Editor’s Note: Diane Schrader attended the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s West Coast retreat earlier this month and will be filing several reports on the various speakers and panels. This is the fourth; the third, on stealth jihad, can be read here; the second, Separation of Mosque and State, is here; the first, Dennis Prager’s comments on how God’s doing, is here.
My first post from the David Horowitz retreat poked a little fun at Obama thinking he’s God. Nah, he (probably) doesn’t think he’s God. He does, however, seem to think that America is his personal empire. This approach to government was of course a hot topic at the retreat, as speaker after speaker unpacked the dismal failures of the Obama administration. At the top of everyone’s agenda? How to end his “reign.”
There was plenty of disagreement – not as much about particular candidates as about overall strategy. Author Ralph Peters offered the most divergent viewpoints – for instance, opining that President Obama’s Libya strategy should be given a chance and is not all bad. Nevertheless, calling Obama a second rate man of first rate charisma, he offered advice about nominating a candidate – urging conservatives to stop administering “litmus tests” and to purge the phrase “RINO” from their vocabulary. This advice stood in sharp contrast to that offered by Congressman Tom McClintock, who reminded conservatives of the dangers of RINOs and said “we win when we act like us.”
Author Mickey Kaus counseled a populist approach for Republicans, marrying the fight against public unions with a fight against “Wall Street interests.” Mr. Kaus is wrong on that one – the Wall Street issue is complex and not currently in the public eye. Republicans do need to frame the debate on public sector unions to highlight how it’s a battle for the (true) working man – the one who has to work till he’s 70 to support his government worker neighbor who gets a bigger paycheck and retires at 50.
Another perspective was offered by Democratic pollster Pat Caddell, who, while disavowing the corruption of his own party, cautioned Republicans against acting stupid. Referring to the 2010 elections and recent events, he said he’s “never seen a party win so big and cave so fast.” Caddell reminded GOP strategists that they should hit Obama where he is vulnerable – the incompetence of his explanation for Libya, for example (Victor Davis Hanson, in referring to the Obama Doctrine, said “there is none!”).
While confessing a fondness for the straight talk of a Chris Christie, Caddell emphasized that at this point Republicans should be standing firm on the issues they consider important, and letting the potential candidates emerge from that process. Caddell also issued a pointed warning to the GOP: “The American people and the Tea Party are not to be mocked.” I agree – and point out that if Tea Partiers feel mocked, things are going to get ugly for many Republicans (as rhetoric surrounding this week’s budget deal made crystal clear).
Virtually everyone agreed throughout the weekend that “it’s the economy, stupid”… but that terror concerns are also growing. Potential presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann told attendees that President Reagan’s success stemmed from his emphasis on these twin pillars of prosperity and national security.
Speaking of national security, pollster John McLaughlin noted that concern over external threats is bigger now that at any time since the Cold War. These concerns were vividly brought to life by James Carafano of the Heritage Institute, who screened the movie “33 Minutes” – which refers to the time it would take a ballistic missile to reach our shores from any number of hostile nations currently attempting to build nuclear weapons. The movie is a powerful argument in favor of a solid missile defense program – something Obama has allowed to lapse.
On another front, law professor John Eastman discussed the President’s unconstitutional penchant for ignoring the legislative process and forcing his agenda via executive order, creating more and more unaccountable government bureaucracies. Eastman also noted that Obama is ignoring the non-delegation doctrine in allowing, in some cases, private agencies (of a leftist bent) to in effect run federal agencies.
Obama’s insane job-killing agenda was unpacked in detail. Finance experts David Newton and Ben Horowitz (yes, that’s David’s son) outlined the oh-so-simple path to economic recovery: cut taxes, cut spending, cut regulations, and expand domestic oil. In other words, pretty much the polar opposite of everything Obama stands for.
As for the 2012 race, there was some discussion among attendees as to whether Godfather Pizza magnate Herman Cain would be an attractive choice – a black Republican vs. a (half) black Democrat. Racial issues were not, however, much of a factor in weekend discussions – although well-known investment strategist Charles Payne did note that Obama has certainly failed to bring us together. He pointed to “serious divisions fanned by the highest office in the country,” the politics of envy, and the misplaced sense of entitlement engendered in young people, particularly those in recognized victim groups. As a black child, he was involved in programs, ostensibly aimed at reducing poverty, that “tell you every day that ‘they’ don’t like you, that you’re a victim.”
Again, while most speakers were taking a wait-and-see approach about specific Republican candidates (many names were not mentioned at all over the weekend’s many panels) – the discussion of disastrous Obama policy, including incoherent approaches to China and Israel, underscored why he’s “got to go.” Making that a reality will take courage – something shown by Paul Ryan when he unveiled his budget plan that of course took on the “sacred cow” of entitlements. Although some conference attendees expressed concern over alienating voters with this type of action, Congressman Ed Royce said that’s exactly why GOP legislators were elected – and they can’t wait till 2012 to take action. That principled approach should help Republicans, not hurt them, if conservatives can get out the message that they’re helping all working people by ensuring the entire system doesn’t collapse under its own weight.