“I am not cut out for this,” says one of Representative Louie Gohmert’s staffers. We’re caught in the middle of an hour-and-a-half-long Gohmert feeding frenzy that started as soon as the Texas Republican set foot on Radio Row, here at the Conservative Political Action Conference. It finally wraps when his staffers pry him away from the last reporters and dash him back to the Hill.
CPAC sometimes feels like the Grammy Awards of movement conservatism. And if that’s the case, then Gohmert is Willie Nelson — accented and outspoken. And faced with hordes of fans, he’s enamoring. It’s not just a CPAC thing — his staffers tell me that they’re always juggling media invites — but here, Gohmert might as well be Elvis. Nobody doesn’t want a piece of Louie.
He descends into the fray after concluding a panel called “Too Many American Wars?” Gohmert’s on-stage take: “Benefit your friends, make sure your enemies suffer from being your enemies.” People seem to have liked it, and right now, Gohmert is benefitting his friends. His first stop is the Tea Party News Network’s booth, where host Scottie Nell Hughes, a big-haired blonde in a hot-pink wrap dress and sky-high leopard-print heels who’s just finished interviewing Newt Gingrich, tells him, “You’re more of a diva than I am!”
And the Gohmert insta-rapport never really lets up. Before that interview finishes, a woman from the Tea Party Patriots booth tries to claim the next interview with him. But it’s nothing doing. Gohmert’s staff, despite their best efforts, has poor luck with wrangling him from the crowd. Two Texas College Republicans want a picture of the congressman holding their “I SUPPORT TEXAS COLLEGE REPUBLICANS” sign. NRA News snags him for an on-camera interview. He tells the interviewer that he’s sometimes been bothered by the group’s softness on Second Amendment rights, and he’s not joking. He also says that some other members of Congress have told him, regarding Texan secession, that “If you guys go, we want to go with you.” But he adds that the secession question was answered in 1865.
As we make our way down the hall, everyone wants an interview and everyone wants a picture. Gohmert poses with a woman who tells him she’s from Texas, and he asks, “Where in Texas?” Houston. “Houston? I’ve heard of Houston.”
He finally makes it down to the Tea Party Patriot radio booth, where Gina Loudon, another blonde in stilettos (she’s sporting a necklace with a pistol on it) wants to chat him up on the air. She mentions that he’s “a big-time celebrity” and he says, “You’re intimidating me!”
“I’m the one that’s intimidated!” she retorts. And she tells him that she talks about him on her show all the time, and that he’s “so much fun” and “so cute.”
You could say that Gohmert’s Radio Row pilgrimage is a charm offensive, but charm is coming from both ways. Orly Taitz, the Birther to end all Birthers, shows some papers to him that she says indicate the president doesn’t have a valid Social Security number. Larry O’Connor at the Breitbart booth tells him they could talk for an hour.
By the time Gohmert has finished his trek, one last reporter tails him to the exit of the Gaylord. As his staff hustles him out, a woman standing in a line simply yells, “Congressman Gohmert!” and waves. Then she looks to her companion and says, “We have to talk to him.”