Turning the tide on Benghazi

By Cathy Keim

Editor’s note: This is the first installment of Cathy’s coverage of last weekend’s Turning the Tides Conference.

I was able to attend the Maryland Citizen Action Network Conference (better known as Turning the Tides) on January 8-9, 2016, in Annapolis, MD. I had missed the last couple of years due to schedule conflicts, so I was happy that I was able to go this year. I have always enjoyed the MDCAN conference and this year was no different.

Friday evening started out with a dinner and talk by Kris “Tanto” Paronto, one of the Benghazi 6. Kris walked us through the 13 hours of Benghazi. He kept our attention as he described the situation in Libya, his role as a Global Response Staff employee for the CIA providing security for personnel in austere environments, and the actions that he and his fellow team members took to save lives that night even though they were told to stand down by the CIA chief in Benghazi.

Kris, Mark “Oz” Geist, and John “Tig” Tiegen have gone public to bring attention to Benghazi. Mitchell Zuckoff wrote a book based on their account called 13 Hours – The Inside Account of What Really Happened at Benghazi. A movie based on the book, “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” is being released on January 15. This trailer introduces the men behind the movie.

Kris, Mark, and John all worked with Mitchell Zuckoff and Michael Bay to be sure that the book and the movie were as accurate as possible. They acknowledge that turning 13 hours into a two hour movie would require some changes, Paranto added, but they were involved in checking the script and giving advice to be sure that the movie presented the facts.

I think that everybody was on the edge of their seat as Kris meandered through his story with amusing jokes that they bantered even during the attack. He testified to his faith in God more than once. All of the men were former special ops before they became private contractors, said Kris, adding that they would rotate in for two months and then out for two months because the environment was so stressful. All of the team were in their forties and Paranto felt that their experience is what enabled them to be successful that night. Lives were saved because they were able to work as a team, said Kris.

They have testified before Congress, but no answers have been forthcoming for why they did not receive back up. Debunking the official line, Paranto refuted the claim that there was absolutely no “protest about a video” prior to the attack. He encouraged us to continue pressing Congress for answers, because without answers nothing can be fixed to prevent this from happening again. Kris concluded by stating he is willing to die fighting, knowing that he hired on for a dangerous job, but he doesn’t like the story being distorted for political gain.

The focus on Benghazi continued on Saturday when the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi (CCB) gave an update on where things are at this time. A creation of the advocacy group Accuracy in Media, they state:

The purpose of the commission is to attempt to determine the truth and accuracy of what happened in Benghazi, Libya on September 11th, 2012, in reference to the terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound, which resulted in the death of four Americans, including the ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens. Also, we will be looking at what led up to it, in the days, weeks and months that preceded the attack; and how it was dealt with by the Obama administration, the media and Congress in the aftermath of the tragic events of that day, which was the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. in 2001.

CCB member Lt. Col. Dennis Haney, USAF (Ret.) said that going to war in Libya was part of this administration’s plan to aid the Muslim Brotherhood in taking over North Africa. It allowed the flow of arms to go to groups in Libya.

Haney added that there are six hundred emails that were sent asking for more security, including 100 emails specifically talking about Benghazi. There were specific strategical and tactical warnings prior to the attack about the Feb. 17th Martyrs Brigade, the militia hired to protect the ambassador.

The CCB is looking at dereliction of duty by our government for not using our military to respond to the attack. The government’s response that they didn’t have time and that we don’t send people in if we don’t have intel is all dismissed by the CCB as being a lie.

Further, we learned the cover up by this administration and the media complicity is all being reviewed. An example of the media complicity, said Haney, is Candy Crowley’s comments in the CNN Presidential debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, which were clearly prepared to skew the debate.

The CCB was pleased to see Rep. Trey Gowdy chosen to lead the House Select Committee on Benghazi, but with its lack of progress in getting answers now they are beginning to wonder if the Select Committee was compromised from the beginning. Something might still come of the House Select Committee, but hope is fading, said Haney.

On the other hand, they are encouraged that the movie being released this week will bring attention back to Benghazi. They would like to see people pressing Gowdy’s committee for answers to the questions surrounding Benghazi.

The Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi, the release of the movie “13 Hours,” and the numerous interviews that the Kris Paronto, John Tiegen, and Mark Geist are giving all help to refocus attention on Benghazi.

It should be noted that “13 Hours” opens this Thursday, and it will be playing here at the Regal Cinema in Salisbury. Take some friends and go see it, knowing that it is depicting the real story.

Update: A friend just sent me these videos from Sharyl Attkisson stating that an email has been found showing that rescue teams were responding and were stopped. This is particularly incriminating information for the administration since it shows that help could have arrived before the last two Americans were killed in the Benghazi attack.

Informally making it formal?

When you stop laughing, hear me out.

It’s only been two months since he left office, but I think we can all agree our somewhat esteemed former governor is all but an official announcement away from throwing his hat into the 2016 Presidential ring. And when you consider that Hillary Clinton is continually being tarred by scandal after scandal (Benghazi and her e-mail questions) and blunder after blunder (the Russian “reset” button and discussing the “fun deficit”), Martin O’Malley almost looks sane. Come on, what else do you have on the Democratic side – the gaffe-prone Joe Biden? “Fauxcahonotas” Elizabeth Warren? One-term Senator Jim Webb of Virginia is the one who has the exploratory committee going, but the far left considers him a “Reagan Democrat” who they can’t support.

So when you see the above photo on the O’Malley Facebook page (which is where I got it) you have to ask if the “taking on powerful and wealthy special interests” message is meant for Hillary? After all, look how much the Clintons’ foundation has raked in over the years. And his message today about the presidency “not (being) some crown to be passed between two families,” would resonate with a lot of people who believed the propaganda about how disastrous the George W. Bush tenure was and are already tired of the constant turmoil surrounding the Clinton family.

Perhaps Delegate Herb McMillan put this best, noting, “Raising taxes on the poor and middle classes 83 times isn’t the same as taking on powerful wealthy special interests.” But it’s more than that.

Obviously the laughter among many who read this website comes from knowing how rapidly O’Malley would genuflect to particular special interests when it suited his purposes. Environmentalists got a lot of goodies during MOM’s reign: California rules on emissions, punitive restrictions on development in rural areas (via the “tier maps”), an ill-advised and job-killing moratorium on fracking, and of course the “rain tax.” Illegal immigrants, too, had a friend in O’Malley, but productive taxpayers – not so much. He also decided to work on legalizing gay marriage only after his electoral coast was clear in the state – if he had tried to run for re-election on the issue he would have lost the black vote in 2010. (Remember, that was before Barack Obama’s flip-flop on the issue.)

Say what you will about Martin O’Malley, but he is the lone Democrat openly considering the race who has executive experience – on the other hand, there are a number of GOP candidates who can boast the same thing: in alphabetical order there’s Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, George Pataki, Rick Perry, and Scott Walker. Depending on who the GOP puts up, the “experience” tag could apply to the Democrat. We’re not saying the experience would be a good one, but it is what it is.

Don’t be too shocked if the O’Malley’s March national tour makes a lot of stops in Iowa and New Hampshire. It’s his way of pandering to the special interests he cherishes the most, and if people are fooled by this sudden bout of populism it’s their own fault. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Update: At Front Line State Jim Jamitis echoes these sentiments, with a great headline to boot.

Hearing from a Patriot

We’d built up the event for months, so it was no surprise we filled the room for our first-ever Patriot’s Dinner featuring former Congressman, author, fill-in radio host, and most importantly Lt. Col. Allen West. It was the culmination of an afternoon of events which featured a reception with Republican youths from around the area, VIP events for West’s Guardian Fund and the Maryland Republican Party, and the dinner itself.

West promised to speak for about 25 minutes and answer questions afterward, directing his remarks toward the “criticality” of our situation. He first asked if this was really the home of the brave when we outsource our fight against Islamic terrorists to the Free Syrian Army while decimating our military capability to levels unseen since before World War II. West pointed out that Barack Obama was bombing his seventh country, but chided Congress for its lack of bravery because “no one is asking if we are at war.”

“If someone is dropping a bomb on my head, we are at war,” said West, continuing that Congress was failing its Constitutional obligation to declare war. West was very critical of both Barack Obama and outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, calling them “the two biggest violators of the Constitution.”

West went out to state that in many respects, we we not keeping our Republic, as Benjamin Franklin warned us we had to, but sliding into a monarchy. We need people who would be the “loyal opposition” to tyranny, added the Colonel. Moreover, we’re failing to meet this challenge because we aren’t educating ourselves on how to keep this republic. Even the verbiage has been altered, as West later went on to talk about the co-opting of the word “liberal,” noting “true conservatives are classical liberals.”

Turning to the state of the Republican Party, Allen explained that the sole reason for the GOP’s founding wasn’t to abolish slavery but to maintain Thomas Jefferson’s words that “all men are created equal.” Unlike the era of its founding and its shackles of physical bondage, the black population today was under the “shackles of economic hardship,” a condition West termed was “even worse than physical bondage.” The letters G, O, and P should stand for growth, opportunity, and promise, said West. “We believe in equality of opportunity.”

West also had harsh words for the welfare state. There should be a safety net, he opined, but that safety net “is meant to bounce you back up.” Instead it’s become a hammock, and like all hammocks over time it begins to rot and eventually will collapse under the weight.

Allen also made the case that the promise of America was to keep us safe. He decried the “cowards” who preach political correctness, maintaining the argument that “political correctness will only get you killed.”

Finally, West challenged the group. “I’m pointing a finger into your chest,” he said. “Stop being worried about them calling you names.” He challenged us to engage 5 of our more liberal friends and set a goal of changing the minds of three. Noting Barack Obama has only a 40 percent approval rating, he called those 40 percent the “stuck on stupid folks,” lastly repeating Franklin’s assertion that “you have a republic, if you can keep it.”

After the standing ovation, West took questions. Naturally the first one asked if he would consider being Vice-President, to which West replied “if God determines I will be in that position.”

On a question relating to our military, West repeated his point that we are in “one of the weakest states we have seen,” adding that, “the world is Machiavellian.” West compared the release of Army Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl – “in the socialist mind, Bowe Bergdahl is a hero” – to the fate of Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, who has languished in a Mexican jail since April for accidentally bringing a gun into the country. West criticized the fact Tahmooressi wasn’t brought up in the June meeting between Barack Obama and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, thundering that he’d demand Tahmooressi, along with his gun and his car, back in the country before Nieto was let in.

The next questioner wondered if it was too late to reverse this tide, with West noting we’re “almost at the tipping point.” Allen added that there’s “no self-esteem (gained) from sitting in the hammock.” Instead, we needed leaders to emerge like Dan Bongino, who West’s Guardian Fund is supporting because Bongino “has a lot of fight in him.”

Two questions about the state of our monetary system followed, dealing with the prospective collapse of the dollar and its effect on gold and silver. West pointed out that, in his belief, “we do not have a free-market economy,” feeling instead that “the bubble is coming” because of a circular exchange of money primed by the continual printing of dollars. He felt there was a strong possibility that if a Republican in elected in 2016, the Federal Reserve will suddenly end this practice just to do damage to the economy under a Republican president. West also opined we may have to return to the gold standard.

When asked about the lack of bold leadership, Allen made it simple: “Start electing them.” Pointing to the candidates at the head table, he added, “start building your farm team.” We need to communicate our ideas with the American people, West added, noting that the other side “plays chess while we play checkers.” Referring to the campaign placed against him in his 2012 Congressional re-election bid – a race made difficult because Florida Republicans redistricted him to a new district – West also believed that “if I’m their number one target, I feel good about it.”

The piece of advice he would give about minority outreach? “Talk to them about who they really are,” said Allen, who also challenged their mindset about rights, asking if not God, who do your inalienable rights come from? It led into the final question about education, where West made the case that “the most important elected position is school board” and couldn’t believe ours was appointed. West also believed the time had come to establish more of our own universities, using Hillsdale College and Liberty University as examples to follow.

As part of the leadup to West’s speech, he was presented with a Benghazi bracelet by Bev Bigler of the Worcester County Republican Central Committee. The poem “The Battling Boys of Benghazi” was also included with the program.

This was part of their effort to keep the Benghazi incident (and subsequent questions about a coverup) fresh in mind.

A number of elected officials and candidates took time out of their busy schedules to attend the proceedings, with some taking advantage of the moment to pose with Lt. Col. West. It was interesting to have a contingent from southern Maryland there, with those clad in red at the table in the preceding picture’s foreground part of the campaign team of District 27 State Senator candidate Jesse Peed. (Peed has the uphill battle of taking on Senate President Mike Miller, a man who desperately needs to be retired.)

So the months of preparation, back-and-forth communication between the several parties involved, and last-minute scrambling to get the details just so made for an entertaining and informative evening. There may be a thing or two for me to add to this post, but I think I can speak for the Central Committee in saying that we enjoyed the living daylights out of it, but are glad it’s over so we can focus on the election.

Reliving the first battle

It may seem an odd way to begin a post about 9/11, but remember Pearl Harbor?

While most casual observers think that World War II began when we were attacked by Japan on December 7, 1941, the reality was that hostilities began over two years earlier when Nazi Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. It was the culmination of several years of concessions to appease Adolf Hitler that proved to have the opposite effect.

The Long War between America and the forces of radical Islam came into sharp focus on 9/11, but there were several skirmishes leading up to that date. I’m old enough to remember the takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and the 444 days we watched as Americans were held hostage. Certainly some had flashbacks to that incident during the events in Benghazi, Libya two years ago on 9/11.

And then we had the original World Trade Center bombing in February 1993, an event which made clear that building was a target. Eight years later, the planners changed their tactics from a single truck bomb to two jet aircraft hijacked for the purpose of becoming civilian-laden missiles.

But like Pearl Harbor or, to borrow a different violent event, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the lives of millions of Americans were defined that day in such a way that most remember what they were doing when they heard the news. (I was at work at the former Hobbs+Black Architects office in Toledo, on a glorious late summer day.)

A key difference between Pearl Harbor and 9/11, though, is that America knew who the enemy was and spared no expense or effort in fighting it. Less than four years later Hitler was dead, Japan had surrendered, and the world began a transition from a global war of destruction to an uneasy peace between adversaries in the sense of liberty – a peace defined by the knowledge of mutually assured destruction if either pulled the nuclear trigger. But America had vanquished all of its Axis foes, yet was assisting in rebuilding where it could.

On the other hand, we responded to 9/11 with somewhat conventional warfare but found out that it’s a model which doesn’t last and is ineffective against an enemy which glorifies death and rarely fights in a conventional manner.

Since the Benghazi incident in 2012, we’re more aware that 9/11 is a pivotal date on the calendar .People are looking over their shoulders today, waiting on the other shoe to drop and another terrorist attack of some sort. They all but expect it given our current weak leadership.

But just a few years after abandoning Iraq and in the midst of doing the same to Afghanistan, now it’s Barack Obama believing we can dispatch the Islamic State with a minimum of blood and treasure. I don’t see it happening, at least not unless we go back to fighting like we did in World War II and junk the ridiculous rules of engagement and political correctness. Blasting the whole thing into a sea of glass appeals to some, too.

History always repeats itself somewhere, sometime. A millennium ago Christians began a series of Crusades to beat back the Islamic invaders, and this may signal the need for a second round our grandchildren may yet fight someday. The instruments of war are far different, but the toll on advancement of civilization is often the same.

2014 Maryland GOP Spring Convention in pictures and text (part 2)

In case you missed part 1, which dealt with Friday night, you can catch up here.

I was in bed reasonably early for a convention, in part because there weren’t a whole lot of hospitality suites to be found and in part because I wanted to cover breakfast with this immediately recognizable guy.

The former GOP national chair is always a welcome guest at MDGOP proceedings, and as a breakfast speaker he set a good mood for the day by predicting “we’re going to be back in our winning ways this year.”

But his message went back a few years, to when Michael took over the national party, which had become too “comfortable and cozy.” He saw his mission as one “to rebrand a party which had become moribund,” one where the gap between rhetoric and principles had become so large it snapped. “I’m so sick and tired of people blaming our principles for their failure to lead,” said Michael. “What we believe in is time-honored and true.”

Similarly, Steele noted that the state party had gone through its share of “definitional moments” and was ready to do so again. We needed to avoid being a party defined by what we are against and not what we are for, as we’ve “often found ourselves at odds with the very people that we want to represent.” We need to “talk about freedom but connect it to life.”

Taking that to a more local level, he noted that people are expecting leadership from the Central Committee members in the effort to “turn the elephant.”

“We’re not looking back, we’re looking forward,” said Michael. “Revolutionizing the (Maryland Republican) Party is our number one priority.” People are hungry for authenticity, leadership, and vision, he added. He got a token of our appreciation, too.

The wine is a Maryland red wine from Linganore called Black Raven. Diana thought it was a “providence” that she was thinking about how to thank our speakers as she drove by the winery. I had a shot of the bottle but, alas, I was too close and it came out way too bleached out. After breakfast, I had to gather my things and check out as well as make one other stop.

Instead of having a Friday evening suite, Larry chose to host a breakfast suite with Chick-fil-A items. Of course, all I was hungry for was information, so I spoke to Hogan about his experience on the Eastern Shore with our farmers. I found he has a fairly good idea about what they stand to lose should phosphorus regulations go through, so that was a plus. And I added to my weekend collection, a shot which included Larry’s wife Yumi.

It’s a bit askew because I was looking at two cameras at once. So I grabbed a Hogan-labeled bottle of water as I walked out and headed back down. With the stops, I missed much of what – from the part I did hear – was an interesting panel discussion by conservative black Maryland Republicans.

After that finished, I checked out some of the displays in the lobby. This one was new that morning.

As I understood it, my Worcester County cohort was selling “Benghazi bracelets,” which will be gray and black. Obviously that’s still on the minds of many people to whom it does make a difference. I also spied a more modest display that morning from the Lollar team.

I was remiss in not getting a photo of Ron George’s table, although I think it’s visible in the lobby photo in part 1. Of the four candidates, though, Ron had the least presence with just the table. Craig had a table and suite, as did Lollar, while Hogan had his breakfast suite, a folder at each table place, and hallways festooned with these.

In due course, you’ll understand why I thought it was important to make that comparison. Once that mini-tour was complete and I was checked out, it was time to begin the convention proper.

The first report was a legislative report from Delegate Gail Bates, who’s now running to become a Senator. She pointed out we don’t get our way much, but did achieve some good things: recoupling the estate tax to federal law, pieces of election reform – particularly on voter rolls – and straightening out the pit bull mess to place responsibility on dog owners regardless of breed. These, however, were outweighed by a litany of bad: a budget which continues a pattern of overspending revenues, increasing the minimum wage despite outcry from small business, decriminalization of marijuana, the “bathroom bill”, and the health exchange, said Bates.

We next received the bad news of the treasurer’s report from Executive Director Joe Cluster. The one positive note was that we were “right on course to meet our goals this year” after a slow start. This wasn’t her convention podium, but I wanted to show a shot of Party Chair Diana Waterman to signify her Chairman’s report.

She had one key announcement:

She also recounted recent events like the Reagan Ball and Johns Hopkins gubernatorial forum, but her message stressed the needs for turnout on Election Day and unity after the primary.

In an extension of the forum he moderated, Tony Campbell decried the lack of credibility the party had built in the 16 years he had been involved, and stressed that we needed to find issues that people connected with. This election was the combination of time and opportunity we had been waiting for, though.

Brian Griffiths gave a brief Young Republican report mainly focused on upcoming events, while the College Republicans gave no report because their incoming president, Christine McEvoy of Johns Hopkins, was studying for exams. Thus, the morning continued with National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose and her visual aids.

While Ambrose talked briefly about what the national party is doing, her focus has been on grassroots work in Maryland, particularly the Super Saturday program. Next Saturday, May 3rd, that program comes to Ocean City just in time for Springfest. A second one is in the works for June 21 in Montgomery County. Further ones for the fall will be determined over the summer, as there is an application process. She also stressed that every county should be looking into an absentee ballot program, particularly the larger ones.

But I thought this slide of upcoming events was cool.

It’s not just on the Eastern Shore, though, it’s right here in Salisbury. Do we need a better excuse to have a Super Saturday for Wicomico County? After all, the good Lt. Col. West shouldn’t arrive until the afternoon.

Louis Pope piled on to what Ambrose said as he gave his National Committeeman report, but also believed the June primary was an advantage to Central Committee members – those who win have a four-month period to learn the ropes, while the returning/retiring members could mentor the newbies.

Turning to the 2014 election, Pope quipped, “if you liked 2010, you’ll really like 2014.” The national GOP’s goal was to take the Senate, and with the recent Florida special election showing “it’s all about turnout,” coupled with the McCutcheon decision by the Supreme Court, the potential was there for a great year.

On a state level, Pope believed Wisconsin is a “model” for us – similar size, and a state controlled by Democrats until the last cycle. It all comes down to turning out Republicans.

Finally, we were through most of the reports, and we found out we had a quorum of 236 of 303 members present. But it was troubling that several counties were well short of their allocation. We’re used to this from Baltimore City, which, try as they might, has a hard time getting people to serve. But there were over half the members absent from Allegany, Calvert, Caroline, Dorchester, and Talbot counties as well. Granted, it was the last convention of the term and not much was on the docket but that’s still a concern to me.

The last item we dealt with before lunch was a resolution condemning the introduction of House Bill 1513, sponsored by both the Harford and Baltimore County Central Committees. Thanks to a parliamentary maneuver, the resolution passed by unanimous consent in a voice vote.

We were actually well ahead of schedule, even with lunch, so Diana Waterman added two speakers to the agenda: Attorney General candidate Jeffrey Pritzker and Comptroller hopeful Bill Campbell.

Pritzker was blunt: “Maryland is in trouble.” He reminded us he was the first to call for a special prosecutor in the health exchange debacle – a position Doug Gansler would prefer to do away with. “The people need a lawyer,” Jeff said. He promised to create a task force to address the laws, seeking to prune away the unnecessary and redundant.

Campbell made the case that we needed to go to places where we were uncomfortable in order to win. For example, he addressed the Maryland State Education Association – not expecting their endorsement, but to make his case nonetheless. Reportedly he got 40% of the teachers’ votes, which Bill considered to be very good impact.

We also had the Executive Director’s report from Joe Cluster, who told us to focus on four numbers: 6, 19, 48, and 16. These weren’t for Powerball, they were 6 of 10 County Executive seats, 19 of 24 county councils or commissions, 48 Delegates, and 16 Senators. “It would make us relevant in this state” if we achieved all these milestones, said Cluster. Joe continued by pointing out both Barack Obama and Martin O’Malley had approval numbers under 50 percent. “People are tired of what they’ve done to taxpayers,” Cluster said. “I don’t see any incumbent Republican losing.”

He also announced there were plans for Victory Centers in Towson for District 42, and in the District 38 area – Salisbury is in District 38, as is Ocean City. We then got to new business.

The Tweet tells you the result, but how we got there was interesting. I was one of perhaps four who spoke in favor of moving it to the floor, but by the crowd reaction to myself and other speakers I knew the effort was doomed. By the time the roll call got to Baltimore County (only fourth in) the result was obvious: just Caroline County (and its one representative), Dorchester, Howard, Kent, and Queen Anne’s favored it (Wicomico was 6-3 against) and the motion died by a weighted vote of 385-91. (In terms of bodies, it was 192-42, with one abstention.) Ten counties were unanimously against it. I thought it would get between 1/3 and 1/2 of the vote, so less than 20% was shockingly low.

But it is typical of the party’s “we’ve always done it this way” mindset.

Before adjourning, we heard yet another plea for unity and turnout from Diana Waterman, who was stalling a little bit because there was a full hour before the afternoon seminars were scheduled. But we finally received the results of the straw poll conducted at the convention.

Brian Griffiths, a confirmed Hogan supporter, came over to Jackie Wellfonder and I and huffily said, “that’s the last thing (Lollar’s) going to win.” He chalked up the loss to proxies who were in the Lollar camp.

Here are the actual vote numbers:

  • Lollar – 68 votes (29.8%)
  • Hogan – 62 votes (27.2%)
  • Craig – 60 votes (26.3%)
  • George – 29 votes (12.7%)
  • undecided – 9 votes (3.9%)

I remember looking quickly at Wicomico’s ballots before I handed them over and we split among the four candidates. I think it was 3 Hogan, 3 Craig, 2 Lollar, and 1 George.

But look at what was put into the convention by the candidates. Granted, Charles Lollar had a large and very visible party and David Craig had a lively suite of his own. All but Larry Hogan had lobby tables, with Ron George having very little other presence. I didn’t even see him there, although I did see Shelley Aloi frequently making the rounds.

Yet Larry Hogan spent a lot of money for sponsoring the programs, the folders at each seat, the breakfast suite, and the multitude of signs only to come in second by just two votes. (I have it on good authority that one Hogan supporter I know may be switching to Craig – had that person came to that conclusion a little sooner, there would have been a second-place tie.) I would have expected Hogan to get 35 or 40 percent based on the hype.

Unfortunately, my traveling companion needed to get back to Salisbury so I couldn’t stay for the seminars. It never fails – had we started at lunchtime, we would have argued the bylaws change clear through dinner. But out of the seventeen conventions I’ve now attended, this was one of the more quiet and non-controversial. I guess we’re fairly united despite the straw poll vote.

It was definitely time to go home and get to work.

A dozen in

Twelve years ago, timed to the moment this post will come out in the morning, our nation was changed forever. And while we debate the merits of intervention in yet another far-off country, it’s worth repeating that this American won’t forgive or forget.

But as I wrote a year ago at this time:

With the exception of the very first year I had this website, I have chosen to write a tribute of sorts on 9-11. I’ve told you about my experience (twice), reflected on how it affected the presidency of George W. Bush, the “different and lacking resolve” of Barack Obama, and how we need to stay strong. I even reviewed a 9/11 book recently.

So it’s somewhat hard to lay out new ground to cover. But I still feel the somber occasion of 9/11 is important enough to devote a post to…

…Few who experienced the day would want to live through it again, but I think it’s vital to dredge up the unpleasantness because the fight is far from over.

When I wrote this, however, I had no inkling of the events which would transpire later that evening in Benghazi, Libya. That rendition of 9/11, in any other administration, would have spelled imminent doom with an election less than two months away. But somehow our President (who shall not be named today) got away with murder, at least in the metaphorical sense. So I would be remiss if I didn’t point out a bid by Watchdog Wire for the usage of the hashtag #BenghaziWatch today.

Yet one has to wonder how much more Americans will take. It’s not hard to recall the images surrounding the seminal event of our lives: four planes hijacked and turned into missiles, destroying two of our most prominent structures and badly damaging another, the grounding of our private airline fleet and subsequent birth of Department of Homeland Security, the ruin and rebuild of our financial nerve center, and so forth. Not much can halt professional sports, but 9/11 did: a week’s worth of baseball and NFL games were postponed by the events along the East Coast.

It’s not a perfect analogy by any means, but there was a period in our nation’s history, spanning perhaps thirty to forty years, where we lived in dread knowing a situation wouldn’t be solved without the high likelihood of bloodshed. Even in the days of our nation’s founding, the question of slavery was a vexing issue which was kicked down the road through a series of compromises until no more middle ground could be had and the two sides fought a war to determine whether states could choose their destiny or not.

Similarly, radical Islam seems incompatible with the ideals of a Constitutional republic such as ours. In some respects, what we did in Afghanistan and Iraq was a compromise because, frankly, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11/01 there would have been few Americans who objected to turning the Middle East into an uninhabitable sea of glass. We certainly possess the capability to do so, although it obviously would risk a far larger Armageddon. Yet the question which we will have to ponder is whether compromise is possible, or if 9/11 turns out to be the first battle in a latter-day Hundred Years’ War.

Their side has no problem waiting, so how long can we be vigilant in response?

Scandal fatigue?

This William Warren cartoon seems to sum it up, doesn’t it? Between Benghazi, the IRS TEA Party targeting, the AP phones being tapped, the FOIA preferences at the EPA, questions on campaign finance in both 2008 and 2012, the Enroll America protection racket – the list can go on and on and on if you revert back to earlier activities like Operation Fast and Furious, Solyndra, or the handling of the Deepwater Horizon accident. And I’m not counting what goes on in Maryland, like the inmates taking over the prisons or having a governor who’s more concerned about presidential prospects than running the state. I suppose if power is the ultimate aphrodisiac then that must be why Democrats are pro-abortion; otherwise they would have a dozen or so children running around, by nearly as many mothers.

Now I’m certain the minuscule number of progressives and leftists who dare to read here would beg to differ and can probably point out all the scandals, conflicts of interest, and foibles of the Bush years, but really, guys, come on – what happened to the most transparent administration ever? I suppose in a perverse sort of way finding out about all these scandals is a type of transparency – too bad we were stonewalled every step of the way in finding out.

But are the American people and their notoriously short attention spans in danger of scandal fatigue in May of 2013, 18 months before the midterm elections? Sometimes the pre-emptive strike is the best thing in the long run, and there’s little chance of the rabidly partisan Democrats in the Senate turning on their leader and convicting him in the unlikely event we ever get to an impeachment trial. Moreover, Barack Obama doesn’t exactly strike me as a fall-on-the-sword kind of guy, so don’t bet on him resigning to save the country the agony of an impeachment trial like Richard Nixon did. Democrats know well what sort of electoral fate may await – the Republicans who placed country over party were “rewarded” by losing 48 House seats and 3 Senate seats in the 1974 elections, which were held just three months after Nixon left in disgrace.

Meanwhile, focusing on the scandals of the past will blind us to the issues of the present. Even if the GOP gains control of the Senate in 2014 – a likely possibility even without scandals as the sixth year of a presidency is traditionally unkind to the president’s party – the nation will simply revert back to the inverse of the situation we had back in 2007-2008, where a Republican president was crippled by a Democratic Congressional majority in both houses. Much of the damage was done in the two years the Democrats held absolute control of government, as the massive entitlement program dubbed Obamacare came into being and Barack Obama’s re-election means at least some of it will be in place by 2014. Once established, we haven’t killed an entitlement program yet. And there’s still the aspect of governing by executive order: “Stroke of the pen, law of the land. Kinda cool.”

Perhaps the one silver lining in all of this is the emergence of the new media as a force for uncovering these and other issues with the government in Washington. No longer do we have a small group of periodicals, newspapers, and television networks determining what is news and what remains on the cutting room floor. Certainly, there is a huge majority of the American public still in an celebrity gossip-induced slumber, but slowly people are beginning to see the light and it only takes an irate, tireless minority to effect real change.

In the meantime, though, there is plenty to write about for those obsessed with Obama scandals. That really is a shame because it makes it more difficult to argue with the other side on why their ideas are such a failure – I can hear it now: “Well, if you Republicans wouldn’t have made the Obama years such a partisan witch hunt he may have succeeded with his good ideas.”

But I suppose it comes back to the old saying about absolute power corrupting absolutely, doesn’t it? Do you see why the nation’s founders wanted a limited government yet?

My day at CPAC in pictures and text (part 1)

Since I took nearly 100 pictures and 36 made the final cut, I decided to make this a two-part post.

Recently having done a stint at the Turning the Tides Conference, I thought I had a little bit of an idea in what to expect from CPAC. But the entirety of the Gaylord Conference Center and the number of celebrities speaking and milling around tells me that I missed a lot when I missed the first two days of the gathering. Yet the one day I managed to be here was well worth my time in learning from and meeting those who move and shake the conservative world.

Walking into the Potomac ballroom I was blown away by the expanse of the venue. Sure, we have some decently-sized conference rooms for our 300-person gatherings for the Maryland Republican Party, but this room could hold a sporting event. If anything, the stage made the speaker look small.

The first speaker I heard upon my arrival and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and invocation was TEA Party pioneer Jenny Beth Martin, who repeated the case I’ve been pleading since the most recent incarnation of the pro-liberty movement was born: conservatives are for limited government, fiscal responsibility, and a thriving free market. Instead, Martin said, they are “mocked, marginalized, and maligned.”

She also added that we’re headed to bankruptcy, with an Affordable Care Act which is “unaffordable, callous, and cruel.”

“The reality today is grim and heartbreaking,” Martin added.

She concluded by asserting, in a rising voice, that liberty will endure – if we fight for freedom. “Our Constitution is worth fighting for, because freedom is worth fighting for.”

Rep. Steve King of Iowa followed Jenny Beth to the podium and made the case that “Obamacare has got to go…we can’t let up.” It erodes our vitality and is an “unconstitutional taking,” according to King. He also criticized the immigration initiatives because, as King claimed, 2 out of 3 illegal aliens are Democrats “and the Democrats know this.”

King called on us to “restore the pillars of American exceptionalism…we’ve got a country to rebuild together.”

I should point out that I had pictures of these two speakers and they didn’t make the cut. But this guy made the cut.

Wisconsin is a state which has a leader, said emcee Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, and Governor Scott Walker detailed a number of ways he’s indeed led.

Harkening back to recent initiatives, Walker noted welfare reform and tax reform originated in the states. And just as the states created the federal government, the 30 states with GOP governors – most of which also have Republican-led legislatures – can improvise with good, conservative ideas. But Walker made the point that “to be successful, we have to be optimistic, relevant, and courageous.” It’s obviously working in Wisconsin, where 93 percent of the state said it was heading in the right direction. “We’re the ones who care about fixing things,” he added.

Walker was ready with a number of examples of poor policy, like the first-year Milwaukee teacher who was selected as their teacher of the year but furloughed because she was at the bottom of the seniority chain. His union reforms eliminated that problem. The overall idea, continued Walker, was to replace the narrative that a successful government was one which created dependents with one which made the case that government works when it assists people to wean themselves off dependence by making it easier to get a job.

“In America, we celebrate the Fourth of July, not April 15,” shouted Walker. “We believe in the people, not the government!”

And then came Newt – a guy who only needs one name to convey who I’m speaking about.

Gingrich addressed the concept of government needing to be pioneers of the future, and get out of being prisoners of the past. As a movement our contrast with President Obama “couldn’t be more vivid.”

But he saved withering criticism for the “Republican establishment class,” which “couldn’t be more wrong.” Holding up a candle and light bulb, Newt chided Washington as “being prisoners of the past…they’re all trapped in the age of candles.” Both parties in Washington are blind to the future, though.

Interestingly enough, Newt promoted a book by a liberal author, the former mayor of San Francisco and now lieutenant governor of California, Gavin Newsom. But Citizenville was a book “every conservative should read” because it promoted a more active citizenry. Gingrich used the analogy of the Facebook game Farmville, with the idea being earning rewards for public-spirited achievement rather than planting virtual crops.

Newt also took a swipe at the establishment wing of the party, saying that since 1976 “the dominant wing (of the GOP) has learned nothing.” Nor should we be strictly the anti-Obama movement, said Newt.

The powerful morning lineup of featured speakers concluded with Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, the 2012 Presidential hopeful whose campaign flamed out after a great summer of 2011.

She explained about the TEA Party movement “we love people in this country…we want everyone to succeed in this country.” As key parts of that success, Michele believed there were a lot of goals we could accomplish “if we put our minds to it” such as cutting the price of gasoline to $2 a gallon, preserving our Second Amendment rights “for your sister and your mother,” and most ambitiously finding a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease in the next decade. The key wasn’t big government, she argued, but “big innovation.”

Bachamnn also chided the inefficiencies of government, pointing out that for every $10 spent on food stamps only $3 goes to recipients while the other $7 goes to bureaucrats. She also dubbed the Obama presidency as “a life of excess.”

In the hardest-hitting portion of her remarks, Michele savaged Barack Obama for the “shameful incident” of Benghazi. “This is a story of not caring,” Bachmann said. Because (Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, the two ex-Navy SEALs killed at Benghazi) cared, they defied orders and they chose to go to the aid of their brothers…they fought for our country.”

As the attack raged on, “they continued to radio their government begging for help,” charged Bachmann, “and that help never came.” This despite the fact President Obama knew of the attack within its first hour, she continued.

“A war was raging in Benghazi for hours, and all we know is that our President went AWOL,” she continued to a chorus of boos and catcalls for Obama. “No one knows to this day where the President was.”

Of all the Saturday speeches I heard, Bachmann’s was perhaps the most critical of Barack Obama.

After she finished, I decided to skip the next panel and head out to explore a little. I hadn’t really had the chance to walk around as I arrived shortly before the proceedings began. It was a crowded lobby to be sure.

This space also featured the famous “Radio Row” I’d only heard about, although on a Saturday morning it wasn’t as busy.

The TEA Party Patriots were busy doing a radio show, though. (Actually, it may have been just before or just after this video was done. The blond gentleman in the background of my picture is Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit.)

There were a few television broadcasts in various stages of production, such as those of Hot Air.

Also working on content was the TEA Party News Network, who thankfully sponsored the internet access (more on that in part 2.)

Further down Radio Row, another start-up operation was making itself known to the broadcasting world.

Later in the day, it was announced that One America News Network would make its debut July 4 of this year. “We will be the platform for the conservative message,” said OANN’s Graham Ledger. He cautioned, though, that cable systems “will resist putting on a conservative news network.”

Once I made my way down the hall and down a level, I was at the entrance of the exhibit hall. I didn’t count them, but there were probably over 100 groups exhibiting their wares. By the time I was through, the swag bag I received at the entrance was very full (I took the picture when I got home.)

The exhibit hall was fairly expansive as well.

Here was a group I think needs further investigation. Unfortunately, there was no one there to explain the concept to me. From what I gather, it’s a database of conservative companies to support.

Another group I’d love to have seen a representative of was this one. Maybe their volunteer (or intern) had an encounter with some union thugs.

I got to talk with this group, though. They represent an outfit I’ve referenced a lot over the years.

A newer but very nice organization has been referenced on this site since its formation. Unfortunately, in missing Friday I missed a chance to talk with its founder.

Someone else who might be on the 2016 ballot had some unofficial help. These were placed on a side table, but not many were wearing them that I saw.

There was also an area in the exhibit hall for book signings. When I was down there, Newt and Callista Gingrich were signing their tomes with Ellis the Elephant looking on.

Some people simply took the opportunity to relax and take a quick break in the CPAC Lounge. They could watch the action upstairs on the monitors.

Just like them, I’m going to rhetorically relax and take a break, since this seems like a nice dividing point. Part 2 will be up tomorrow morning.

Odds and ends number 61

I actually meant to do this post over the weekend, but real life intervened. I’m hoping the expanded version of items which are really too short to merit a full post but worth a couple paragraphs is more chock full of interesting because of it.

I stand with Dan. Do you?There is one item on my agenda that’s time-sensitive, so I’m going to fold it into an overall brief update on Dan Bongino’s U.S. Senate campaign.

Tomorrow (October 18) the Bongino campaign is doing a unique moneybomb event:

During our “Now or Never” event, you will be able to make donations designated specifically to get Dan’s campaign advertisements on radio, television and the Internet. These ads are a crucial part of our get-out-the-vote efforts and you will have the unique opportunity to choose the media outlet on which you wish to see the ads run. (Emphasis in original.)

So if you donate you get to choose. (I vote for advertising on this website. Is that an option?)

Unlike some others in the race, Dan’s campaign has been the closest to the grassroots and certainly has worn through the shoe leather. Regardless of the perception about where Dan stands in the polls, I think the voters’ brief flirtation with Rob Sobhani is coming to a close as they find out there’s not a lot of substance behind the sizzle.

I didn’t note this at the time, but since the Benghazi massacre is still in the news it’s noteworthy that Dan is among the chorus who thinks heads should roll:

I take no comfort in this, but Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Rice must resign in light of the Benghazi tragedy. It was a tragic failure in leadership.

He went on to decry the “current administration’s position that politics takes priority over security for our men and women in the foreign service.” Given the fact that Hillary Clinton now insists on taking full responsibility, it indeed behooves her to resign her post.

I’ve also found out that Dan will be in the area twice over the next couple weeks. On Thursday, October 25 he will be the beneficiary of a fundraiser here in Salisbury at the local GOP headquarters, tentatively scheduled from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m., and on Tuesday, October 30 the PACE group at Salisbury University is hosting a U.S. Senate debate in their Great Hall at 3 p.m. That’s sort of an unusual time to have an event such as that, but it is what it is.

And apparently Dan has had his fill of complaints from Sobhani about Rob’s debate exclusion. This comes from Dan’s Facebook page:

Regarding the debates schedule, there is no effort to keep the candidate out of the debates. His campaign is fabricating stories in an attempt to distract from his confusing platform… Any forum he was not included in was due to the fact that he was not invited by the host.

I’ve spoken to the campaign about this issue and any assertion that Dan doesn’t want Rob Sobhani in the debates is completely false.

Speaking of debates, this is one which just might be crazy enough to actually work.

Created by the TEA Party Express group, this is the debate where the moderators are conservative. Of course, none of the nominees or incumbents will actually participate – but in this era of YouTube and 24-hour media coverage, video is a wonderful thing. Honestly, it’s simply going to serve as a reminder of where candidates have said they stand on key issues ignored in the other debates.

The presidential debate for the rest of us.

But I don’t think these guys are going to play it as comedy, like taking single words and catchphrases carefully spliced together like a shock jock might. Given some of the names already announced as participating in the event, it may come down to being just as informative as the real thing – and in many cases, Barack Obama actually will get to have his teleprompter.

This event will occur next Tuesday night, October 23, at 9 p.m.

Following up on a post I did a few days ago on Protect Marriage Maryland endorsements, the group has added Fourth District Congressional candidate Faith Loudon to its preferred candidates. No real surprise there, and if it chips a few percentage points off an otherwise monolithic black vote for Donna Edwards, so much the better. Hopefully they’ll also vote against Question 6 as well.

Meanwhile, those who support Question 7 may have stepped into some hot water with this ad.

Now LaVar Arrington can do as he pleases, but FedEx is none too happy about their logo being prominently featured as part of the spot. Spokeswoman Maury Donahue said her company will review the ad, but they have no involvement in the issue.

But it appears the Washington Redskins do have a role, according to a Capital Gazette article questioning a $450,000 payment to the team just days before the ad was taped. It also gave Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Democrat and Question 7 opponent, an opening to remark on the team’s involvement:

As a ‘Skins fan, the Comptroller respectfully encourages them to focus on the important tasks at hand, such as protecting RG III, shoring up their kicking game and making sorely-needed improvements to one of the league’s lowest-ranked defenses.

I’d be more interested in what the NFL has to say considering their stance on gambling, and that’s likely why they had to choose a player who’s no longer active. Much as Arrington hates losing, he may well end up on the short end of the score November 6.

Unlike Questions 4, 6, and 7, which have seen a healthy amount of media coverage, Question 5 on redistricting has been the red-headed stepchild of the quartet. But State Senator E. J. Pipkin is trying to change that a little bit:

It’s just a little bit longer than a 30-second ad, which makes me wonder how many will see this video. But this makes a lot of sense considering the Maryland Democrats who put this together definitely flunked the “compact and contiguous” requirement.

But let’s not flunk the idea of protecting the vote. Election Integrity Maryland is holding one final poll watcher training session:

Election Integrity Maryland is offering its last Poll Watcher Training session before the election, on Wednesday, October 24 – Thursday, October 25.  This comprehensive, 1-1/2 hour course is taught via webinar from the comfort of your home computer from 7:30 – 8:15 each evening.

Registration is required.  The cost is $15, which includes a spiral bound Training Guide mailed to each participant.

Signup is here. Now I prefer to work outside the polling place in an attempt to change hearts and minds, but you can provide a valuable service to your fellow citizens in this way as well.

We know that the other side is ready to go (h/t Don Stifler):

Somewhere in Baltimore City, this sign and the occupants of this dwelling are lurking. We can fight back.

I’ll definitely occupy my vote this year, and you can bet your bottom dollar it won’t be for that failure named Barack Obama.

Finally, another requirement the Democrats in charge of Annapolis seem to be flunking is honesty in economic reporting. Instead of giving us the real news – which has been generally bad – they’re resorting to obfuscation. Jim Pettit at Change Maryland sent this along to me last week:

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley recently hosted an Annapolis summit for advocates of what is called a “Genuine Progress Indicator.”  The national forum received scant media attention and the issue itself has largely been under the radar of most mainstream media outlets.

The impetus behind the Genuine Progress Indicator, or GPI movement, is to supplant traditional federal government statistics with new and arbitrary criteria that deducts what other government bureaucrats deem as environmental and social costs that accrue from prosperity.

(Read the rest here. They also have a helpful fact sheet.)

Maryland is one of two states which have enacted a form of this method of statistical legerdemain, as Vermont signed this into law earlier this year.

Obviously Larry Hogan and Change Maryland delight in being a thorn in Martin O’Malley’s side, but the real question is why this is even being considered in the first place. To me, it comes from the same line of thinking which believes rural development should be shelved in favor of promoting “greenways” and packing people into urban centers so they can “improve” our “quality of life.”

But regardless of every statistic which can be measured, there is no way government can insure happiness. To use a baseball analogy, even if a pitcher absolutely owns a hitter to the tune of the batter being 0-for-20 against him that’s no guarantee the next at-bat won’t produce a home run. The radical Left can disparage capitalism all they want, and I’ll admit it sometimes doesn’t work very well. But these mistakes can be easily rectified by the market, and there’s no need for government to intercede. GPI is just an excuse for a greater attempt to control outcomes, with the folly of believing in equality of outcome uppermost in their minds.

It all goes back to that old saw about lies, damned lies, and statistics. When it’s in someone’s vested interest to cook the books we all know what sort of trouble can ensue. But I don’t need numbers to see that people are hurting, and it’s not from capitalism but instead from the lack thereof.