What I Wanted to Say Friday Night

As you may have heard, the good folks at the American Conservative Union, who run CPAC, gave the 2015 Journalist of the Year Award . . . to 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 13 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 20, 30, 40 years from now.

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.

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