By all accounts the gathering of grassroots conservatives for the American Conservative Union’s CPAC event in Prince George’s County, Maryland offered the right mix of hot rhetoric and new faces; reflection and assessment.
CPAC is often a good way to get a sense of the state of the conservative movement but more important, the state of its relationship with the Republican Party.
For many conservatives, that’s a tenuous relationship on a good day. As Erick Erickson, co-founder of RedState.com, noted, “I think CPAC is really RPAC these days and is as much, if not more, lobbyist oriented than grass-roots oriented. It is like church homecoming for the Republican Party.”
As the weekend proceedings wrapped up with a rousing call-to-arms by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, some basic questions remain for a movement in transition: Coming into the 2014 elections, are conservatives gaining strength or treading water? And how does any of this really translate to the rest of the country?
Polls show political conservatism is still very healthy despite liberal wailing to the contrary. In terms of electoral politics the conservative base and liberal base basically cancel each other out, with each side striving to reach enough independents in the political center to win nationwide or statewide elections. So, for the most part, it’s a draw.
But some of the polling of the CPAC attendees also reveals some interesting challenges and opportunities for conservatives. For example 41 percent believe marijuana should be legalized and taxed for recreational and medical use (21 percent believe marijuana should be legalized only for medical purposes when prescribed by a doctor) while 31 percent say it should remain illegal.
Similarly, 78 percent cite their most important goal is to promote individual freedom by reducing the size and scope of government, while only 12 percent cite promoting traditional values by protecting traditional marriage and protecting the life of the unborn as their most important goal. Such findings are consistent with the libertarian leanings of the participants (46 percent of whom were between the ages of 18-25) but also are a sign of a changing demographic within the conservative movement itself.
While themes of freedom, faith and family were echoed throughout the weekend, speaker after speaker seem to have in mind those changing demographics inside and outside the hall as they came repeatedly back to strategy and what it will take to win in 2014.
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich cautioned “we must stop being the opposition movement, and we must become the alternative government movement that will help make the life of every American better so that they understand what we would do that would be right, not just what the left is doing that is wrong.” U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tx), a Tea Party favorite, urged conservatives to stick with core beliefs to win elections. “They say if you stand for principles, you lose elections. That is a false dichotomy.”
Governor Chris Christie (R-N.J.), insisted conservatives embrace a governing agenda that would help Republicans succeed this November and beyond. “We don’t get to govern if we don’t win. So please, let us come out of here resolved not only to stand for our principles, but let’s come out of this conference resolved to win elections again.”
And it is winning elections that has proven elusive since 2011. The lack of a cohesive message to voters, struggles over the “conservative brand” with its Tea Party base and the poor standing of the Republican-controlled Congress have all taken their toll (for example, 51 percent of CPAC attendees disapprove of the Republican Congress).
But many conservatives, like Sen. Cruz, feel in the end the failure of 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney to effectively draw stark contrasts between his governing policies and the Obama agenda stands as an example of watered-down conservatism. As the Senator would make clear in his speech, “All of us remember President Dole and President McCain and President Romney — now look, those are good men, they’re decent men, but when you don’t stand and draw a clear distinction, when you don’t stand for principle, Democrats celebrate.”
But it would be another Tea Party favorite, Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), who would warn against purging centrist Republicans, saying, “we as conservatives have got to be far more engaged in finding converts than in discarding heretics.” Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) drove the point even deeper. “You may think I am talking about electing a Republican. I am not,” Sen. Paul said. “I am talking about electing lovers of liberty. It isn’t good enough to pick the lesser of two evils. We must elect men and women of principle, and conviction and action that will lead us back to greatness.”
Senators Lee and Paul are closer to the truth for both conservatives and the Republican Party: It is a false choice we sometimes make between core principles and good governance.
But many conservatives stand on the precipice of conservatism, ready to throw each other off because of such false choices; feeling they have lost their grip on what conservatism means and who is best positioned to articulate it.
As conservatives and Republicans assess their leadership, their strategy and ultimately the impact they will have on American politics in 2014 and beyond, they would be wise to heed the advice of the late conservative icon William F. Buckley Jr.: “Nominate the most conservative candidate who is electable.”
Most of these wristbands are proactive and preventive in that they urge us to ask ourselves What would a certain person do “before” action is taken.
But let’s be real. We don’t always remember to ask ourselves before we do something and sometimes still make mistakes.
I have a solution. I also wear a second wristband for just such instances. When I screw up, I look at my wrist and ask myself “What Would Kayne West Have Done?”
The question is past tense. And what Kayne would have done is always something much worse and crazier than what I did. And that makes me feel better.
And will make you feel better too!
If you are a fellow #upper, particularly a fan of the Steve Kornacki version of MSNBC’s “Up,” you undoubtedly have watched the best political game show on TV — “Up Against the Clock.” Typically hosted by Kornacki, the all-time leading scorer on the show had been contributing RP (and MSNBC “The Cycle” co-host) Krystal Ball.
Well, this week. Krystal guest hosted for Steve, and the game show featured new contestant, and fellow contributing RP, Jeff Smith. And who’d have thunk it, but Jeff emerged as the Greatest Of All Time Up Against the Clock contestant. Watch him stumble over a Judd Gregg question, and then make a miraculous recovery to claim the all-time championship:
Well….I just got home and went out to the mailbox and found an over-sized envelope I wasn’t expecting. On the front was written my name in big gangly letters all authoritative and award-sounding like. Which turned out to be true.
I opened up the envelope (the over-sized one with my name written in big gangly letters) and found this. It was enough to make me go all soft and warm on the inside and start thinking about a movie I like a lot. Not a movie I would ever base my life on, mind you. Or a movie I’d ever admit in public that I found amusing and comforting. At least not admit it in a public way where grown-ups or anyone I want to impress could find out. But that movie is The Big Lebowski.
Now, if you ask me, “John, do you have the movie poster from The Big Lebowski hanging in your basement? The real crazy looking dream sequence one with The Dude teaching proper bowling form to Julianne Moore’s character who is dressed in Viking garb? That one?”
If you asked me that, I’d say “no.”
But I’d be lying. Because I do. In a dark corner of our basement but it’s there in plain sight (just darkened a bit) for everyone to see. If they really stray and start poking around a room they aren’t supposed to be in. And I’m proud I have that movie poster.
And I’d also be lying a bit if I told you this here award –even if it is a joke or spoof or prank of some sort—didn’t touch me in some way deep down inside that I’ll probably never be able to explain to my wife and kids or the rest of my family. Or most anybody I work with. Not even any of my neighbors, except maybe the one on the far end of our cul-de-sac who is Indian but trying really hard to understand American culture. Even the weird stuff. I think he’d probably appreciate it. But that’s about it. And maybe Will Russell, a friend of mine who does a lot for the Louisville Lebowskifest. But other than Will and my Indian neighbor whose name I don’t even know but I think would like The Big Lebowski, this is a pretty solemn award that I may try to show off to others but only I can truly appreciate the profoundly convoluted meaning behind it.
Let’s just say I think it’s pretty dang cool.
And I don’t use phrases like “pretty dang cool” unless I am feeling something very intensely than I can’t find the words to adequately describe. Maybe it’s best if I just let the movie itself do the talkin’ for me. It sums it up about like I would if I did have the words to describe it.
“Sometimes there’s a man… I won’t say a hero, ’cause, what’s a hero? Sometimes, there’s a man. And I’m talkin’ about the Dude
here…..Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there……Sometimes there’s a man, sometimes, there’s a man. Well, I lost my train of thought here. But… aw, hell…The Dude abides. I don’t know about you but I take comfort in that. It’s good knowin’ he’s out there.”
Well…I think that pretty much says it all about as well as it can be said. And if you noticed the movie script didn’t ever have to resort to using the phrase “pretty dang cool.” The movie The Big Lebowski has a language all its own and didn’t need intense-feeling preppy phrases like that one. You just kinda know it without ever having to say it.
Know what I mean?
And to prove I may be worthy of The Dude Abides award, I am including this photo.
It’s not a selfie. That wouldn’t be Dude-like at all.
It is, however, a picture of a robe I bought myself recently that I like to wear when I am working in my home office.
And if I may say so, ties the whole room together rather nicely.
And I sure hope nobody, especially German nihilists, ever try to urinate on it.
And although there is really very little about me that even remotely resembles The Dude, I have had a few Dude-like moments.
Not many, mind you, but a few.
Including this one when I was about 11 years old on a fishing boat.
I didn’t fish. But I did manage to look pretty Dude-esque, if you ask me anyway.
In 1990, when Nelson Mandela first visited the United States, I had the pleasure of seeing him and hearing him speak at Tiger Stadium in Detroit.
I bought tickets for my children, Eric and Abby, and the three of us along with thousands of others sat enthralled as we heard him talk about gratitude and of his affinity for Detroiters. There on the podium with him were Detroit icons, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and Rosa Parks.
My children and I have talked about this life enhancing experience many times in the ensuing years.
I also visited South Africa just at the end of his Presidency and was inspired and hopeful.
Though his promise isn’t fulfilled, he certainly kept his faith in his people.
I read with interest your memorial pieces on Nelson Mandela.
There were various metaphors and comparisons to angels, to Martin Luther King and Gandhi, but little discussion of the reality of this complex political figure who was on USA’s terrorist watch list until 2008! Don’t get me wrong, I’m am a great admirer of Mr. Mandela and in fact the international plea for his release from prison was the start of my very long career as an Amnesty International Urgent Action writer.
But let’s not forget that Mr Mandela’s incarceration was lengthened due to his unwillingness to renounce violence as a means for gaining his people’s emancipation, and his unwillingness to denounce those committed to this cause who felt violence was indeed their only recourse.
As a pacifist I feel conflicted with this stand as indeed non-violent resistance yielded no result for this cause and it would seem they were right that the Afrikaner minority and international community only noticed their actions when they turned violent and when the rightful rulers of South Africa governed from behind the bars at Robben Island.
I think it was Homer who pled “Paint me with all my warts!”. I feel we do not honour Mr Mandela’s memory by glossing over his warts, and the gravity, the reality of his life and work.
Reposting from July 2013:
Our world seems on the cusp of losing a genuine hero for the ages, Nelson Mandela.
The word hero gets overused a lot but never when applied Mr Mandela, who looks like Morgan Freeman playing God after God has decided to stick around and live among the mortals.
Muhammad Ali famously dismissed achieving the impossible saying “Impossible is nothing.” Nelson Mandela has exemplified that statement throughout his life and continues to do so.
I first heard of this man when I was 20 years old and had the privilege to spend several days in South Africa in 1983. Apartheid, legalized racial discrimination against blacks, was embedded in the nation’s legal system. Nelson Mandela was incarcerated and in poor health. We were taught at the time that he would almost certainly die in prison.
But he didn’t.
Several years later celebrating his 70th birthday while still in prison, Nelson Mandela rallied his people. He became a symbol of patient and peaceful persistence against injustice and a symbol of inspiration much like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King had become resisting injustices in their own countries just decades earlier.
Shortly after that, even though struggling with tuberculosis, Nelson Mandela emerged from prison a free man who not only lived but lived to become the president of his country (and the first black office holder in South African history). Ironically, his country had imprisoned him years earlier for resisting its laws and committing treason and sedition in defying Apartheid in Mandela’s youth. As president Mandela went on to remove the yoke of Apartheid from his country and for all of South Africa’s people.
And today—nearly 30 years after I first heard Mandela’s name whispered as a ghost in the failed resistance to South Africa’s Apartheid policy, he is a living embodiment of everything that was impossible then ….and that his most ardent supporters had stopped believing could ever happen.
How does that happen?
How does a man physically weak, legally incarcerated, politically written off, sick with a potentially fatal malady and aging into his 70s not give up?
How does that same man emerge in his twilight years and become arguably an even more successful South African version of our nation’s Abraham Lincoln?
I don’t know.
Except that’s the kind of things that real heroes do…..and real heroes are as rare as they are extraordinary. And it’s worth pointing out that one is still alive and in our midst. Although sadly, perhaps not for much longer. But he’s here now.
And we are blessed to be able to acknowledge him, again, while he is still alive. And thank him for teaching us that impossible isn’t always as difficult to overcome as it seems.
When I look back on my time spent in the fitness industry, I feel like I have lived several lifetimes. I have been blessed with opportunities that most would die for. I am greatly humbled by all my experience in the fitness industry but my recent endeavor tops anything I ever imagined I would accomplish. To be considered one of the best in the world in anything is extraordinary but to do it in an arena you are so in love with, makes your life. Let me recap the past several months…
On August 2nd I received an email stating I was a finalist for the 2013 Life Fitness Global Personal Trainers to Watch competition. Out of nearly 1600 entries in 43 countries, they selected a country boy from Lexington, KY as one of the top 10 best trainers on the planet. My breath was taken away. I nearly cried in the gym. After being told of the sale of Urban Active just 10 months earlier my life had taken a roller coaster ride. My love was taken away from me, the place that I felt like I helped build was gone and I needed to move on. This news was what I needed and I couldn’t have been happier.
After a long 20 days we were allowed to tell friends, family and the social media world. The outpouring of support was incredible. It really showed me how much I had made a difference in people’s lives and made me very happy that they were following me and cheering me on. I felt like I had already won. Regardless of the decision that would come a month later, this kid from Kentucky had made his mark on so many people and that made this honor a victory before the competition started.
Heading into the competition in England, I wanted to be as prepared as I could. I had clients throw different scenarios at me to test how quick I could act on my feet, something I would have to do when I got to England. I also read everyday to stay abreast of all the great new information that is imputed everyday. I was ready for this challenge and I welcomed it. With the support of everyone as felt like I could put the world on my shoulders and run with it, this was my finest accomplishment.
Having never ventured outside the United States before, I had some apprehension on traveling internationally. But I am thankful I have several clients who have traveled abroad and they reassured me everything would be ok once I touched down in the United Kingdom. And as promised, when I made that long journey across “the pond” everything turned out great.
I arrived in London, England after an all night flight with no rest but with two things in mind, listen and learn. As much as I wanted to enjoy the country, I wanted to compete and learn from the best in the world. This was about the art form I had learned 10 years ago and putting my talents up against 9 other people from around the globe and learning as much as I could from them. I did do some sight seeing in St. Albans, England, the eldest city in the United Kingdom that dates back to the Roman Empire. The town was quaint, quiet and very nice. It’s history was rich but the time I took to tour, all I could think about was what the next day would present.
As expected, the competition day will go down as my most proud moment of my career on a personal level. To represent my clients, trainers, family and my country meant everything to me. Also as expected, the caliber of trainers that were selected were the very best. We were the top 10 on planet Earth in something we had devoted our lives to and was so passionate about. There is nothing better than that feeling. In accordance with competition, we were paired with a volunteer client to train. And not only did we have to train a stranger on the spot but train them for 15 minutes and do it in front of an audience of 50 in the gym and countless live on the Internet. This brought my best out, I loved it. After 31 years on this Earth, this was what I lived for. When my time came for me to train, I wanted to bring the house down.
I met my client, Newal, at lunch and was so impressed with him. At 64, he worked out everyday, kept his stress low and legitimately enjoyed life. He had climbed Mount Everest, been on several safaris and wanted to live as long as he could. Upon meeting me, he told me to bring it! I told him to be careful what he wished for. When our time came to train, we tore the house down. At 64, Newal was in better shape than most half his age. He beautifully executed all the exercises I gave him with zero rest, he was out performing his own best efforts and making me look great It was poetry in motion and I owe it all to him. He rose to the occasion for me to show my best material on a worldwide stage. After we were finished I knew we had done something special. Now just needed to wait for the judges verdict.
In the end this competition had nothing to do with winning or losing, it was about celebrating our achievements and contributions to an industry that needs more of us. I feel as if we all won, on our way to being the absolute best in the world. I appreciate my 9 new found friends and their approach to fitness, we are all different yet all the same. The common denominator being our quest to be the best in an industry we love so much. My life is forever changed by this experience. Thank you Life Fitness, all my family and friends and my clients, this was for you.
Recovering politician, and former Missouri State Representative Jason Grill, talked about the government shutdown, on The Mitch Albom Show.
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Q: Here’s my problem: I’m secretly dating someone who works on an opposing campaign. I know what you’re thinking: This is like something out of a movie, or like James Carville and Mary Matalin. But we’re just two people who really like each other and don’t want to let the campaign get in the way of a blossoming relationship. Is this too scandalous? Should we take a break, or do you think we can survive it?
—Juliet (obviously not my real name!)
Yes, “Juliet,” something about your question suggested that might not be your real name, though I appreciate the clarification. As for you and your star-crossed lover, your situation does sound a bit like a movie—the dreadful 1992 Michael Keaton vehicle Speechless.
Forgive my tone, Juliet, but, really, chill. By today’s standards, what you’re doing isn’t very scandalous, unless of course you’re leaking poll numbers and television ad scripts. In fact, someone else on your campaign is probably hooking up with someone on an opposing campaign as well. Politics is a small and horny world. So go ahead and date—quietly for now if you prefer, but openly if you like. Assuming that your boyfriend on the other campaign isn’t a 15 year-old intern, I’d suggest that this cycle’s candidates have rendered your love life rather quaint.
Q: Did you see the Washington Post article about the longtime Hillary Clinton aide getting mixed up in shenanigans during the 2008 campaign where she appears to have coordinated a so-called independent expenditure on behalf of the campaign? It reminds me of what you got in trouble for. What’s the difference, and what do you think will happen to her?
—M.E, Washington, D.C.
Well, one big difference is about $600,000 (the expenditure in question was nearly $609,000, whereas the expenditure during my 2004 race was approximately $10,000). A second difference is that—at least according to the Post article—the Clinton aide in question, unfortunately, allegedly put some things in writing, unlike my campaign aides who met with an outside consultant. But the biggest apparent difference is that none of her closest friends wore a wire and got her to talk, so it may be possible for her to explain away alleged emails that strongly suggest illegal coordination but leave some ambiguity. “I was merely providing Sen. Clinton’s campaign schedule for an old associate who wanted to invite friends to some events,” she might say; or “I provided information about our field operations to an associate who said he knew some willing campaign helpers, but I had no idea he was planning any sort of independent expenditure.” I should stress that I’m not accusing anyone of a crime here but speculating about possible defenses. Given the woman’s status as a longtime Clinton aide and the high stakes as Hillary contemplates 2016, I’d expect she’s receiving top-flight legal advice. The outcome is difficult to predict without seeing the actual emails, but it will sure be interesting to watch it unfold.
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Jeff Smith: Do As I Say — A Political Advice Column