Former Representative Dick Armey addresses the Conservative Leadership Conference in the first event of the day. It's 8:15 in the morning here, and there isn't much of an audience for the opener. The auditorium is about one-quarter full, but people continue to stroll into the room.
8:19 PT - Armey starts off by praising Nevada as a "pretty little ol' state. It would make a fine county back in Texas ... but only western Texas."
8:20 - "I believe in individual liberty," and from that free-market economics flow. This is a key point, but he isn't choosing to follow up on that theme at the moment.
8:21 - "Politics is juvenile delinquency," focusing on short-term goals rather than long-term benefits. Armey notes that heroes always focus on policy criteria while fools and scoundrels focus on politics.
8:24 - People in public office do not naturally serve the electorate, but naturally act to serve themselves. That's why it's important to hit them when they get out of line.
8:25 - "I'm a natural-born nonpartisan. ... I don't like politics, and I don't like political parties." He wants to focus on freedom, not partisan bickering.
8:33 - He's getting some traction on Armey's attack on the two-party system. That's probably due to the large number of Ron Paul supporters here at the CLC. Now, most of Armey's criticism goes at the Democrats; "I don't see a lot of lovers of liberty in the Democratic Party; I see a lot of big-government supporters."
8:35 - "The Republican Party [in 1980] was about freedom." That's why he ran as a Republican for Congress. He asserted that for 4-5 years after the Contract with America, people had reason to be happy with the Republicans. He says that he didn't understand how limited the support for that effort was until he and Newt Gingrich left. The Republicans got "short-sighted and delinquent".
8:38 - Armey endorses the Republican Party, because "they're salvageable". Groups like this need to keep the party honest, discipline them when necessary, and keep them on the path of liberty. It's an interesting and somewhat unexpected twist on his speech, which almost sounded like a call for splintering.
8:42 - "If you're not willing to stand up for liberty and be a mensch, don't come around me." Armey tells the group that they need to protect the heroes in Congress today, and help breed more of them. He attacks those critics who claimed he "gave up" on the effort, saying that he sacrificed a million dollars in earnings every year he was in Congress. Activists need to understand that politics is a difficult arena, and it takes hard work every day. I said something almost identical yesterday on my panel.
8:47 - He finishes with a gasp-inducing moment: "I love that document [the Constitution]. I hate the Duke police department [which should have been the Durham District Attorney's office]." It got big applause after the gasp. It was a well-received speech, and effective as well, but I wonder how many of the people here will remember his call to remain in the Republican Party, and why.