The fine folks over at Americans For Prosperity paid my way into D.C. so I could attend their Defending the American Dream Summit. This is the third year in a row that I’ve attended (The 2009 coverage is here, while the 2008 coverage was spread out across multiple posts).
I always enjoy the event, although this year, it was a bit abbreviated so that it could tie into the Glenn Beck rally. Instead of a two day event, it was a one day event and my guess is that the overwhelming majority of the people who went hung around to catch Glenn Beck the next day.
The bar was hopping from the time we got there until we left and it was a successful event, although the bar was pretty slow about hauling out the appetizers. They brought out some…I think fish sticks like an hour after it started and then, at 7:30, after everyone had dispersed into the crowd, they brought out the pizza. As you can see from the room, it was a little late for that =D
Incidentally, the bar owner was the nicest guy. The guy actually HUGGED ME on the way out and asked if I had a good time. Lol.
And it was a nice event. My buddy Amanda Carpenter, who’s now working for Jim DeMint, showed up:
Much thanks to everyone at The Heartland Institute including Zack Christenson, James Lakely, Arin Greenwood, and most of all Keely Drukala, who inexplicably did not punch me in the nose when I sat next to her the next day and didn’t immediately recognize her, despite the fact she was extremely friendly and cool the night before, because I was tired, distracted, and her hair looked different.
After the event, a small group of us ended up going to a burger place. My burger and fries, while good, cost $18. Welcome to D.C., brother! Also, by small group, I mean someone who must remain nameless because she could get in trouble if her name showed up on Right Wing News and my pal Alexa Shrugged,
After dinner, I headed home, prepped for Defending the American Dream and hit the sack.
On the way into the event, I got to hear the Ethiopian language for the first time. I know that because my cabbie was screaming it at someone who cut him off and I asked what language he was yelling. Who says these events aren’t multi-cultural?
Speaking of multi-cultural, Mexican professor Mario Villarreal-Diaz did one of the best economics lectures I’ve ever heard. I could have sat and listened to that guy talk about economics for hours — and let’s face it: That’s usually not something that you’re going to hear ANYBODY say about ANY economics professor anywhere.
Bloggers’ row was, compared to previous years, sparsely populated since there wasn’t a second day of the event. Still, it was a pretty good event for the bloggers. First off, we had a good crew in there, including:
Allie Duzett, author of How To Save America: A Tactical Guide For Practical Patriots, Adam Bitely of NetRight Daily, Ericka Andersen, & Lachlan Markay from Newsbusters.
Ericka Andersen & John Hawkins
We also had some big names stop by. Michele Bachmann came by for a few minutes:
Michele Bachmann and John Hawkins
Herman Cain also showed up and hung around for a good 20 minutes to talk. It’s worth noting that Cain sounds like he’s seriously mulling over a run at the presidency in 2010. Some people might wave him off, but that would be a mistake. Cain is an extremely impressive guy who has served in the military, had an incredible business career, and he’s an extremely charismatic man. So, at a minimum, he’s as qualified to run for President as Steve Forbes, who’s run before, or David Petraeus, who’d generate a lot of excitement if he ran.
On the other hand, Cain’s only political experience is running (and losing) a Senate primary race in Georgia. That’s not quite enough heft for a candidate for the presidency. Also, I’d be concerned about lefties looking for clips from his radio show to use against him. Not that Cain uses a lot of inflammatory rhetoric, it’s just that if you do radio, inevitably, over time, you’re going to say some things that can be used against you.
Still, if Cain ends up being the nominee, this picture will end up in a particularly honored spot on the wall of the Hawkins’ compound =D
Intriguingly, while I was roaming the halls, I ran into Dave Weigel of Washington Post/Journolist fame. This is how Weigel began, “I know we don’t like each other very much, but….” — That’s always a great way to start a conversation, isn’t it?
In any case, I told Weigel the truth — which is, I don’t have anything against him personally, but I didn’t like his covering conservatives for the Washington Post. That’s especially true since the WAPO picked a human DNC press release like Ezra Klein to cover the Left. Weigel seems like a really nice guy though and I wish him well over at Slate, which seems to be a much better fit for him than the Washington Post anyway.
Teri Christoph from Smart Girl Politics (If you haven’t met her, Teri is just awesome) & Dave Weigel
After lunch, everyone got together in the main hall to catch the big name speakers. As I was standing around, I saw Phil Kerpen, AFP’s Vice-President of policy, booking through the halls and I quickly asked him if he could get me into the Green Room to take some snaps. He said he didn’t know if I could get in, but he was on the way there. So, I followed right behind Phil and just walked right in like I belonged there.
Dick Morris was the biggest name in the room and as soon as he had a free moment, I grabbed his attention and asked him to take a pic with Phil and his wife Joanna:
I would liked to have taken a pic with Dick Morris, too, but he and Phil fell into a deep conversation and since technically, I wasn’t supposed to be there anyway, I figured I better not press my luck.
Unfortunately, Ruth Malhotra and I ended up at the very back of the hall, where we were not going to get any good snaps. So, being a “It’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission kind of guy,” I went upstairs, kept walking to an area right above the stage, and started taking some really good pics.
How great was the location?
This picture was directly below me and, yes, that is Herman Cain’s head right before he went on stage:
Where was I seated initially? See the white circle?
Thank goodness for blogger badges and a willingness to try new things, huh?
Among the speakers were John Fund,
Virginia Governor, Bob McDonnell
Just in case you were wondering, yeah, the speakers were fantastic and for whatever it’s worth, Dick Morris predicted the GOP would take both the House AND the Senate in November.
When the afternoon sessions ended, I had to catch a cab back to the hotel and the cab driver asked a few questions about what was going on. I told him it was a big conservative conference and when he heard that, he told me he was from Eritrea, said Muslims started ruining that country when their percentage of the population increased, and that if I have a chance to tell some important people, let them know that they have to fight against the mosque at Ground Zero. So, if you’re reading this and you’re important, consider the cab driver’s message passed on.
After the afternoon sessions, all of us came back for a rubber chicken dinner featuring Michele Bachmann, who gave a rousing speech, and George Will, who delivered a dry, witty — and surprisingly funny speech.
Afterwards, Steve from No Runny Eggs, Sean Hackbarth, my pal Elizabeth Terrell, & I headed over to Muphy’s of DC. The highlight of the evening was a singer who sounded like an Irish version of Johnny Cash covering “Hey, Soul Sister.” It was surprisingly catchy.
Elizabeth Terrell & John Hawkins
After we wrapped up, it was time to go back to the hotel and prep for Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally the next day. This turned out to be more difficult than you might think because somehow, some way, I lost my cell phone. Have you ever tried running down your friends in a crowd of 87,000 — 500,000 people (I don’t know how many people were there and I am terrible with crowd estimates. I just know it was a hell of a lot) without being able to call them? Not so easy.
I arrived at the rally around 9:30 AM and left at 12:45, 15 minutes before it was officially over. During that time, I never sat down, I never stopped walking, and yet, I only ran across two people I knew at the event: Abby Alger and stock market whiz, Eric Singer. Another sign of how immense the crowd was: I managed to get approved to get media credentials for the event. All I had to do was report to the “media tent” and pick them up. In more than 3 hours, I never managed to find the tent.
All the left-wingers calling this an “angry” and “hateful” crowd? They could not be more wrong. This was the most serene, well behaved mass of people I’ve ever seen — especially since there was a lot to be irritated about. Perhaps it couldn’t be helped, but there were literally tens of thousands of people who were camped out in areas where they couldn’t see OR hear what was going on. Personally, although I was roaming around, not trying to get a good spot, I never actually got a good look at the stage. I never saw Sarah Palin. I never saw Glenn Beck. Heck, I could barely even see the jumbotron screens from the back. Certainly that wasn’t the case for everyone, but let’s just say I barely even knew when Sarah Palin was speaking. If I hadn’t heard the thunderous applause and caught a bit of that distinctive Palin cadence lilting through the air, I would have missed it entirely.
But, back to the lefties: How much could they have believed their own rhetoric when they were moving into the middle of the crowd to protest? Would you move into the middle of a massive crowd of hateful fascists who might violently attack you at any moment? Of course not. So, do you really think sugar-coated wimps would have gone into the crowd if they genuinely believed their own rhetoric? No way.
If you’re wondering why there aren’t tons of creative signs featured here, it’s because Beck requested that people not bring signs and his wishes were respected. There were almost no conservatives carrying signs at the event. Now, lefties? They broke a few out — as you’ll see soon enough.
Last but not least, this was unusual in that it was a political event that had little political talk and few political signs. A cab driver asked me what it was all about after it was over and I was like, “Uh, Jesus, conservatives getting together, and uh…honoring Martin Luther King?” The private reviews of the rally I heard after it was over were roughly split between, “I couldn’t believe how boring it was!” and “It was amazingly super awesome!” There was no in-between. Since I was walking the whole time and missed a lot of what was happening on the stage, believe it or not, I don’t feel qualified to give an opinion.
Here are some of the pics I took at the rally.
Crowd Shot. 10 A.M. My view to the front. 10 A.M.
Crowd Shot. My view to the back. 10 AM
The view of the Capitol dome from the Washington Monument.
From the Vietnam Memorial. Even in that crush of people, it was a powerful feeling walking past it.
Kayla Anderson, Glen Asbury, and Tricia Grannis.
John Hawkins & Tricia Grannis
Aaron Marks and Tabitha Hale
Abby Alger, Tabitha Hale, & Sarah Desprat.
After the event, everyone went their separate ways and we called it a week-end. All in all, it was a great time. Once again thanks to Americans For Prosperity for helping to make it happen.