Last night, the Conservative Leadership Conference concluded with an awards banquet and yet another two excellent speakers from whom we had not heard before. The CLC created two awards for their first conference to honor those who work to advance conservative principles, named after former Reagan aide Lyn Nofziger and conservative titan Senator Barry Goldwater.
Introducing the first was former Ambassador Jerry Carmen, who worked closely with Nofziger in and out of the White House. Carmen told some wonderful stories about Nofziger, how dedicated he was to Reagan, and how he always followed his own star on politics. Nofziger criticized the Reagan administration in which he served on more than one occasion, but he did so to remind people of the principles that got them into office. Former Senator Paul Laxalt gave a touching tribute on video. The CLC awarded the Nofziger to Rich Galen, former director of GOPAC and now syndicated columnist.
Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina received the Goldwater award, and Rep. John Shadegg introduced him with a few anecdotes from Goldwater's life. Sanford also gave the keynote speech, and was extremely impressive. I regret not getting a recording of it, as it may have been the most powerful speech of the conference. Andrea Shea-King took a few notes, but I clearly recall Sanford's main themes of courage and tenacity in defense of the values which underscore American liberty.
In his easy and even humble manner, he reminded the audience that fighting for what we believe means being willing to take a few losses. He recalled when he won office in 1994 that the mood was one of mission, but that it didn't last long. Soon, party leadership began saying that the GOP had to start protecting the majority, which Sanford took to mean spening lots of taxpayer money for sake of their own ambitions, rather than reducing spending and strengthening individual liberty for the sake of the taxpayers. He said then, and he says now, that conservatives have to be willing to lose that office if it means accomplishing the reduction of government intrusion -- and that in the end, we lost the majority anyway in a glut of fiscal irresponsibility.
In fact, Sanford was so impressive that it became clear why he just won re-election, and completely unclear why no one considered Sanford as a potential presidential candidate. I admit that I didn't know much about Sanford before tonight. I definitely would like to know more about him now.
Before these fine men took the stage, the CLC gave me an award as well, as the conservative blogger of the year. I took the opportunity to speak to review how far we've already come in giving ordinary citizens an extraordinary voice through the blogosphere, and how far we can go using new technology -- and of course I threw in a plug for BlogTalkRadio, which I believe eventually will just as radically alter the political landscape as blogs have. After Eric Odom prodded me to do so, I talked about the Adscam story and what that meant for the ability of people to force transparency on systems that resist it. Fortunately, I also had the opportunity to point out that the value of these conferences lie in our ability to come together, to talk, to debate, and to build friendships that will sustain us through some of the setbacks we will face in the future, as well as to celebrate the victories.
And, best of all, I got to talk about how much of my effort comes from the support and forbearance of the First Mate. That made this all the more special.