jim DeMint, was invited to a small meeting with eight others and candidate Trump to discuss policy issues. Jim suggested that candidate Trump should make an announcement about whom he would propose for the Supreme Court vacancy created by Justice Scalia’s death. Trump asked how would he know whom to choose, and Jim volunteered to produce a list of names.

Consequently, Heritage staffers, working with our good friends at the Federalist Society, did produce such a list for the Supreme Court and for all of the federal court vacancies. One of the most lasting legacies of the Trump administration will be his reshaping of the federal judiciary. And yes, both Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh were on that early list.


Here’s another example:

September 27, 2017, 12 conservative leaders were invited to a private dinner with the President in the Blue Room of the White House. I was among them, because I was back as President at Heritage. And since I had more gray hair than anyone else, I was seated next to the President at a long table, with Kelly Ann Conway on my immediate left.

The President began his remarks by asking all of us to energize our grassroots members to support his pending tax cut bill, as it was only Mike Pence and he who were advocating for it.

After a couple minutes the dialogue went like this:

Ed Feulner: “Excuse me Mr. President . . .”

Donald Trump: (annoyed tone) “Yes Ed?”

E. F.: “Mr. President, several months ago you said something I strongly disagreed with.”

D. T.: “Oh? What’s that?”

E. F.: “You said you didn’t want to waste your time with cabinet meetings. Mr. President, that’s not good. When Reagan was President, He had monthly cabinet meetings and at the start of every meeting he gave every member a one-pager on the strategic issue of the month so that if Betsy DeVos were going to Harvard to talk about education reform, she’d spend the first five minutes talking about the pending tax reform bill and why it would be great for the economy. Etc.”

D. T.: “Did Reagan really do that?”

E. F.: “Yes Sir. The biographies all mention it . . . PAUSE”

D. T.: “Kelly Ann: Call a Cabinet meeting!”

I recount this incident, because Donald Trump, the “swamp drainer,” came to Washington with a non-political background, and with an unrealistic viewpoint about how the government works and how public policy is actually made.

He had to learn how to make the system work for him and for his policy objectives.

As a consequence of his being the first person elected President who had neither a governmental nor a military background, he has had to learn a lot of practical lessons and he is doing so on a day-to-day basis.

Note that the stock market (notwithstanding its recent volatility) is at historic highs (with the Dow hovering around 27,000), even though Paul Krugman of The New York Times forecast on November 9, 2016, the day after election day, that Trump’s election would cause a depression from which the United States possibly would never recover, and that the stock market would fall dramatically from its then level of 18,000.

And, today, our economy has created more than six million net new jobs; unemployment is at historic lows for women, for African Americans, and for Asians; America is the largest energy producer in the world, it is energy self-sufficient, and it is a net energy exporter for the first time in 50 years; inflation is low and stable; and the economy continues to grow at a rate twice that of our G7 colleagues.

In my opinion, none of this happened by accident.


A President can’t do everything, but, as we’ve seen, he can do a lot particularly by tax policy, by deregulation, and by enabling people to be “free to choose” as Milton Friedman so wisely stated it.

No, Donald Trump is not like other politicians. He goes around the established media. He tweets and, yes, sometimes those tweets bother me. But that’s who he is.


Let me discuss a couple of issues that are of particular concern to me, as a traditional conservative.

International trade is in the interests of individual consumers, and citizens generally. It leads to better allocation of resources, and most importantly, to more choices for the individual.

I am a free trader. I do not like tariffs. Tariffs are taxes, and taxes distort markets, add to costs of production, and bend economic rationality.

Yet the President is using tariffs as a tool with the Chinese.

This President is correcting mistakes from the OBushInton (Obama, Bush, Clinton) administrations, in both political parties, and from policy wonks of all persuasions, including me.

China has not abided by World Trade Organization (WTO) regulations; and, in my view, and in the view of our President, China has gamed the system to its own advantage and to the disadvantage of its global trading partners.

Tariffs are up again, and the bilateral U.S.-China talks are at a standstill at the moment, and when they resume, it is my belief that there will have to be changes by China in three specific areas in our bilateral trade relationship.

The first one concerns the fundamentally different, independently shaped, opposing views, on intellectual property. In the United States the right to intellectual property — patents — is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution (Art I Section 8, Clause 8), as adopted in 1787. Obviously, this American perspective predates even those of us who have been around for a long time, as it has been our “law of the land” for 232 years.

Therefore, whatever the specific details of a case in the form of the theft of intellectual property, or forced technology transfers, or disrupted cyber security, the whole question of respect for patents and intellectual property must be resolved with more than smiles, sound-good statements, and promises for reform “soon.”

The second challenge is the opposing views on the “developing country” status of China at the WTO, and the related receipt of massive World Bank loans by China as a developing third world country. “Developing” status gives China “special and differential treatment” including subsidies, higher barriers to market entry, institutional cover for forced technology transfers, and validation for some of the theft of intellectual property.

If China is the number two economy in the world, it is not unreasonable for America to demand that it will act like it and not try to game the world’s systems. There is a real issue here.

My third major challenge is the Chinese habit of changing the ground rules of the negotiations.

Let me recount a personal conversation I had with a senior American participant in the bilateral negotiations: at first, he said, there was confusion and then frustration when the Chinese side decided to go back to square one and start the discussions all over. This person asked: why did we spend all this time and effort negotiating and making what we thought was real progress just to have it all thrown out?

So, we have a long way to go in resetting the U.S.-China relationship.

On other trade matters this administration has done a lot: the new USMCA (United States Mexico Canada Agreement), succeeding NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) is a much better, and a more up-to-date agreement than its predecessor. Hopefully, the Congress will approve it soon.

The new U.S. Korea Trade Agreement has been signed and approved, and is in place, greatly improving the Bush/Obama period agreement.

Negotiations with Japan and with the European Union are progressing on a myriad of issues.

And my colleagues at Heritage and I have been actively advocating for movement on three additional international agreements:

* A U.S.-Swiss bilateral trade agreement.

* A U.S.-Taiwan bilateral trade agreement.

* A U.S.-UK post-Brexit bilateral trade agreement.


All three of these have obvious advantages to the immediate signatories. And all three have ancillary benefits for the world system: A Swiss and a UK agreement would help convince Brussels that free trade is the way forward internationally. And a U.S.-Taiwan agreement would be a signal to China that the U.S. government can make real progress, even when there are still stumbling blocks to negotiations between Washington and Beijing.

I gave the opening address to a bilateral U.S.-China conference a few weeks ago in Hong Kong. I made the point that even after the 2020 Presidential election, our Chinese friends should not assume that the Washington-Beijing relationship will return “to the good old pre-Trump normal days of Obama or Bush.” Washington’s concern with the Chinese position on trade is a bipartisan concern — Senator Schumer has indicated very clearly that his own position is even tougher than President Trump’s, and I cannot imagine any of the Democratic candidates taking a “softer” line than President Trump’s team does.

So, as I continue to caution my Chinese friends, there is no hope for them in “waiting out” the remainder of the Trump term to go back to OBushInton.


Meanwhile, China’s economy is basically in free fall. It has recorded its worst industrial growth in 17 years. It is suffering mass unrest in various parts of the mainland where unemployment is rising at record rates, and the people of Hong Kong are marching for real democracy.


Will his strategy work with President Xi of China or with North Korea? I don’t know. These developing relationships are long-time ongoing processes that are seldom solved all at once. And even then any international situation does not stay “solved” for long. They require constant attention and flexibility, what Trump himself called “principled realism.” But I do know that Trump, whatever he has said, has acted with much greater forcefulness and clarity of purpose than his predecessors in either party.

We could discuss a myriad of other foreign policy issues: NATO, the primary American alliance, other trade agreements, sanctions, or a host of domestic policy issues.

Let me leave you with my concluding “take-away”:


No matter if Donald Trump is reelected, or if someone else wins the 2020 election, U.S. politics will not go back to the status quo of the “good old days before Trump.” He and his ever-changing team of senior advisors have changed the rules and have changed America’s expectations from its elected politicians.

And to both us and to America’s friends and potential adversaries around the world, the United States is no longer going to be either the world’s policeman, or Mr. Nice Guy on the international scene.

So, my friends, as a Washington insider, I believe we must all deal with this administration, and we must learn that it will not get better after January 20, 2021.

Thank you for your kind attention today.     *

Calendar of Events

Annual Dinner 2023
Thu Oct 19, 2023 @ 6:00PM - 08:00PM
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Thu Oct 13, 2022 @ 6:00PM - 08:00PM
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Thu Oct 13, 2022 @ 2:30PM - 05:00PM
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Thu Oct 14, 2021 @ 6:00PM - 08:00PM
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