CPAC Podcast: David Bellavia

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Rob Neppell and I spoke with author and Iraqi war vet David Bellavia, whose House to House provided one of the most gritty and realistic portraits of the war in Iraq. David has a lot on his mind, and he unloads on the war’s opponents and their efforts to make him and his fellow vets into victims. He pulls no punches as he talks about Vets for Freedom.

CPAC Podcast: Pete Sepp, NTU

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The NTU has done an analysis of the costs associated with the platforms of the major presidential candidates, and Pete Sepp joins me to discuss the results. Republicans may be surprised at the results of the study, which shows — surprise! — John McCain as the most fiscally conservative candidate still left in the race:

  • The top-tier GOP candidates often portrayed as “conservative” (Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee) actually called for significantly larger spending hikes ($19.5 billion and $54.2 billion, respectively), than the so-called “moderate conservative” (John McCain, $6.9 billion).
  • Among Democrats, Barack Obama, often described as ideologically more “moderate” than Hillary Clinton, actually has the larger agenda of the two ($287.0 billion vs. $218.2 billion).
  • The entire study is available at the NTU website.

    CPAC Podcast: What Happened To Fred Thompson

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    Jon Henke of New Media Strategies and QandO worked on the Fred Thompson campaign for most of its run at the presidential nomination. With John McCain having all but wrapped up the prize, I asked Jon to talk about what went wrong in the campaign that had the blogosphere on fire for a brief moment. Jon gives us a little “straight talk” about the Thompson campaign.

    CPAC Podcast: JD Johannes

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    JD Johannes of Outside The Wire joins me to talk about his series of documentary episodes from Iraq. Tomorrow, JD will join Bill Roggio and Jeff Emanuel on a panel that will air these episodes and talk about embedded reporting for New Media in war zones. I’ll be live-blogging the panel, starting at 11 am tomorrow, and it should be fascinating. They’re about to start selling the episodes as part of a double-DVD set through their website. Here’s a preview:

    CPAC Podcast: Peggy Venable, Americans For Prosperity

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    Peggy Venable of Americans for Tax Prosperity in Texas dropped by to visit, and to talk about their efforts to stop Texas counties from hiring lobbyists in DC. AFP-TX will hold a summer conference in Austin to counter a netroots convention at the same time there. Listen to the podcast to hear Rob Neppell and me discuss their efforts and how they relate to porkbusting on the national level.

    CPAC Podcast: Mark Mathis & ‘Expelled: The Movie’

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    Bloggers will get a treat tonight. The sponsor of Bloggers Corner (which actually has no corners), CRC Public Relations, has arranged for a pre-release screening of Expelled: The Movie. I interviewed the producer of the movie, Mark Mathis, in my first podcast for today. Fans of Dinesh D’Souza’s book and our earlier interview with D’Souza will want to hear what Mathis has to say about academia.
    Later this evening, I hope to live-blog the sneak peek. With Ben Stein as its tour guide and with interviews of noted athiests like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, it promises to be explosive.

    CPAC: George Bush Speech Live-Blog

    George Bush makes his first CPAC appearance since his election today, in the last year of his presidency. People might be surprised to hear that, but Bush has let Dick Cheney make the CPAC appearances, and with good reason. While Bush has been a stalwart on national defense and judicial nominations, he has hardly wowed conservatives on spending discipline. His remarks today marks the beginning of a valedictory cycle that will take him all the way through to January 20th of next year.
    8:05 – “My spirits are up, my energy is high, and I will finish strong!” He encourages CPAC to support the Republican nominee “who will carry the conservative banner” in the next election. He never did mention John McCain, but that might be because Huckabee remains in the race.
    8:04 – People start chanting “Four more years!” again, and Bush shakes his head and laughs. I think he’s looking forward to parole rather than an extension of his sentence.
    8:03 – We must be getting to the end, because now Bush is talking about Reagan. That’s the universal CPAC sign of a conclusion.
    7:59 – Bush is getting to the finish, with remarks about strong constructionist judges and other policy goals, following up with broader themes about the military and the strength of the American people. It has been an effective speech — warm at times, a little boiler-plate at others, but overall one of his better “among-friends” appearances. He’s used humor effectively, too. He notes that historians continue to analyze “the original George W.”, and that if they’re still working on #1, #43 “doesn’t have to worry about it.”
    7:56 – “When the history of this period is written, it will show that we were right.”
    7:55 – “FISA legislation expires next week. I don’t think the al-Qaeda threat expires next week. … The time for temporary fixes is over.”
    7:53 – Fausta is sitting next to me, live-blogging this as well.
    7:52 – “We believe in the transformative power of freedom. … We know that a free Iraq will be a friend to America, an ally against terrorism…”
    7:50 – Now he’s talking about the surge in Iraq. He reminds people that his opponents declared defeat, including some who called for a “well-managed defeat to boost US credibility”. Will he credit John McCain for his support of the surge?
    7:48 – Outlines the case for removing Saddam Hussein, saying it was “the right decision then, and it is the right decision today.” They now have elected a representative government and reject terrorism.
    7:46 – Emphasizes the human-rights aspect of engaging in Afghanistan. “They have a future that holds promise and hope … We will stand with Afghanistan … Afghanistan will never again be a safe haven for terrorists who wish to do us harm.”
    7:42 – A funny moment: Bush talks about reaching out to troubled souls by putting an arm around them and saying that they are loved. Someone in the audience yelled out, “We love you!” Bush laughed, and said, “Well, thank you. My soul is not that troubled, but thank you.”
    7:40 – George Bush declares victory on stem-cell research. The discovery of transforming adult cells into pluripotent stem cells validated his tough stand on federal funding for cloning and hEsc research.
    7:37 – On entitlement: “Our opponents have not put any ideas on the table. … It is time for them to stop talking and start acting ….”
    7:36 – A president that revokes his executive order to defund non-legislative earmarks “will have some explaining to do”. And had better do it in their second term, I’d say.
    7:34 – Bush wants to sell his fiscal discipline, but not too many people are cheering this section. His veto threat on budget overruns in next year’s budget does get applause.
    7:32 – He says the economic stimulus package reflects the principles of his government — putting taxes back in the hands of the taxpayers — but the best long-term stimulus would be making his tax cuts permanent. That gets a cheer.
    7:30 – He is reviewing his record of tax cuts. This could be a tweak at McCain, but McCain has gone on record pledging to fight to make the tax cuts permanent. “Here is the bottom line — tax relief works!”
    7:28 – “We didn’t seek the approval of editorialists before deciding [on policy] … and we darned sure didn’t seek permission from groups like Code Pink and MoveOn before taking action.”
    7:25 – My mistake; Bush spoke here after his election. This is in fact a bookend. He reminds the conference that the main issue before CPAC as activists is the presidential election.
    7:24 – Bush says that Dick Cheney is “the best Vice President in history.”
    7:23 – He has found an even tougher job than President: “Father of the bride!” He says Laura believes that “son-in-law to the President” could be even worse.
    7:22 – “Good morning!” He thanks CPAC for adjusting the schedule; he will fly to Tennessee afterwards to visit with the victims of the tornado storm that struck there and in Arkansas.
    7:21 – The introductory speeches at CPAC, unlike other venues, are actually introductions. That’s a nice change.
    7:17 – Mitch McConnell notes that Bush has a reputation as a practical joker, and initially thought the early time for the speech was another gag. (Bush was supposed to speak at 10:30.)
    7:16 – Bush gets greeted by chants of “Four more years!” Copies of the Constitution will get distributed later today, I suppose …

    John McCain Speech Live Blog

    John McCain will give his long-awaited speech to the assembled conservatives at CPAC. George Allen will introduce McCain, marking his first major appearance since his loss in 2006. He opened by talking about the diversity of the conservatives at the conference. That will remain to be seen. Are they diverse enough to generate support McCain?
    More follows ….
    3:52 – That was an excellent speech. McCain genuinely reached out to conservatives in a heartfelt manner. I’ll talk more about this on the Heading Right Radio.
    3:51 – Just realized I was marking the time in CT. Sorry!!
    2:42 – McCain sounds energized and is commanding the room. It’s one of his better speeches, and he’s hitting all the right notes for the crowd. A lot of them are his supporters, but Mitt’s backers easily outnumbered those at CPAC. At the least, his opponents are giving him a chance to convince them.
    2:40 – “I will not sign a bill that has earmarks in it — any earmarks. … I will make the Bush tax cuts permanent.”
    2:38 – On FISA — Democrats are blocking our ability to defend our nation against Islamist terrorists.
    2:36 – “I am not in the habit of making promises to my country that I do not intend to keep.” That’s a good line. It sure beats “patriotism, not profit”, which has disappeared, thankfully.
    2:34 – A few boos on immigration, but a lot of cheers and a laugh from McCain. He says he respects the opposition because it was based in an honorable defense of the rule of law. He now understands that no one will trust Washington on immigration until they actually secure the border.
    2:32 – McCain’s arguing that he has shown political courage in the campaign by arguing against big government such as ag subsidies in Iowa, and other examples. Those are the arguments that could woo some skeptics.
    2:30 – He’s doing a very good job in delivering this speech. He just hit the pro-life notes that brought a roar.
    2:28 – He says he is a conservative because of his belief that liberty is endowed by a Creator and not granted by the State.
    2:27 – He understands and respects the “principled positions” of conservatives who have opposed some of his policies.
    2:25 – No one’s throwing vegetables in the room. McCain has to be pleased with the applause.
    2:24 – McCain’s speaking now, and he’s getting a big reception. He’s graciously acknowledging a “great governor”, Mitt Romney. The two of them have agreed to meet in the near future.
    2:17 – Coburn: “John McCain was one of only 11 Republicans to join me in fighting the Bridge to Nowhere. Most of the rest of the Republicans marched off the Bridge to Nowhere.”
    2:12 – Tom Coburn, who I’ll interview in a few minutes, goes next. He calls John McCain “a man of real courage and convictions.”
    2:10 – The opening of the speech shows some humility in his approach to CPAC. Here’s one key passage: “And it is my sincere hope that even if you believe I have occasionally erred in my reasoning as a fellow conservative, you will still allow that I have, in many ways important to all of us, maintained the record of a conservative.” That’s the right tone to take.
    2:09 – We just received a copy of McCain’s speech. I’m reviewing it now …
    2:08 – Allen says that the primary issue facing the nation is war, and the best candidate to face war is John McCain.

    CPAC Podcast:: Rep. Jeff Flake

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    Rob Neppell and I interviewed Rep. Jeff Flake, one of the heroes of the Porkbusters. Flake gave us an update on earmark reform, including his opinion that Republicans still haven’t quite figured out the advantage they would have by adopting a full-throated opposition to pork. He describes the caucus’ strategy now as a “prevent defense …. when you’re 20 points down.”
    For those who called House Republican leadership to press them to appoint Flake to Appropriations, that battle can still be won. Flake told us that they have delayed the decision, and that the thousands of calls and e-mails had a big impact on their hesitancy to pull the trigger. Go to Make It Flake to continue that pressure.