In which I hand over my crown to this year’s queen

“This big. No, really!”

Congratulations to Ace, this year’s CPAC Blogger of the Year !
As last year’s winner, I will be showing Ace the ropes. It’s a tough job, of course — waving through all the parades, opening all those malls, ribbon cuttings and the like. The fans are wonderful, although I have to admit not be able to simply go to a restaurant or grab a Starbucks without being mobbed by adoring fans is something Ace will have to adjust to. And of course there’s the morals clause, which I may have to have a special chat with him about.
I am sure he will wear his crown with honor. Congrats chief!

Game Over for Mitt Romney

I just watched Mitt Romney announce his withdrawal from the race here at CPAC. A sad day indeed, but not entirely surprisingly, and arguably the right thing to do for the GOP and the nation.
Upon taking the stage, Romney received a reception that made the event look like a Romney rally:

I must admit, my reaction hearing the thunderous reception in the room was “Gee: where have you folks all been for the last six months?” Too little, too late, I’m afraid, and the conservatives who didn’t back Romney early on should be feeling a well-earned sense of responsibility for Senator McCain’s nomination right about now.
Romney’s speech was classy, and hit the right notes in setting out the priorities of the GOP — and the contrast that we face with the prospect of a President Obama or President Clinton (2). I’ll have more thoughts on that eventually ( although class=”textlink”>Erick beat me to using my preferred headline: “I, for one, welcome our new McCain overlords.”)
Anyway, not much to add to the event itself given that it will be given saturation coverage. But here’s a few photos from my spot right at the edge of the stage…

And finally, back here at Blogger Alley, I had the opportunity to interview the man — or, rather, the mammal — who can claim a bit of credit for today’s news:

Stay classy, Romney haters!

Live from the FRC’s Washington Briefing

Greetings from the Family Research Council’s Washington Briefing — the ” class=”textlink”>premier values voter event of 2007” !
Whoah. To quote Admiral Stockdale — “Why I am I here?”
Well, because I was invited, despite being a vaguely RINO-like libertarian type. And because it’s an opportunity to get up close and personal with the true social conservatives of the party while they in turn check out the GOP presidential candidates — all of whom are scheduled to speak this weekend.
Obligatory disclosure: the FRC folks paid for my flight for the trip, and for my hotel. If you feel that hopelessly taints my famed blogger independence, well, whatever.
So let’s get moving. As of this moment, three candidates have already taken the stage — McCain, Brownback, and Tancredo — so I’m playing catchup.
First, McCain. He gave a solid, but fairly low-key speech that focused more on the war — and his time in Vietnam — than on social issues. He opened with a clear message that he wouldn’t apologize for any issues where he has differed with social conservatives: ““I’m not gonna con you…I’m going to tell you what I believe, and let the chips fall where they may.”
He highlighted his opposition to the administration’s interrogation policies: “The easy way is not the American way we must remain true to our ideals not in spite of the threats we face but because of them.” And made a point of reminding the crowd of his involvement in the “Gang of 14”, declaring “I am proud to have played a role — -a major role — in the confirmation of Alito, Roberts, and others.” and concluding “I would appoint strict constructionist judges that won’t legislate from the bench.” (waitaminute — I thought Giuliani was tomorrow…?)
It was a good speech, but not great delivery. To me it was fairly obvious that it wasn’t one he had written himself or even had time to review closely prior to delivery — he recited it staring down at the text for the majority of his time, and his timing was off — he didn’t seem to have a grip on his own applause lines.
That said, he was greeted (to my surprise) with a standing ovation at the conclusion of his speech. Whether that was respect for his service, agreement with his positions, or simply the FRC crowd being cheap dates for the first speaker of the day is hard to know.
Next up was Brownback. I faced a choice between getting more coffee and listening to Brownback, and guess which won? Yeah. If it makes you feel any better, it’s not very good coffee.
I interviewed Brownback at CPAC back in March, and had a dim view of his Iraq policy then which hasn’t improved since. (How is that partition plan working out, Senator?)
But I have to say, the latter half of his speech which I caught went over well with the crowd. Brownback was clearly in his element, expounding on faith and its role in American life. Frankly, he was far more energized and comfortable than when I and Ed Morrisey spoke with him privately at CPAC. But hey, Ed and I are intimidating guys, so I guess that’s understandable. We scare lots of folks.
At closing, Brownback also got a standing ovation from the crowd. This one seemed a bit more heartfelt than McCain’s, although perhaps that’s just my own expectations showing through. (I don’t have a decibel meter handy, so can’t give you Truly Objective Data to prove who got the loudest applause).
Finally, for now, we had Tom Tancredo. Yes, he’s still running ! He opened with a self-deprecating story about being the only GOP candidate to show up at the NAACP summit, and went on a roll from there. He managed to avoid talking only about immigration (refreshing), although he did get to it eventually. And believe it or not, he clearly received the best reception of any of the three thus far. He was thundering from the podium, and receiving continuous bursts of applause and cheers.
Damn shame (for folks in this room) that he hasn’t a chance in hell of winning the nomination, let alone the general. But hey, he seems like he’s having a good time, so let him have his fun.
Next up: Fred !
My Fred! coverage will be especially worth watching, as I’m positioned one row behind Fred!’s blog guy, Jon Henke. So I’ll be sure to peer over his shoulder and report any incriminating internal notes (“Damnit, I told Fred to put some life in it — Jon”) that I happen to see. Stay tuned!
Update 11:20 am: It’s Fred!
First thought on Fred: damn, he really is tall. Dude towers over the podium.
Second thought on Fred: in however many years as an actor and eight years in the Senate, why hasn’t he learned how to deliver a speech without saying “uhhhh” every sentence or two? Geez, my public speaking delivery is better than his, and mine ain’t that good.
Spoke of the Founders and their faith – they knew “our basic rights come from God” — good applause from the crowd.
Jarring anachronistic note: says Founders knew that “not all solutions to all problems emanate from Washington D.C.” . Er, I’m sure they did. Particularly George Washington!
I dunno. With Fred!, I’m just not feeling the exclamation point. Maybe I’m just being too picky about all those darned “uhh’s”, but I don’t think so — he clearly didn’t get nearly as much applause as Tancredo or Brownback. Maybe not even McCain, although I think McCain got a pass as he was first and everyone was jazzed to applaud just to applaud for something.
There’s absolutely no reason why this should be, far as I can tell. Thompson was, at one point, supposed to be the Great Hope for social conservatives. You wouldn’t know it from the reception he’s gotten thus far.
He had one great line in his closing. Describing what he would do in his first hour as President, he said: “I would go in the Oval Office and close the door, and pray for the wisdom to know what was right.” — that brought the crowd to its feet with applause.
And like all three previous candidates, Fred! received a standing ovation at the end of his speech. Note to the FRC attendees: if you give one to everyone, it kinda diminishes the impact. (Unless, of course, the plan is to give one to everyone except a certain former Mayor, which would be amusing, if cruel).
It’s lunch and panels for the next few hours — and no, I’m not planning on covering much other than the Presidential candidates, thankyouverymuch. Ron Paul speaks in a few hours, though, so I’ll check back in for the freak show then…
Update 2:00 pm: Duncan Hunter takes the stage, and wins the award for Fastest Attempt To Claim The Reagan Mantle, invoking his connection with the Gipper and declaring of his work with him that “we brought down the Berlin wall. We freed hundreds of millions of people.”
Well okay then. I have to say: I’m getting slightly bored with the good Congressman. In the past five weeks, I’ve seen him at three different events. And I don’t get out much.
Hunter refers to “what I call the arsenal of democracy”. Wow. It takes a special guy to lift from both Reagan and FDR in the same speech.
Hunter’s a good sort, and I can’t say I really disagree with him on all that much, so I shouldn’t be so snarky. But he’s got no chance of getting the nomination, so it’s probably about time for him to get back to being a Congressman for California and stop playing at being a Presidential candidate.
Hunter’s reception was good, as was his delivery. I’d call it as better than McCain and Thompson, more in the zone of Tancredo and Brownback’s reaction from the crowd.
Now, for the big event ! The candidate we’ve all been waiting for; the man I like to refer to as an angry, isolationist Jimminy Cricket: Ron Paul !
First, let’s get something out of the way so we’re all on the same page on how I feel about Congressman Paul, m’kay?
This would be the International ANSWER anti-war rally in D.C. back in September:

And this would be the nice Ron Paul crazies who joined with their Socialist brothers at the protest:

Got it? Good. Keep that in mind when you hear Dr. Paul or his minions rattling on about how capitalism and the free market are the key to all things good and great.
Ah, it warms my heart to hear the lukewarm, scattered and weak little pockets of applause while the good Dr. Paul declares his opposition for the Iraq war. They liked his illegal immigration pitch, but he blew the deal when he said we need to bring our troops home and they should be on our border, not in Iraq. (cue sound of crickets chirping).
Gold Standard! Drink !
Now he’s talking about gun confiscation in New Orleans post-Katrina, and how dangerous big government and letting it have power can be. The reason I truly despise Ron Paul is not because I disagree with all his positions: it’s because I agree with the fundamental limited-government, libertarian ideals he espouses, but think that he takes them to nutjob extremes, thereby discrediting the entire message.

Update: Saturday Morning
And now the real (sorry, Ron) main event: Rudy Giuliani.
Giuliani took the stage to a warm reception of applause, answering the immediate question of whether the FRC crowd might rudely snub him from moment one. Not so: definitely a courteous and even enthusiastic welcome.
He started with a discussion of Christianity itself, going all the way back to the early years of the faith and describing how believers were “spreading a message of love, of home, of faith… It was the love those early Christians displayed that drew first thousands and then millions to Christianity.”
“This is a religion of inclusion… they were truly defined by what they were for, not what they were against… I believe I can bring us together…”
He had so many great and well received lines, I’ll just go from my notes on his quotes:
“We may have big problems, but we have bigger solutions…I see a country that’s committed to restoring the social contract: for every right, there’s a duty, for every benefit, we have an obligation.”
“You’ll see a great deal of evidence of our shared view and shared values… I’m not going to pretend to you that I can be all things to all people…and you know that we have some areas of disagreement. But I believe we have many more areas of agreement.”
“I’ll always listen to your ideas… I come to you today as if I were your president, with an open mind and an open heart, and all I ask is that you do the same.”
Regarding those who think he is a champion of liberal ideals, he suggested they should “just read any New York Times editorial while I was Mayor of New York City.”
“I don’t easily publicly proclaim myself as the best example as faith… I grew up in an environment where faith was considered, if not private, at least separate from public life… but my belief in God and reliance on his guidance is at the core of who I am, I can assure you of that.”
“Isn’t it better that I tlel you what I really believe, instead of pretending to change all my positions to fit the prevailing winds? I believe trust is more important than 100% agreement.”
“What you’re entitled to from me is what I really believe… and then figure out if I’m the right person for you to support. ”
“Never let anyone tell you that your faith should not be part of your political values.”
“Our Constitution is not antagonistic to faith or religion or God.”
“There’s no exception in the first amendment that says we have the right of free speech, except for people of faith…freedom of religion is not freedom from religion.”
He spent a good amount of time on school choice, to strong applause. “It takes a family, not a village, to raise a child.”
And he hit abortion head on, going through what he would do to reduce the number of abortions:
“First, I will veto any reduction in the impact of the Hyde amendment. ”
“I will support any reasonable suggestion that promises to reduce the number of abortions. I support parental notifications and i will continue to and i support and will continue to support the ban on partial birth abortion.”
“I will reduce the red tape that makes adoption so difficult… I’ll make the… adoption tax credit permanent.”
(the remarkable thing is that even through this section of his his speech, Giuliani got strong applause on many lines, and no boos/negative reactions that I could hear)
“No set of decisions that a president makes will be more important than the judges that president appoints.”
He closed with what he said was the most important issue: that “we remain on offense in the terrorists’ war against the United States.”
“[Terrorists] did not attack us because of something wrong about us, they attacked us because of what is right about us.”
“Our goal in Iraq should be clear: Victory!”
He invoked Reagan’s view of the cold war — ‘they lose, we win.’
And made a strong declaration that Israel must be supported, stating that the Palestinians must do three things: first, accept the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. Second, forsake terrorism and eliminate it. And third, they must begin to create a responsible government taking accountability for the problems of its people.
“Under no circumstances will we allow Iran to become a nuclear power.”
On Darfur: “Genocide in Africa is no different than genocide anyplace else. Never again must mean never again.”
“You and I know I’m not a perfect person… I feel my faith deeply. Although maybe more privately than some. And I believe we serve God best by serving others. At its heart, religion is about love, forgiveness; inclusion. It is about salvation. This is a transcendent message; a beautiful message. ”
“If we expect perfection from our political leaders, we’re just asking to be disappointed.”
“We may not always agree… I don’t always agree with myself” (laughter from the crowd.)
In closing: “I’ll continue to extend my hand to you, and I hope that’ll take it. May God bless all of us and may God continue to bless our great nation, the United States of America.”
And yes indeed, Giuliani received a standing ovation (like every other candidate to speak thus far). No sign at all of any negative reaction, and his standing O seemed to be a genuinely enthusiastic one.
OK, my reaction. I think this was a truly great speech: nearly pitch-perfect for the audience and about as well received as could possibly be hoped for by the Giuliani camp. I’m about ready to declare it “brilliant”, in fact. Given how potentially hostile this audience might have been, the fact that he received positive applause throughout his delivery that seemed honestly enthusiastic is truly remarkable.
Besides that, the substance was great. It was probably the best-written speech I’ve heard this weekend, full of great phrases that hit just the right notes.
More thoughts later, but I think you’ll be hearing a lot of reports that Giuliani hit this one out of the park. He won’t win the straw poll here, and certainly isn’t going to be the first choice of many people in this room. But I think he did everything he possibly could to convince these folks that he wouldn’t be as bad an option as they might have feared.
P.S.: Jim, I’m not sure if they used it as his entrance music — don’t think so— but yes, that was definitely U2’s “Angel of Harlem” playing as he left the stage. Now I’ve got it going through my head — which isn’t too bad; great tune!
So you thought Rudy blew away the FRC crowd? Wow! No, I didn’t say that. When I say he hit a “home run”, I meant that given realistic expectations, he did a great job. If I were Rudy and I delivered that speech, I’d be pretty happy with myself.
Why no Romney coverage? Because due to various circumstances, I didn’t actually watch his speech from the ballroom, but viewed it over the web. I thought it was definitely good — the word “solid” comes to mind — but didn’t seem to blow the crowd away. Beyond that, since I wasn’t physically there, I’ll leave it to others to judge the governor’s performance and reception.
And what about Huckabee? I’m still miffed at him about all the Billy Jack abuse he gave me. But as you’ll hear elsewhere: he gave a barnstormer of a speech, and I’d say probably got the most postiive reception of any of the candidates. I believe the quote from his speech was “I don’t come to you — I come from you” — and it showed.
Wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if he won the Straw Poll today. If he doesn’t at least come in second, that’s a huge sign that the FRC crowd is starting to get in a rather pragmatic mood and is discounting candidates like Huckabee who are “their people” but who are regarded as second-tier players in the primary race.
Anyway, any candidate that will mercilessly mock an interviewer is OK in my book (even if the interviewer was me). But as for Huckabee’s policies… well, let’s just talk about Billy Jack some more instead…
Final Update 3pm: And now it’s time to play — who can type the Straw Poll results fastest !
They’re about to announce ’em, so here we go:
In descending order of total votes received (i.e., winner first):
WINNER: Romney
#2: Huckabee
#3: Ron Paul
#4: Thompson
See also:
Erick Erickson at RedState

Stand By The Troops !

class=”textlink” onClick=”‘googlebox’, ‘iframe’, ‘’, ‘Stand By The Mission’, ‘width=750px,height=630px,resize=1,scrolling=1,center=1’, ‘recal’); return false”>
Sign the Stand By The Mission Petition!

New NYT Building: Metaphor? What Metaphor?

So we all know that the mainstream media is dying, but I had not realized it had actually class=”textlink”>begun to exhibit the characteristics of a rotting corpse:
“The soaring new New York Times tower — already known for its weird toilets (when flushed, they apparently sound like a kitten being strangled), its weirder elevators (no buttons, and no indication of what floor they’re on), a leak problem (editor Bill Keller’s office got soggy in a recent rainstorm), and a mouse problem (reported by Gawker) — still has a few more surprises between the floorboards: maggots. “It’s hard to put out a newspaper when you’re worried about what might fall on your head,” one Times staffer told us this week. “One of the photo editors was sitting at her desk and maggots started falling from the ceiling tile on to her head.”
Yup, I can see how that might cut down on the old productivity.
But wait: there’s more ! Notably, rats (or at least, one dead one that was being eaten by the aforementioned maggots) and “a herd” of mice.
Yummy ! Oddly enough, the building’s sales website doesn’t mention any of these cool perks. You’d think there would be a slideshow, or something…

Immigration Bill: Online and Awaiting Your Comments

Late Friday night, an electronic version of the “immigration reform” bill was finally published, and quickly found its way into the hands of KLo at class=”textlink”>the Corner. From there, it has spread all over the net, of course.
But the published version is a big, clunky PDF file (which, if you like, you can download here.) Good if you plan on printing out all 326 pages of it, not so good if you are a blogger who wants to comment on a particular section and show your readers exactly what you’re talking about.
So I’ve taken the copy published by NRO and parsed it into a format that allows for easy browsing online. Features of this version include:

  • A table of contents on the left side that allows you to jump directly to a section of your choice. I’ve also included a “Highlights” index at the top — which should really be “lowlights” — where I’ll collect links to the most interesting sections and commentary on the bill.
  • The ability to add comments to any page of the bill, including links back to a blog post or other web commentary. Just go to the section you’re discussing, and click on the ‘add a comment’ link in the right sidebar. You can also, of course, read the comments that everyone else has provided.
  • Direct linking to any page of the bill. You can grab the ‘permalink’ for the page you are currently viewing by right-clicking on the “Page x” heading above the bill text. The format for a direct url is simple, though: where x is the page number you want to link to.

If those who forged this “compromise” have their way, this bill will be voted on as early as Tuesday. That’s a crazily short amount of time for Senators — let alone the American public — to review, understand, and have a voice on the substance of such a complex bill.
My hope, however, is that by presenting the bill in this form, I will help make the bill more accessible to all, and provide a central spot where commentary, criticism, and suggested improvements can be assembled. Who knows — maybe our erstwhile leaders on Capitol Hill will take notice, and take some of our comments to heart.
There’s only one way to find out, so let’s get to it…

Immigration Bill: Bigger Than The Bible, Not Nearly As Enlightened

class=”textlink”>Everyone’s talking about the immigration bill, as well they should be. It sounds like a complete train wreck to me, and to many others.
I always want to judge for myself though, and so I’m keeping a watch out for when the actual text of the bill becomes available online — which I hear might be sometime today. The government printing office has, however, provided hard copies to Senate offices for their review.
So until all us lowly citizens can actually read the thing, I present you with the photo below, taken by a friendly staffer, which provides a nice visual aid to the size and scope of the monstrosity:

Yes, that’s the Bible next to the bill, and yes, the bill is bigger than it. The copy shown is about 400 pages, although I’m told that the final version will balloon up to near 1000 pages once it is printed in the “official” format.
Do you think maybe we might want to take more than a day or so to quickly skim through this thing? Just a thought. As my staffer friend quipped, “The immigration bill is bigger than the Bible, and we’ve had a few thousand years to read through that.”
Stay tuned for more updates, including (hopefully) the full text of the bill…
Update: To be clear, this is not being declared the “final” text of the bill, but it is the current draft. To quote my source again, “we probably won’t get final text until after we vote on the stupid thing.”
Your democracy at work!
Update Friday p.m.: So I’ve spent a decent chunk of time today observing the reactions to the immigration deal, and I’ve come to a conclusion: this parrot is dead.

Dead, dead dead. An ex-parrot. It has, indeed, ceased to be.
The grand immigration “deal” is going absolutely nowhere. Why? A few data points.
One: The Republican base hates it. Hates hates hates it.
Two: Harry Reid (yes, that Harry Reid) is lukewarm at best. Check this out, via RedState:

Reid: Agreement Will Help Start Debate on Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Thursday, May 17, 2007
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada issued the following statement in response to the bipartisan agreement on immigration reform:
“I applaud the hard work of the bipartisan group of Senators who have proposed a new approach to comprehensive immigration reform. Their agreement can serve as a starting point for the Senate debate next week. I have serious concerns about some aspects of this proposal, including the structure of the temporary worker program and undue limitations on family immigration. We need to improve the bill as it moves through the legislative process.

Say whaa? The Senate Majority leader has “serious concerns”? Kinda a stumbling block for a grand compromise, isn’t it?
Three: The prospects in the House aren’t all that bright either:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., acknowledging deep divisions on immigration among Democrats, says she won’t bring it up unless President Bush can guarantee he will produce 70 Republican backers—a tall order given GOP concerns that the bill is too lenient.
Four: The bill text isn’t even done yet. As I stated earlier, the lovely copy in the photo above is just a draft — final language is still being hammered out (somewhere, by someone). That tells me that there are still huge opportunities for the grand bargain to collapse as the dirty details of the language are nailed down.
Does this mean that everyone should relax? No, it means everyone should call their Senators with renewed vigor, because this thing actually can be stopped. So get to it!

The Catalina Fire: Blogging vs. Traditional News at the LA Times

As a Southern California fellow, I’m taking particular interest in the wildfire currently raging on Catalina Island. But beyond the normal fascination with a natural disaster, I found that there’s an interesting comparison between “blog coverage” of the story and “real news coverage” to be had on the LA Times web site.
The LAT has the same reporter, Louis Sahagun, posting updates to breaking news blog and writing the “real” news stories on the fire.
The “real” news story is clearly out-of-date; it appears to have been fiinalized late last night. The blog, on the other hand, is highly current, packed with detail on what’s happening, and to me seems a nearly perfect way to cover a breaking story like this. Particularly given that they corrected the one flaw of the blog format, the lack of an overall summary for those not following the story closely, by putting a nice summary box at the top with the key facts as of now.
Why is the blog coverage so much more appealing for a story like this? The problem is with the traditional form of a news article — the “pyramid” structure that dictates putting the most important information at the top and then working your way onward to the less relevant details. This format makes perfect sense when you are publishing one story on a given event or topic per day (i.e., in a daily newspaper). But the traditional news form fails miserably when you are trying to convey updated information on an ongoing story repeatedly throughout the day, because it forces the readers who are paying attention to wade through the same basic facts that they already knew to find the small nuggets of updated information hidden in the story.
The blog form, on the other hand, does exactly the opposite: rather than organize the content strictly by importance (the pyramid structure), it organizes it by time: the most recent updates at the top with previous postings scrolling downwards. The blog form guarantees that when a reader who is following a story reads the blog coverage, they are immediately presented with new information that they haven’t seen before.
The ideal strategy for a breaking story like this, I think, is to do more or less what the LAT is doing: provide a “traditional” news piece that is updated a couple of times a day that provides the casual reader a full summary of the event and assumes no prior knowledge, while at the same time also posting a frequently-updated blog that allows the more focused reader to mainline the latest new information without wading through the same stuff they already knew.
It will be interesting to see whether the LAT uses this approach more frequently in the future, and if other mainstream media outlets follow the example…

Live from the Reagan Library: Blogging the GOP Presidential Debate

Through the good graces of my friend class=”textlink”>Hugh Hewitt, I’m pleased to report that I am typing this from the Reagan Library, where it is now just four and a half hours before the first GOP Presidential debate will take place.
I’ll be blogging when I can on the goings-on at the site. Since the place is full of “real journalists”, I’ll be focusing more on covering the coverage, and hopefully giving the blogosphere a little behind-the-scenes view of how an event like this works.
Right now, I’m perched up on “radio row”, conveniently located on a balcony looking directly down on the “spin room”, where the candidates and/or their flacks will be doing their best to put their best feet forward throughout the day and into the night. There are only five radio outlets set up here, including Hugh (who is broadcasting live from the site this afternoon, natch). The BBC is one of them, but they are thus far AWOL. So like any good blogger would, I swiped their spot:

We’ll see how long until I get evicted. Or perhaps British courtesy will win out and I’ll just get a “right-o; carry on good chap!’.
The spin room itself:

A better view of Radio Row in its entirety:

And where better to put Radio Row than… next to the cafeteria! (No, really.)

And the view from the Reagan library itself — fabulous! This is just in one direction:

More to come throughout the day…
1:39 pm: Hmmm. A subtle plea for fiscal responsibility from the cafe staff?

2:12 pm: Here’s the “filing center”. Looks like about 180 spots for the press corps. Yikes.

And the ‘spin room’ as of now. More or less the quiet before the storm. If I understand correctly, the big candidates probably won’t make an appearance here until after the debate, if at all. But I did nearly bump into Ron Paul and his entourage a few moments ago…

2:27 pm: Yup, that was Ron Paul:

(he’s the blur on the left)
He looked a bit lonely. I’ll have to go see if he’ll talk to a lowly blogger next time his orbit returns him here…
3:04 pm: Correction! That’s not Ron Paul above, rather, it’s Charlie Black, one of John McCain’s folks. My bad! Charlie was kind enough to chat with me for a few moments, but when I asked, said that Senator McCain is not planning on stopping by the spin room. Bummer.
Check back for further updates throughout the day to find out who I confuse for Ron Paul next!
3:13 pm: Yikes. I was just informed that the good news is I have a ticket to get into the debate hall proper — but the bad news is, I have to be there by 3:30, after which the doors close. The debate doesn’t start until 5pm. So that might put a crimp in my blogging ability, but we’ll see…
6:55 am, the morning after: Well, as I feared in the last update above, the debate room itself was most certainly a no-blogging zone. I arrived there on-time, showed my “spin room” pass:

(which didn’t work), and then my “debate guest” pass and debate ticket:

(which did). Going in the door, I promptly found myself… backstage. Equipment, cabling everywhere. Actually had to hunt around a bit to figure out how to get out and into the public area. Odd !
Seating was extremely limited (they weren’t kidding about that) and it was all assigned seats. I ended up nearly dead-center in the room, a mere three rows almost directly behind the Governator and Mrs. Reagan.
The Air Force One pavilion was certainly impressive. I was disappointed that I didn’t have time or opportunity to see more of it — security for the event being in place, they clearly weren’t encouraging folks to wander around and explore. I had never been to the Reagan Library before, and honestly it never occurred to me to be a destination I should seek out. But having seen just a bit of it, I’d definitely like to return — a great facility in a spectacular setting.
So here’s a few shots of the debate area itself:

After Mrs. Reagan was escorted into the room by the Governator, the candidates filed in. But it was about ten minutes before air time, and so they were basically left to mill around for a while:

Now, as for the debate itself. If you want to know how the candidates played in the room to the in-person audience, well… I have no idea. Because the forum was so stringent about the “no applause” rule, it was more or less impossible to really know who was playing well with the crowd and who wasn’t. But I can tell you my own impressions, which I suppose are in some way different from those you’d get from viewing on TV, simply because I could watch all the candidates while they reacted to others or simply waited to speak. A small thing, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that subtly influenced my perception versus that of folks who watched on TV.
So here goes. Mitt Romney:

In my view, the clear winner of the debate. His only weak answer was on his position on abortion, and that’s one he just has to live with since he genuinely has changed his position. But other than that, he was solid and yes, Presidential on everything. He also benefited from a stroke of luck: because he was all the way on the far-left, that meant that on all the “down the line” questions, he got to go first, which his definitely used to his advantage to get in some good lines.
John McCain:

I disagree with many of McCain’s positions (campaign finance ‘reform’ in particular). But I definitely don’t share the visceral dislike of the man that many of my right-leaning blogging colleagues have. He’s a genuine Porkbuster, and he’s been strong on the war, and those are two of my biggies, so I’m definitely willing to give him a fair hearing.
But last night he just didn’t get it done. With respect to friend Erick, I thought his delivery was strangely angry, and frequently disorganized. Which was doubly odd, because before the debate actually started (during the milling about phase), he seemed downright cheery, and appeared to almost be horsing around up on the stage. But maybe that was his version of punchiness or nerves.
Rudy Giuliani:

I thought Giuliani did ok — not great, but OK — after the debate was over. Maybe hurt himself a little — his abortion answer in particular was weak, and you would think that by now, he’d have the whole “I’d leave it to the courts” answer down pat in a more smooth delivery.
But reading through commentary this morning — wow. I think it’s safe to say that he did indeed hurt himself, and not just a little.
I hardly noticed, but apparently, there were seven candidates on the stage whose names were not Romney, Giuliani, or McCain. None of them made much of an impression on me, although once and for all, here is the real Ron Paul:

Ron Paul scares me. He came across as a kind of grumpy, isolationist Jiminy Cricket.
And speaking of scary, I haven’t watched Hardball in … well, ever. So I can’t recall when the last time I actually saw Chris Matthews was, and therefore was not aware that he had turned into a thousand year old walrus:

When the debate was over, I joined my new friend Russ from Salem Radio in the important task of whisking Kenneth Starr (yes, that Ken Starr) from the debate hall up to Radio Row to do a little post-debate discussion with Hugh. Starr was an amiable and friendly fellow (didn’t threaten to investigate me even once). Here he is chatting with Hugh after Russ and I successfully accomplished our mission:

With the debate over, the spinning began in earnest. Here’s the spin room in full swing:

The rule seems to be, if you’re a top-tier candidate, you don’t show up in the spin room personally. So for example, Mitt Romney had his son Tagg doing some interviews:

And hey, look, it’s my buddy Charlie Black again!

(who is not Ron Paul, I am obliged to point out).
The second-tier candidates, on the other hand, did show up personally, at least some of them. Tom Tancredo grabbed some coffee (a man after my own heart) to steel himself for the ordeal:

Strangely, Tancredo was also seen at the entrance to the spin room, insisting that the security guards double-check everyone’s credentials before allowing them in. (Kidding).
Also making appearances were Jim Gilmore and I believe Duncan Hunter and Sam Brownback. I didn’t see Ron Paul around, so I assume he was off scaring small children somewhere.
And lastly, a shot of Radio Row from the spin room floor (Hugh’s the blur on the left):

Overall, it was definitely a great experience to not just see the debate live but get a behind-the-scenes view of the process. I can’t say I walked away knowing terribly much more about the candidates or their positions than I came in with, but it was a fun day and hopefully I’ve contributed something by sharing a bit o’ the behind-the-curtain view with the blogosphere. My thanks again to Hugh for bringing me along!

An Open Letter to CPAC Sponsors and Organizers Regarding Ann Coulter

Note: This letter will appear simultaneously on a number of conservative blogs this morning. It has been scheduled in advance for that purpose. My personal comments appear below.
Conservatism treats humans as they are, as moral creatures possessing rational minds and capable of discerning right from wrong. There comes a time when we must speak out in the defense of the conservative movement, and make a stand for political civility. This is one of those times.
Ann Coulter used to serve the movement well. She was telegenic, intelligent, and witty. She was also fearless: saying provocative things to inspire deeper thought and cutting through the haze of competing information has its uses. But Coulter’s fearlessness has become an addiction to shock value. She draws attention to herself, rather than placing the spotlight on conservative ideas.
At the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2006, Coulter referred to Iranians as “ragheads.” She is one of the most prominent women in the conservative movement; for her to employ such reckless language reinforces the stereotype that conservatives are racists.
At CPAC 2007 Coulter decided to turn up the volume by referring to John Edwards, a former U.S. Senator and current Presidential candidate, as a “faggot.” Such offensive language–and the cavalier attitude that lies behind it–is intolerable to us. It may be tolerated on liberal websites but not at the nation’s premier conservative gathering.
The legendary conservative thinker Richard Weaver wrote a book entitled Ideas Have Consequences. Rush Limbaugh has said again and again that “words mean things.” Both phrases apply to Coulter’s awful remarks.
Coulter’s vicious word choice tells the world she care little about the feelings of a large group that often feels marginalized and despised. Her word choice forces conservatives to waste time defending themselves against charges of homophobia rather than advancing conservative ideas.
Within a day of Coulter’s remark John Edwards sent out a fundraising email that used Coulter’s words to raise money for his faltering campaign. She is helping those she claims to oppose. How does that advance any of the causes we hold dear?
Denouncing Coulter is not enough. After her “raghead” remark in 2006 she took some heat. Yet she did not grow and learn. We should have been more forceful. This year she used a gay slur. What is next? If Senator Barack Obama is the de facto Democratic Presidential nominee next year will Coulter feel free to use a racial slur? How does that help conservatism?
One of the points of CPAC is the opportunity it gives college students to meet other young conservatives and learn from our leaders. Unlike on their campuses—where they often feel alone—at CPAC they know they are part of a vibrant political movement. What example is set when one highlight of the conference is finding out what shocking phrase will emerge from Ann Coulter’s mouth? How can we teach young conservatives to fight for their principles with civility and respect when Ann Coulter is allowed to address the conference? Coulter’s invective is a sign of weak thinking and unprincipled politicking.
CPAC sponsors, the Age of Ann has passed. We, the undersigned, request that CPAC speaking invitations no longer be extended to Ann Coulter. Her words and attitude simply do too much damage.


Thanks to Sean Hackbarth for organizing this effort. In my view, CPAC should have stopped inviting Coulter long ago, and certainly shouldn’t have had her back this year after the 2006 ‘raghead’ remark. Some argue that she draws in a huge crowd for CPAC. But having been there in person, I can tell you that 6,300 attendees this year had the place overcrowded: all the major events were impossible for many people to get into unless they had paid for the most expensive ‘Diamond’ package (or had media credentials). So if next year, sans Coulter, CPAC has only 5000 attendees and doesn’t get hammered with lousy publicity… sounds like a great deal to me.


CPAC: Duncan Hunter

Greetings from CPAC 2007! On Day Two, Congressman Duncan Hunter kicked us off with a speech that touched on immigration, the war, and global trade.
Hunter is my kind of guy when it comes to the war, and I’ll just leave that as shorthand that he’s on the same page as those of us at class=”textlink”>The Victory Caucus. (It is my hope that we’ll be able to do an in-depth interview with the Congressman for Victory Caucus sometime soon).
The one perhaps newsbreaking item in his speech was when it came to immigration. Hunter went out of his way to cite the now infamous case of the two border agents imprisoned for shooting a suspect. Citing the 10+ year sentences they received, he declared flatly “As President of the United States, I will pardon Ramos and Compean.”
More CPAC news as it comes in…