CLC 07 Podcast Interview, And Other Links

A week ago, during my appearance at the Conservative Leadership Conference, Jenn Sierra of Ft. Hard Knox interviewed me on blogging, conservative politics, and BlogTalkRadio. She has now posted the podcast of that interview, recorded by my exhibit-hall neighbor John McJunkin of Avalon Podcasting. Jenn did a fine job in this interview, and perhaps we can convince her to start her own BTR show!
Also, a few more links for today:
Rob Neppell — aka NZ Bear — made his first appearance on Fox News to talk about corporate image, blogging, and their convergence. He’s also blogging from the Values Voters summit, as is Jim Geraghty.
The Nose on Your Face has the New York Times journalist entrance exam. I flunked, apparently …
Jules Crittenden notes that Pakistan has been at war with itself for a while, but the press may have just discovered that.
Gary Gross says something’s rotten in Pennsylvania.
And yes, I’ll be putting links like these in the Crow’s Nest again soon …

CLC 07: The Poll Results, And Final Thoughts

When I first agreed to attend the CLC, I thought about how long it had been since I’d been in a Nevada casino. The last time was on my honeymoon in Lake Tahoe, almost 14 years ago, so I wondered whether I’d bother to gamble at all. I finally got a roll of quarters — and discovered that most machines have no coin slots any more, instead using casino cards for gambling. I finally found one of the few that still accepts coins, and turned the $10 into $33. Since I’m suddenly flush, I decided to treat myself to a buffet breakfast.
In some ways, the CLC has been the same kind of surprise. A first-time event usually suffers from a thin level of organizational skills and a dearth of interesting speakers. The CLC avoided both of these pitfalls, and in fact put on a very strong schedule of events. They drew two presidential candidates — three, if you include Alan Keyes — and several hundred attendees. In fact, I think the schedule grew in strength, right through to the ending banquet. Chuck Muth and Eric Odom deserve congratulations for their hard work and obvious success.
The straw poll came out as I would have predicted. Ron Paul had a large contingent of supporters at the CLC, and even though Paul inexplicably ignored this event, they remained loyal to him. He won about a third of the votes and finished far ahead of his competitors. If I recall (this was announced at the dinner), Duncan Hunter finished second, and Romney finished third. Both appeared at the CLC, and both impressed the crowd. Hunter made a bigger impact because he mixed with the crowd, shaking hands and taking the time to talk with the attendees. “Undecided” beat most of the rest of the candidates, and Giuliani came in dead last or just above it.
The big surprise for me was in the friendships I discovered at the CLC. Organizing conservatives usually has more in common with herding cats, and it usually only takes an hour at most before conservatives start squabbling between our various factions. I won’t tell you that this didn’t happen at the CLC, as it most assuredly did. However, our proximity also allowed us to make connections, dialogue on the core principles at stake, and bring more unity of purpose than most might have guessed.
They’re already making plans for CLC ’08. I’ll be back, and I hope more will join us.

CLC 07: The Finale

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.

CLC 07: J. D. Hayworth

Former Representative JD Hayworth speaks on behalf of Citizens United, speaking on immigration, and it’s kind of an inside-baseball moment. Hayworth had been criticized in the pages of the Wall Street Journal by Richard Nadler and called an “immigration loser”. Hayworth responded last week in a letter to the Journal, and Nadler responded in a letter printed just this morning. Nadler is also here at the CLC — and he’s taking bows while Hayworth talks about the exchange.
Hayworth remains unbowed in defeat. He thundered at Nadler that he feels that some things are more important than winning, and the national security of America is foremost among them. Hayworth at least got Nadler to quit bowing, noting that he seemed “starved for attention”. He noted that George Bush and Bill Clinton lost Congressional elections, and told Nadler that he wasn’t going away.
Compassion, Hayworth says, has little to do with immigration. Compassion means standing with American citizens, says Hayworth. Illegal immigrants cost each Arizona taxpayer $700 a year for social services, which he says isn’t compassionate at all to Arizonans. Hayworth also notes that his opponent beat him on immigration by running to the right, claiming that Hayworth hadn’t been effective enough to get a border-security bill passed. He also accused Hayworth (falsely) of voting for amnesty.
While he made these comments, Nadler’s team passed out Nadler’s missive, entitled “Border Wars: The Impact of Immigration on the Latino Vote”. He predicts that the GOP will lose between 3.4 million and 4.7 million Latino votes in the 2008 election if the GOP persists in an enforcement-only solution.
I’d say that both men have elements of the truth in their approach. However, why point that out when we have such a fun little contretemps erupting here? At least it’s better than listening to more eye-rolling conspiracy theories like the North American Union, which preceded Hayworth’s presentation in a Q&A with Bob Barr, the previous speaker.

CLC 07: John Shadegg

John Shadegg addresses the CLC after an introduction by Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV), who sat on yesterday’s 2008 prognostication panel with me. Heller calls Shadegg a “true exception” to the stereotype of politicians who lose their way once they get to Washington. I met with Rep. Shadegg earlier this morning, and I found him very approachable, humble, and gracious, so that description seems particularly apt.
Shadegg starts off by returning the compliment, asking the audience to keep sending Congress more Dean Hellers. He says we need more Western conservatives, more independent thinkers. He also complimented the CLC organizers for sticking to their guns and holding the conference this far outside of DC.
Republicans win when they run as the party of ideas. Two basic concepts of government are in conflict. One believes that people are not bright enough to make their own decisions, take responsibility for their own lives, and therefore government has to run their lives. Shaddeg calls this a form of slavery. Republicans, when they run on the basic conflict, have a different concept of the individual, one that was demonstrated correct in the welfare-reform effort that removed millions of people from the dole and made them productive citizens.
The 1994 revolution had the greatest percentage of first-time office holders at any level. That freed them from the thought that government should provide all solutions to everyday ills. For two years, the Republicans managed to keep government growth flat — but unfortunately, the momentum for freezing or reducing government halted, and government began growing again. The government shutdown proved to be Waterloo.
When they reached DC in 1994, people warned that the Beltway would change them, and not the other way around. Shadegg says they were proven right; they became the party of Jack Abramoff and earmarks. The culture of corruption eroded their credibility and their efficacy. Freshman Republicans were told to spend 98% of their time raising money, and to load up on earmarks for their home districts.
“There is no amount of money in the world that will elect a party without principles.” By 2006, the Republicans became the Washington they intended to defeat in 1994.
That doesn’t mean that the American public has suddenly turned leftward. Americans didn’t want massive tax increases, nor do they want massive new spending. They want an end to politicians acting for themselves rather than for their constituents. The Republicans had made it clear that the current set of officeholders had failed in that, and it made all the difference.
The freshman Democrats are not Leftists, and that will be undoing of Democratic leadership. Shadegg says that Pelosi and her leadership represent the far Left of her party — and that’s the opportunity Republicans have. Unfortunately, that message has not sunk into the psyche of the GOP leadership. It will take loud demands from CLC and other conservatives to get them to wake up to that opportunity to win control of Congress again.
We still have to clean our own house first. Republicans need to exemplify a standard of conduct that will allow them to regain the trust of the electorate. That means abandoning incumbents who act unethically. It means real reform, real transparency, and a thorough house-cleaning that will set an example the Democrats simply won’t meet.
Shadegg hits Democrats especially hard on earmark reform. They have championed a process that will only make earmarks transparent after they spend the money. Without transparency, earmarks and their corrosive effects cannot be stopped. They will still have the ability to manipulate the voters and Congress through the exploitation of taxpayers funds.
Shadegg spent a long time talking about the expansion of S-CHIP. He talks about the fact that the $30 billion expansion will wind up paying for millions of adults. In Arizona, they have 110,000 adults on S-CHIP, 85,000 of which were childless. Shadegg says that the program is a “fraud”, a term he used on the floor of the House. It’s not exclusively for children, it’s not exclusive to the poor or near-poor, and it seeks to cover many who already have insurance, which will undermine the private industry coverage they already have.
Instead, Shadegg supports the tax-credit plan that Republicans proposed as an alternative. He says that supports freedom, instead of top-down government control. It allows people to work as individuals to act in their own interest, since they understand that need better than anyone else. The Republicans can capture the votes of Americans who believe they can act in their own interest more effectively than government-compulsion programs preferred by Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.
Shadegg is a very effective speaker, and he has everyone’s attention. I haven’t heard him speak in person before, and I’m very impressed. Sean Hackbarth called the speech “further confirmation that the Republicans chose the wrong leadership,” and although I think John Boehner has done a good job, it’s hard not to draw that conclusion.

CLC 07: Duncan Hunter

Congressman and Presidential candidate Duncan Hunter addresses the CLC this morning. The first order of business is endorsing his son for his seat in Congress. Duncan Hunter Jr is currently serving in Afghanistan as a Marine, called back to active duty, and his father has been campaigning almost as hard for his son as he has for himself here at the CLC.
Hunter talks about the “arsenal of democracy,” which he can see when he flies in and out of San Diego, and reminds us that Americans make things. The retreat of the manufacturing sector puts American security at risk. He tells the story of how the Swiss cut off production of a critical component of our smart bombs because of our policy in Iraq, and we had to scramble to find a replacement. Had we retained that capability in the US, it never would have been a problem.
The move of production to China is the most worrisome aspect of this dynamic to Hunter. The manufacturing base is what won us the great world wars, and if it disappears, the security of the nation will be at serious risk. We simply don’t have that kind of total-warfare capacity any longer, and he blames the free-trade policies of this and past administrations for the shortfall.
We need to inspire the coming generations. We can’t do that if our industrial base keeps shrinking. It will necessarily result in fewer opportunities, and in shrinking national wealth. In order to compete, we need to put tariffs on imports from companies who cheat on trade. Hunter rejects the notion that free trade trumps American interests, quoting Ronald Reagan that “when one party cheats on trade, there is no free trade”.
Hunter will bring the jobs back. That’s his bottom line on trade and national security.
On Iraq, Hunter says that it’s in the best interest of America to expand freedom. We learned on 9/11 that if we don’t change the world and make it free, the world will eventually change us. In WWII, we liberated millions of people. In Vietnam, we failed to protect freedom. In Iraq, it hangs in the balance. Hunter believes that we are now making solid progress in Iraq, and we now need to season the Iraqi Army in combat situations so that they can stand on their own.
Hunter says that the Iraqi central government “bumbles along, incompetent, as most governments are.” However, it was freely elected, and Hunter believes it will stand. He says that Iraqi Army will wind up being the best institution it has, and it has a professionalism never before seen in the personal rule of Saddam Hussein and his predecessors. And on Iran, he says flat-out that he will not allow the mullahs to have a nuclear weapon — period.
Hunter is an impressive speaker. If he had run from the Senate, or especially from a governor’s seat, he would have probably been the flat-out frontrunner. He is the rare case of a Representative who should be taken seriously as a presidential candidate. It doesn’t appear that will be in the cards in this race, but Hunter would make an excellent VP candidate for any of the frontrunners, if he can’t get to the top of the ticket himself. I don’t completely agree with his trade perspective — I think we have more serious concerns about defense-industry consolidation than free trade — but he deserves a higher office with more responsibility.

CLC 07: Grover Norquist

Grover Norquist has just started speaking on tax policy. The issue, Norquist says, is that tax payers want to mostly be left alone. Home schoolers want to be left alone — they don’t insist that everyone home school, but they want to make their own individual choices. Hunters want to be left alone — they don’t want to force schools to teach from a book called Heather Has Two Hunters. Most importantly, people want to be left alone in their faith.
The “Leave Us Alone” coalition, Norquist says, hearkens back to the Reagan Revolution. It springs from we used to call Western conservatism — a small-L libertarian, center-right movement that wanted to let people live their private lives and shrink the role of the federal government. It opposes the Left, which wants to extract more and more resources from individuals in order to create a larger and larger federal government that takes away their individual choices. Norquist says that, if properly argued, the LUA coalition would win 60% of the vote.
“All the bad guys can be friends — until they run out of money.” The Left needs an increasing revenue stream to remain cohesive. Cutting off the taxes means that rationing has to take place, and Norquist says that a coalition of “parasites” will never be able to remain allied when the money runs short. He likens it to the final scenes of Lifeboat.
Norquist recommends that we nurture the liberty interests in the conservative coalitions. The concealed-carry movement has generated an entire new class of LUA activists, as have home-schoolers. We need to find those people whom government insults through its intervention and nurture their realization of the necessarily overbearing impact of the federal government. Those converts make the most passionate activists, and the Right needs to find that passion again.
Taxes form the basis of this movement, though, and Norquist makes the case that it has to start with starving the government of excessive revenue. That will force fiscal responsibility onto politicians, but more importantly, it will produce a new class of politicians who understand the need to end the spending spree. Conservatives who vote for tax increases are, in Norquist’s words, the “rathead in the Coke bottle”.
We can’t end spending while discussing tax increases. Tax increases “feed the beast” and only whets the appetite of those who divide the spoils — and worse, it encourages more groups to come to the table to get more of the revenue. We cannot cut spending without first removing the incentive to spend, and that comes from tax increases.
Transparency on spending is the next step. That’s why earmarks are more important than the dollars involved. Exposing earmarks really exposes the dirty, influence-peddling nature of the federal government. When Bridges to Nowhere finally make the news, when the Charles Rangel Center For The Advancement Of Charles Rangel comes to light, the public reacts with deserved revulsion. That gives momentum to the LUA coalition and more credibility to the notion that the national political structure does a poor job of spending our money — and that they should only be given the bare minimum essential for meeting its Constitutional responsibilities.
It’s an excellent speech. Norquist has a matter-of-fact delivery, which makes his argument even more compelling.

CLC 07: The Talented — And Troubling — Dr. Keyes

As I mentioned in my previous post, the dinner for the CLC tonight featured a speech by recent presidential aspirant Dr. Alan Keyes. Keyes has operated on the fringes of the Republican Party for years, although he took on Barack Obama in 2004 as the party’s nominee in an ill-considered and mostly embarrassing carpetbagging run for the Senate in Illinois. Just a few weeks ago he declared his candidacy for the GOP nomination, but has garnered little interest, and was not invited to the Dearborn presidential debate this week.
I have never heard Keyes speak in person, although I have heard him on many television appearances, usually in shoutfests on cable news. Until tonight, I have never experienced the powerful oratory of a man who may well be the modern master of the form. Watching Keyes dominate the stage and thunder, whisper, muse, and cajole his message to the CLC’s convocation felt like being transported back decades, perhaps even a century, to when public oration determined the measure of the public man.
Keyes’ oration, however, felt troubling and at times even dangerous. It’s not that I didn’t agree with the basic message of his speech, which was that America has lost its thread to the core and genesis of liberty. In fact, Dinesh D’Souza makes the same argument in his book, What’s So Great About Christianity?, only D’Souza manages to make it with a lot less demagoguery than Keyes manages. The genius of the Declaration, and later its influence on the Constitution, came in the recognition of natural rights that flowed from man’s relation to his Creator. Eliminate the Creator, and humans become nothing more than mere organisms that have no claim to any rights as a natural function of their being, and instead must rely on the mercy of his fellow men and the governments they create to bestow or deny these rights. D’Souza makes this connection very carefully, through reasoned argument and historical exposition, to underscore a somewhat different point than Keyes.
As readers might imagine, Keyes attacked the other Republicans in the race for betraying this understanding — an attack made somewhat more uncomfortable given Duncan Hunter’s attendance at this dinner. For the most part, he attacked the front-runners, and those attacks related to abortion. Keyes argued that Mitt Romney had admitted he didn’t tell the truth about the sanctity of life while Governor of Massachussetts; that Giuliani had supported abortion and gay marriage in New York City; and that Fred Thompson had not lifted a finger to oppose abortion while in or out of office.
Had he stopped there, Keyes would have remained in the bounds of honest political discourse. However, Keyes went much farther than that, but it takes some explanation. He made an intriguing claim that the preamble of the Constitution forbids abortion in its mandate to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”. In this, Keyes claims to have found the language forbidding abortion that Justice Blackmun insisted he sought during Roe, because “posterity” refers to those yet to come — which would include unborn children necessarily. Websters defines “posterity” as “the offspring of one progenitor to the furthest generation” and “all future generations,” and Keyes says the framers understood exactly what they meant when they wrote that passage.
With that understanding, Keyes engaged in some jaw-dropping demagoguery. He claimed that Giuliani’s pro-choice standing put him in the “pro-slavery position”. That’s ridiculous on its face. First, the language of the preamble did not forbid slavery; it took the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to accomplish that. Second, in no way could anyone accuse Giuliani of being “pro-slavery”. It’s as though Keyes read the Constitution and decided that one has to go all the way to Z as a consequence of moving from A to B. It’s absurd.
After that, he talked about Mitt Romney being “the devil with the mask on,” and Rudy as “the devil with the mask off.” Fred Thompson wears masks, too, because he made a living as an actor. Don’t talk about Reagan being an actor, though, because Keyes says that Reagan had “character” while Thompson does not. How he makes this distinction, Keyes didn’t elaborate, but it seems somewhat daft considering Reagan was an actor by training, while Fred’s acting career was a lark that paid off.
Devils and traitors populate Keyes’ world to a degree not known by most rational people. In the real world, however, Keyes’ targets are human beings with foibles and faults not unlike our own. And this is the difference between real political debate and dishonest demagoguery. In demonizing his opponents, Keyes makes it impossible to actually debate policy. These men are not demons, but people with positions that differ from Keyes — and Keyes essentially runs away from the debate by calling them devils and scaring his audience into visceral reactions rather than inspiring reasoned and rational thought.
I was impressed with and dismayed by Keyes in equal measures. I also have to say that I was a distinct minority in the room. I did notice that Keyes had the good sense to avoid accusing Duncan Hunter of being the devil, at least not by name, although I’m not certain whether Keyes knew that Hunter was in attendance. I suspect that Hunter would not have sat quietly for that kind of demagoguery aimed explicitly at him.

CLC 07: Prognostication Panel For 2008

I just finished my second panel appearance here at the Conservative Leadership Conference, which focused on looking into crystal balls for the 2008 presidential race. It was moderated by Jason Wright, author of The Wednesday Letters, who was very entertaining and engaging. The questions were very intriguing, and I think produced some interesting and surprising answers. Instead of recapping it here, however, I’m going to simply podcast it. Bear in mind that this is almost an hour long, and it’s recorded from my handheld digital recorder from the dais. It’s a little echo-chamberish, but still pretty clear, considering.
Tonight, Alan Keyes will address the gathering during dinner. I may have another post coming up on that.

Mitt Romney’s First CLC Speech

I discovered that Romney will actually deliver two speeches here at the Nugget in Reno today. This first event appears to be sponsored by the Romney campaign, as the room is covered in Romney posters. The media has arrived in force, although they are complaining about being stuck in the back while seats remain open in the rest of the room. I’ve detached from the booth and set myself up fairly close to the action. I’ll live-blog this speech in case we get squeezed for time on his other appearance.
Keep checking back on this post …
10:37 – Looks like we’re getting underway. This is sponsored by the Republican Women’s Association of Nevada. which is holding their own conference here this week.
10:40 – Women manage a large part of his life, he says to laughter, and not just his wife. He had more women in senior policy positions than any governor in the nation. He tells a good joke about the intelligence of women, versus men.
10:43 – Hillary has a million ideas for America but we don’t have the money to pay for them all, so now we have a million reasons not to vote for her. Romney says this would be funny if it wasn’t such a critical moment in history.
10:45 – China’s progress out of poverty is a “wonderful thing,” but a big challenge to us to remain competitive. Also, “We spend too much money …. When Republicans act like Democrats, America loses.” Big applause.
10:46 – We use too much foreign oil, costing us $1 billion per day. That’s a major part of our trade imbalance.
10:47 – A funny sequence ended in a slighly embarrassing moment when Romney didn’t realize that the hotel is in Sparks, not Reno, which I didn’t realize either.
10:48 – “Republicans and conservatives believe that a strong America is the best ally for peace the world has ever known.” He argues that the GOP is the party of national strength, and not just in the military. He says that we have to maintain a strong economy, which requires strong families.
10:50 – Romney is doing a great job of firing up the crowd on a low-taxes platform. He committed to “killing the death tax”, and he wants to eliminate taxes on savings accounts altogether in order to encourage savings. He told a joke about John Edwards’ tax plan to allow people to save $250 a year without taxes, which Romney said wouldn’t pay for a house, a college education, or even a John Edwards haircut.
10:53 – End of the speech, but Nevada’s governor just showed up for the Q&A. First question regards the line-item veto, quite the softball. Romney commits to getting it back, and he wants to use it to stop the pork-barrel spending. “There were two people dancing in the street when the line-item veto got overturned, and they were Rudy Giuliani and Robert Byrd.” Effective.
10:57 – Will Romney endorse the flat tax alternate plan just endorsed by the Republican Study Group? He says he’ll look at that and the Fair Tax. He’s concerned about the details in the flat tax. He says that the country has finally turned the corner and reached a consensus on tax simplification.
11:00 – The next question is about health care and the number of uninsured in the US. Romney says that the Democrats press the issue to get government to run it. Romney says that “we don’t want the people who ran the Katrina cleanup to run our health care.” He wants to use a system of federal grants to get the private insurers involved at the state level, not with a federal bureaucracy.
11:04 – A long answer on immigration, and Romney says that “sanctuary cities” have to be stopped. The other magnet, illegal employment, has to be stopped as well. He proposes an alien ID card that sounds much like the green cards that have not done much to put a brake on illegal employment.
11:06 – Is the nuclear stockpile increasingly hazardous in an age of terror? Would he support a reduction in our nuclear deterrent, and put more effort into securing “loose nukes”? Romney gives a strong “yes” to the latter. He says it would not be wise to dismantle nukes, especially in light of Iranian intentions to build their own nuclear stockpile. The need for the deterrent is as great now as during the Cold War.
My battery started to run low, so I had to duck out of the last couple of questions. All in all, I think this was a very effective appearance. I may skip the live blog of his second appearance but take notes instead on what differences there were between the two.