What I Wanted to Say Friday Night

by Jim Geraghty

As you may have heard, the good folks at the American Conservative Union, who run CPAC, gave the 2015 Journalist of the Year Awardto me.

It’s a great honor, one that blindsided me. I’ve done a decent amount of public speaking and television appearances. But I learned Friday night that it’s easier to talk about policy or politics than to spend a few minutes before an audience of big-time conservatives and Republicans trying to paint a picture in words of the people who mean the most to you. The people watching told me I did fine, but I felt like a nervous wreck.

So for everyone who didn’t get a chance to hear it, here’s what I meant to say…

As William F. Buckley said, ‘I want a recount.’

I should begin by thanking my editors at National Review. I am lucky to have an editor like Rich Lowry, and a publisher Jack Fowler, getting to work with people like Jonah and Kathryn and a whole bunch of good people who I am forgetting to mention.

I spend a decent amount of time on Twitter – okay, probably too much time – and one of the lines you hear folks on the Left saying in an argument is, “Check your privilege, man!” And that’s usually meant as a way of shutting down debate – asserting that you don’t have the authority or authenticity to weigh in on what’s being discussed. But there’s a more constructive way of making a similar point: It’s to say, “count your blessings.”

I am blessed. I was blessed with two parents who love me, and I hope they’re watching this at home. I became a dad seven years ago, and you don’t fully appreciate everything your parents did for you until you go through it yourself.

There’s a figure who has always remained in the background or periphery of my writing, and when I mention her, I refer to her as Mrs. CampaignSpot. We’ve been married now thirteen years, and she’s been with me through thick and thin. She didn’t sign on for any of this, places where my paychecks were bouncing… Behind every great man there’s a greater woman… probably telling him he’s doing it wrong.

I mentioned my boys a moment ago, and there’s nothing to make you conservative like parenthood. All of a sudden, you have a much bigger interest in how things are twenty, thirty, forty years ago.

Finally, friends are the family you choose. I’m not going to start naming them, because I know I’ll forget someone, and then I’ll hear, “well, you mentioned Cam but you didn’t mention me.” See, now I just did it right there.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Andrew Breitbart lately. It was three years ago he addressed this conference for the last time. People look back and I see him described as this angry guy, a fighter – he titled his autobiography “Righteous Indignation.” I wouldn’t claim to be his best friend or to have known him well, but I don’t think he’s given enough credit for being a man who was really driven by love.

That may sound kind of sappy or like it belongs on a Hallmark card, but he demonstrated an amazing kindness and generosity of spirit to those around him.

The day Andrew died, it seemed like everyone on my Facebook page posted a picture that they had taken with him. For a guy who was always on the go, he rarely if ever seemed like he didn’t have time for other people. So many people offered their tale of meeting him at a conference or gathering, getting to talk to him for ten minutes or so, and walking away from that conversation feeling like for that ten minutes, they were the most important person in the room.

A lot of his fans, friends, and contributors to his site offer some version of the same story, meeting Breitbart and sharing a news tip and then being told by him, “that is a really good story idea, and you’re the one who should write it.” That’s what happened to my friend Kurt Schlichter, and there are so many people who got into writing or journalism because instead of holding onto a scoop or an idea for himself, Andrew told them they could do it.

You don’t treat people with such enthusiastic encouragement if you don’t have a lot of love for people.

Speaking of love, if I have one more message to share tonight, it’s about the disagreements we’re inevitably going to have. There’s a primary coming up. Next year at this conference, it’s easy to picture a crowd of Rand Paul supporters… running into a crowd of Ted Cruz supporters… and squaring off like the Sharks and the Jets in West Side Story.

So if we’re inevitably going to fight, let’s fight like a family. Because we all know why we’re here. We’re not here for the money. You don’t become a conservative because you know the media is going to be so nice to you. You don’t do it because you know academia is going to welcome you so warmly. You don’t count on Hollywood treating you with so much respect.

You’re here because you care. And sometimes it’s hard to care. The news isn’t always good. It’s a lot easier to not care, and to go think about the Kardashians or something. And so whatever has us as conservatives disagreeing with each other, let’s remember that we’re all here because we want to make this country a better place.

Behind me, the gracious and kind Carly Fiorina… which is going to make writing critical pieces on her from here on out really awkward.

The Clinton Foundation, Previewing Life Under Another Clinton Presidency

by Jim Geraghty

Also from today’s Jolt:

The Clinton Foundation, Previewing Life Under Another Clinton Presidency

So what was, or is, the Clinton Global Initiative and Clinton Foundation?

Lots of former presidents have their libraries and related think tanks, their charities, their efforts at remaining in national life after their presidency. Jimmy Carter played a high-profile role with Habitat for Humanity.

But for Bill – and Hillary, about to begin a senatorial career at the moment she thought of herself as “dead broke” – that wasn’t enough. They wanted or needed something bigger. Something with a global reach; something that didn’t work with any one signature good cause but with all of them. Something that could bring in any celebrity – even Natalie Portman and her dog with first-class tickets. Something on an epic scale, a group that would think nothing of spending more than $10 million a year on travel costs alone. The organization would wed enormous financial resources — $2 billion – with unimpeachable motives – er, maybe a bad word choice. It would combine wealth on an unimaginable scale with an unparalleled ability to generate good press and publicity for their noble motives and actions

Of course, foreign governments would want in on the act. Of course, the line between the charitable initiatives and staffers’ corporate consulting grew blurry. Of course there is an “undertow of transactionalism in the glittering annual dinners, the fixation on celebrity, and a certain contingent of donors whose charitable contributions and business interests occupy an uncomfortable proximity.”

Now, Politico reveals, those within the institution developed its own status quo and resisted attempts at reform:

At the foundation, sources say, Lindsey and other longtime Bill Clinton confidants hampered Braverman’s reform efforts by warning the former president not to allow too many changes that could be interpreted as a course correction. The result was that Braverman would develop consensus around reforms, but, when he tried to implement them, the old guard would try to undercut him, say people familiar with his tenure. They say he lacked the political background or allies to navigate between the Clintons and their sometimes divergent power bases.

The bonds of big money and friendship are tied even tighter:

And some rolled their eyes when the foundation’s $250 million was invested with a firm called Summit Rock Advisers where Chelsea Clinton’s best friend Nicole Davison Fox is managing director. The two were classmates at Sidwell Friends School and Davison Fox interned in the Clinton White House. She later served as matron of honor in Clinton’s wedding, and her husband was a founding employee of the hedge fund started by Clinton’s husband, Marc Mezvinsky. 

The Clinton Foundation is appropriately named: It is powerful, wealthy, secretive, and furious in response to even the slightest criticism.

Royals, with a court, courtiers, retainers, servants…

Your Listening Assignment: The NR/Ricochet Podcast Interviews at CPAC

by Jim Geraghty

The first Morning Jolt of the week covers a lot of territory… starting with everything you need to know about this weekend’s CPAC:

Your Listening Assignment: The NR/Ricochet Podcast Interviews at CPAC

My colleagues and I spent a good portion of CPAC chasing down movers and shakers in the conservative movement and interviewing them for podcasts. We taped a slew on Friday, so at your leisure, peruse and listen…

7.  Jay Nordlinger talked to former Ambassador John Bolton.

8. Jay interviewed founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist.

9: Jay interviewed Texas Governor Rick Perry, who continues to be the One Direction of CPAC, attracting a big crowd of adoring fans everywhere he goes.

10: Jay interviewed Kellyanne Conway, the Founder and President of the polling company, inc./WomanTrend.

11: Jay interviewed former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina on her childhood, her life in corporate America, and her past and future aspirations in politics.

12: I interviewed Brent Bozell, founder and president of the Media Research Center about his CPAC speech declaration that “cultural fascism” stalks America.

13: I interviewed Daniel Bongino, the former United States Secret Service agent who was the Republican Party nominee for Maryland’s 6th Congressional District in the 2014 elections. He’s also the author of Life Inside the Bubble: Why a Top-Ranked Secret Service Agent Walked Away from It All 

14: Charles C.W. Cooke – a.k.a. Charlie — talks to MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough about the scene at CPAC and his views on the 2016 race.

15: Our Charlie talks to reality TV stars the Benham Brothers about cultural forces that caused the cancellation of their popular TV show from HGTV.

16: Jay interviewed Col. Allen West, author of Guardian of the Republic, Fox News contributor & former U.S. Congressman about 2016, the state of the military, and how Republicans can do a better job of attracting African American voters.

17: I interviewed Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback about how he survived as an alleged “dead man walking” in last year’s reelection campaign, what he’s done as governor that’s made Democrats furious, the difficulties of working with the Obama administration, and whether he misses life as a presidential candidate. (Spoiler alert: No.)

18: Jay and I interviewed Bob Ehrlich, who was a Republican governor of Maryland before it was cool… before it went mainstream. 

19: I interviewed AEI President Arthur Brooks about his upcoming book “The Conservative Heart” and why conservatives actually aim to make people happy.

20: Jay and I interviewed Jason Beardsley of The Underground Movement and Jay Redman of Wounded Wear, both distinguished combat veterans, working with Concerned Veterans for America. 

21: Saving the most fun for last, I interviewed actor Kevin Sorbo about his new film “Caged” about human trafficking, last year’s surprise hit “God’s Not Dead“, and the real most important question at CPAC: In a fight between Hercules and Xena, who would win?

Like last year, our Amy Mitchell played the indefatigable traffic cop at our busy booth on radio row, and Scott Immergut of Ricochet made it all come together and sound terrific under constantly-shifting circumstances. God bless them.

Other must-read CPAC coverage…

Our Patrick Brennan notes that about two-thirds of participants in the conference’s straw poll oppose the National Security Agency’s use of telephone metadata to investigate terrorism.

Michael J. New writes that the panel discussing abortion was packed and optimistic.

Joel Gehrke on Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s message to CPAC in the keynote address.

Brendan Bordelon on whether CPAC attendees think Donald Trump is serious this time.

I told you Rand Paul was going to win the straw poll. The victory in the CPAC straw poll is a Paul family heirloom, handed down from a father to son. Andrew Johnson writes, “Paul organizers have mastered securing a strong presence at CPAC, as evidenced by his previous success: the conference is full of supporters donning t-shirt, stickers, and signs backing the senator.”

My friend and podcast co-host Mickey White describes CPAC through a rookie’s eyes.

While the conservative grassroots were at CPAC, big GOP donors were at the Breakers hotel in West Palm Beach, Florida, meeting some of the 2016 contenders like Scott Walker, Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush – and our Eliana Johnson is there, letting you know how they’re pitching themselves to some of the biggest donors in the party.

Scott Walker’s Busy Upcoming Week

by Jim Geraghty

Today Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, one of the indisputable rock stars of CPAC*, writes on NRO about the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address a joint session of Congress this week. We should listen closely as he raises legitimate concerns about Iran — giving him and his country the respect worthy of a close ally.

Instead, President Obama and some Democrats have chosen to use this visit as a political football. This is exactly what Americans dislike about Washington.  Lost amidst the petty squabbling in our nation’s capital over protocol is the simple fact that the U.S.–Israel relationship is in crisis, perhaps the most serious crisis in our history.

While implementing policy that rewards Israel’s enemies, the Obama administration has been questioning the prime minister’s motives and attempting to undermine his message. Stop the pettiness. We must repair the ruptured bonds between our two countries. 

Walker’s schedule for the week ahead, according to his PAC Our American Revival:

  • Freedom to Work legislation will pass the Assembly and be sent to the governor to sign.
  • Our American Revival meetings, fundraising and policy meetings. 
  • A meeting at the American Enterprise Institute.
  • Iowa Agriculture summit and Iowa grassroots events.

* Other than, you know, that one line.

Can you believe it is only March?

Thinking Back to Breitbart’s Final Message to CPAC

by Jim Geraghty

Andrew Breitbart, speaking at CPAC a little more than three years ago . . . 

It was a brilliant, inspiring speech, from his opening, “I’m looking for you, you Occupy freaks, with your glitter bombs! Bring it on! Bring on the glitter!” to his closing, “America has finally awoken to your Saul Alinsky bull**** tactics, and we’re coming to get you.”

A portion of the speech, and a perspective of Andrew Breitbart that isn’t always remembered as clearly as some others:

You want a unity speech? I’ll give you a unity speech. I don’t care who our candidate is. And I haven’t since the beginning of this. I haven’t! Ask not what the candidate can do for you, ask what you can do for the candidate! That’s what the Tea Party is. We are there to confront them on behalf of our candidate. I will march behind whoever our candidate is, because if we don’t, we lose. There are two paths. One is America, and the other one is Occupy.

The Best CPAC Ever!

by Jim Geraghty

From today’s CPAC-dominated Morning Jolt:

The Best CPAC Ever!

This is not a subdued CPAC crowd, but I think it’s a serious-minded one. Sure, the applause lines still work, but I think the attendees are hungry for more.

Conservatives worked hard in 2014 to elect a Republican U.S. Senate and strengthen a GOP House . . . in hopes of putting the brakes on the Obama agenda. The country was moving in the wrong direction. The president was out of control.

And now . . . there’s no coherent plan to stop the executive-order amnesty. There’s not a clear sense of what the GOP Congress should do if the Supreme Court throws a monkey-wrench into Obamacare in King v. Burwell. Obama vetoed the Keystone pipeline with the unhinged claim that the bill somehow interfered with his executive authority, and not enough Democrats will vote to override his veto. The Right pummeled the Left up and down the ballot in 2014, and somehow they’ve managed to make the election results irrelevant by simply ignoring them. It’s as if we’re being governed by the comments section of a liberal blog.

A midterm election result aiming to rein in President Obama’s increasingly radical agenda has instead only driven him to reach even more — President Bulworth has adopted the slogan of “YOPO” — “You’re only president once.” By winning the presidency and controlling the regulatory bureaucracy, the radical Left is now dictating terms to the rest of America.

So the usual CPAC applause lines of “I’m certain our best days are ahead of us” and “I believe in freedom” are a little less than the moment requires. Attendees are looking for a fighter — a particular challenge for a former Florida governor who’s been quiet on the political scene for much of the Obama era — and a strategist, someone who can out-think and out-maneuver a political opponent that is fearless and determined in its efforts to enact its agenda . . . 

Give the NR Podcasts from CPAC a Listen!

The NationalReview.com/Ricochet podcast interview with Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal can be found here, and with Senator Ted Cruz here.

Elsewhere, our Jay Nordlinger interviews Representative Bill Flores of Texas and former U.S. attorney general Michael Mukasey and chats with Herbert London of the London Center for Policy Research,

Jay, Charlie Cooke, and I offer a short wrap-up of our observations of the first day. My favorite part was when Jay lamented that no one has written a good, recent book about the relationship between conservatives and libertarians.

In other news, Texas governor Rick Perry joins me in sellout-RINO-squishhood.

Scott Walker’s Awful Answer on ISIS

by Jim Geraghty

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker received a lot of completely undeserved grief from the national news media in the past weeks. But he may have made a genuine unforced error in one of his remarks today.

Asked about ISIS, Walker responded, “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the globe.”

That is a terrible response. First, taking on a bunch of protesters is not comparably difficult to taking on a Caliphate with sympathizers and terrorists around the globe, and saying so suggests Walker doesn’t quite understand the complexity of the challenge from ISIS and its allied groups.

Second, it is insulting to the protesters, a group I take no pleasure in defending. The protesters in Wisconsin, so furiously angry over Walker’s reforms and disruptive to the procedures of passing laws, earned plenty of legitimate criticism. But they’re not ISIS. They’re not beheading innocent people. They’re Americans, and as much as we may find their ideas, worldview, and perspective spectacularly wrongheaded, they don’t deserve to be compared to murderous terrorists.

UPDATE: Kristen Kukowski, communications director for Walker’s 527 organization, sends along this statement:

Governor Walker believes our fight against ISIS is one of the most important issues our country faces. He was in no way comparing any American citizen to ISIS. What the governor was saying was when faced with adversity he chooses strength and leadership. Those are the qualities we need to fix the leadership void this White House has created.

The Relatively Pro-Legalization Crowd at CPAC

by Jim Geraghty

The audience in the conference hall at CPAC seems pretty amenable to legalizing marijuana. Of course, a debate on the issue is most likely to attract attendees with strong opinions on legalization. The applause for the session’s advocate for legalization, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, is definitely louder as the discussion begins. But as it progresses, and the crowd grows larger (for everyone getting in their seats for Governor Scott Walker), the applause for legalization foe Ann Marie Buerkle grew louder.

The moderator, Mary Katharine Ham, notes that the athletic Johnson has climbed the seven summits. So he’s been high a lot of times.

In his opening remarks, Johnson mentioned he has been engaged to a wonderful woman for five and a half years. That may not help his forthcoming argument that pot does not make you unmotivated and slow a person’s focus on important tasks.

At one point, Johnson declares, “Is [smoking pot] the smartest decision you’ve ever made? We can debate that all night.” Er . . . really? Does anyone want to argue that smoking pot is the smartest decision they’ve ever made? If so, just how bad are all of the other decisions you’ve ever made?

Can we at least acknowledge that marijuana can be a gateway drug to a terrible presidency?

Quick Thoughts on CPAC’s Debate on Legalizing Pot

by Jim Geraghty

The audience here at CPAC seems pretty amenable to legalizing marijuana. Of course, a debate on the issue is most likely to attract attendees with strong opinions on legalization. The moderator, Mary Katharine Ham, notes that the panel’s advocate for legalization, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson has climbed the seven summits. So he’s been high a lot of times. In his opening remarks, Johnson mentioned he has been engaged to a wonderful woman for five and a half years. That may not help his forthcoming argument that pot doesn’t make you unmotivated and slow to focus on important tasks. Johnson declares, “Is [doing pot] the smartest decision you’ve ever made? We can debate that all night.” Er… really? Does anyone want to argue that smoking pot is the smartest decision they’ve ever made? If so, just how bad are all of the other decisions you’ve ever made? Can we at least acknowledge that marijuana can be a gateway drug to a terrible presidency?

Carly Fiorina at CPAC: ‘​Mrs. Clinton, Name an Accomplishment.’

by Jim Geraghty

What to expect from Carly Fiorina at CPAC today:

I know Bibi Netanyahu. As I sat in his office five years ago, he spoke then of the dangers posed by Iran. He travels here next week not to offend our President, but to warn the American people that our President’s insistence on a deal with Iran at all costs is a danger to the world.

I know King Abdullah of Jordan. And I applauded his leadership when his response to the beheading of a Jordanian pilot was to immediately execute two convicted terrorists and begin bombing. He came to this country seeking support and he has still not received it. Neither have the Kurds nor the Ukrainians. When the Egyptians bombed targets in Libya in response to the beheading of 21 Christians, this Administration stood silently by and would neither “condemn nor condone” Egypt’s forceful response.

This is not leadership. Nor is it leadership when Secretary Clinton asks: “What difference does it make?” when our embassy is deliberately attacked by terrorists and four Americans are murdered. It makes all the difference in the world and the required response has never come.

Like Mrs. Clinton, I too have travelled the globe. Unlike Mrs. Clinton, I know that flying is an activity, not an accomplishment. I have met Vladimir Putin and I know that his ambition will not be deterred by a gimmicky red reset button.

Mrs. Clinton, name an accomplishment. And in the meantime, please explain why we should accept that the millions and millions of dollars that have flowed into the Clinton Global Initiative from foreign governments doesn’t represent a conflict of interest.

She tweets about women’s rights in this country and takes money from governments that deny women the most basic human rights. She tweets about equal pay for women but won’t answer basic questions about her own offices’ pay standards — and neither will our President. Hillary likes hashtags. But she doesn’t know what leadership means.