Archive for February, 2010

CPAC News: Q/A with Houston Blogger Melissa Clouthier

I talked to top conservative Houston-based blogger and tweeter, Melissa Clouthier, from the Conservative Political Action Committee convention in Washington, DC. Melissa was a featured CPAC panelist for a breakout session titled “The Power of New Media to Change Things.”

WHAT’S DIFFERENT AT CPAC THIS YEAR FROM LAST YEAR?

The sheer numbers of young people here. There are 10,000 people at CPAC. Probably half of them are under age 25. So there’s a LOT of young people, and a lot of energy. And there’s more hope. Last year, I think everyone felt a little kicked in the gut.

WHAT WAS THE BEST MOMENT DURING DAY ONE (THURSDAY, 2/18)?

Bar none, it was the surprise of having Dick Cheney speak. The crowd went nuts. He was funny, snarky, and very loved by the crowd because he’s unapologetically conservative. And he’s a great speaker with a lot of presence. He’s been a successful politican for a reason.

Second only to Cheney, was the surprise of Scott Brown introducing Mitt Romney. Brown also brought down the house.

DO YOU SENSE THE GOP FEELS A POWER SHIFT TO GRASSROOTS MOVEMENTS?

There’s probably still a strain of denial among some. But I do think there are some others who are really excited to have this energy coming up from the bottom. They know people are paying way more attention to the issues. Thats’ a challenge to the GOP because everyone’s watching and determining whether they’re on the “right” side of an issue or on the “wrong” side of an issue.

WHAT’S NEXT AT CPAC THAT YOU’RE EXCITED ABOUT?

I’m interested more in the break-out sessions. The next important thing – and my question – is what are we going to do policy-wise to make a difference? There are some good topics and ideas being put forth in these sessions; for example,the California model of governance (what NOT to do, of course), and there’s a session on ideas for community development in urban centers that interests me.

WHAT ARE TOP CONSERVATIVE BLOGGERS TALKING ABOUT WITH EACH OTHER?

We had a “Blogger Bash”  dinner last night and you know, we’re just enjoying each others’  company. Bloggers are not the most loved people by some. So it’s been great to be able to be positive for each other. That doesn’t happen often. Most bloggers are self-employed and probably not making money. So it’s fun to be together. We’re less political with each other than you’d imagine and just having a good time.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE WILL COME OUT OF CPAC FOR 2010?

I’m hoping that the people who attend will feel more solidarity with like-minded people. Conservatives in particular, over the last 8-10 years, have felt like America has changed so much that maybe the “majority” really does want a more european style model of government. President George W. Bush’s domestic agenda – although I personally like him – but his agenda was more of a big government model. Now it’s encouraging to see there’s a lot of people who want something different, who are focused on less government and lower taxes. But let’s not forget how much Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, et al, have done for us as well. So it’s one thing to be negatively motivated but another thing to be positively engaged.

HOW ABOUT FOR TEXAS SPECIFICALLY?

For one thing, I’ve been asked here a million times, “What’s going on down there with that Debra Medina?” But the point to that is, people are really interested in what’s going on in Texas, because they know our state is doing really well. Conservatives are impressed. They want what we have in their states. Of course, there are people suffering in Texas from unemployment, mortgage foreclosures, etc., but when you start comparing the stories I’m hearing from around the country, we’re in relatively good shape. It’s such a different environment in Texas and people want it. That’s a big thing. So Texas is like the rock star right now in the conservative movement. Going forward this year, we need to preserve what’s been done right, and make it even stronger.

Learn more about Dr. Melissa Clouthier at www.melissaclouthier.com

Follow Melissa on Twitter: @MelissaTweets

This interview is also published online at: http://www.austincapitaltimes.com

Follow The Austin Capital Times on Twitter: @atxcaptimes


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Suicide Pilot a Personal Tragedy, Not Tea Party Terrorism

Below is my breaking news story published on http://www.austincapitaltimes.com. Follow The Austin Capital Times on Twitter: @ATXCapTimes.  Follow me on Twitter: @FreemanTweets

Online speculations took flight this afternoon over the motivation for Joseph Stacks’ suicidal piloting of a small plane into a building that houses IRS offices this morning in Austin, TX. Despite a Marxist-laden rant left behind online by Stack- in which he rails against the IRS, the Catholic Church, and his wife, among others – rumors of Stacks’ affiliation with the Tea Party movement were running rampant by day’s end.

“He’s not one of ours,” Austin Tea Party co-founder Greg Holloway told The Austin Capital Times. “We’ve heard that some media outlets are trying to make an association between Mr. Stack and the tea parties. We’ve checked our records and we don’t have anyone named Joseph Stack.”

Stack’s final “manifesto” posted online reveals a personally troubled man who also seemed to have had trouble paying his taxes. The post-mortem characterization of Stack as “anti-tax” may be what pointed some left-wing pundits toward associating him with the Tea Party due to the movement’s well-known tactic of staging “tax day” demonstrations to protest big government.

Holloway says Stack’s act of extreme violence is the biggest clue that he was not a tea partier. “Violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer,”  wrote Stack before slamming his plane into an office building where as many as 200 federal tax employees worked.

“He took the law into his own hands,” Holloway said. “We’re against that. We will never use violence to force our agenda.”

That agenda, according to Holloway, is centered around five core principles: smaller government, personal responsibility, fiscal responsibility, the rule of law, and national sovreignty. Holloway cites the rule of law as another key to recognizing that Joseph Stack was not affiliated with the Tea Party movement or its ideals.

“Once a law is appropriately passed into legislation, people need to adhere to it or we slip into anarchy, and that’s never been good for any society,” said Holloway, adding, “I’m sorry for him, his family, and for anyone else hurt in the attack this morning.”

When asked what local Tea Party organizers would do if anyone espousing views like Stark’s showed up at a rally or meeting, Holloway said they would be asked to either tone it down, or leave. “There’s a difference between being disgruntled and being willing to work within the parameters of an ordered society.”

Holloway estimates current membership in the Austin Tea Party at between 2-4,000. The movement here was started in February, 2009, by Holloway’s wife, Judy, after the infamous “Santelli Rant” on CNBC. The local group’s first event was a “Tax Day” protest on April 15th, that drew more than 5,000 demonstrators.

Could Joseph Stark have been among them?

“No one I know has ever met him,” Holloway responded. “He could have gone to the grocery store, to play golf, or to a tea party rally. Who knows? We don’t know everyone that comes to rallies but we do know they’re well-behaved and unified around our common goals. We don’t know Joseph Stark, and he wasn’t involved in the development or fulfillment of our goals.”


Political autopsy: Post mortem on Debra Medina interview with Glenn Beck

Medina campaign bumper sticker

I’m sure when Debra Medina got out of bed last Thursday morning, she was pumped for her “15 minutes of fame” on-the-air with Glenn Beck. I’m also sure she never expected to go down in flames so completely in just 10 minutes.

The upside to getting a call from a show like Beck’s is that you get a call from a show like Beck’s. The downside is the risk it doesn’t go well. Debra Medina took that risk and it did not go well. Up to that fatal point, I was like a growing number of Texans; I hadn’t completely made up my mind about Medina as a republican candidate for governor. She did surprisingly well in the first televised debate, no doubt helped unwittingly by the bickering between the two politicians who flanked her. In the second debate, Medina seemed to “drone” a bit and was redundant in places. It was also the first time she appeared not to answer questions directly; Medina instead often digressed into political-speak about her campaign and her supporters rather than speaking directly to the issues raised.

And those are the two things, I believe, that actually did her in while  a guest on Glenn Beck’s air. She did not answer his questions directly, and, her supporters followed up her interview with hostile phone calls on-the-air. Not. Good. Forgetting for a moment whether Medina’s non-answers implied she’s actually a “9/11 truther,” her rambling and indirect responses to all of Glenn Beck’s questions did not reflect well on her or her candidacy. Beck had to ask his first question three times (“Tell me who you are?”) before Medina finally – and rather tersely – replied with a short laundry list: Rancher, wife, mother, businesswoman. By then, the host was well down the path of irritation before he even asked the “big” question about involvement with or support for 9/11 truthers. Medina’s initial response that she’d “never heard that one before” was so disingenuous that I actually laughed out loud.

Now about that question. The notion Medina supporters put forward that Glenn Beck’s question about her proximity to 9/11 truthers was somehow not fair or that she wasn’t “prepared” for the question is utterly ridiculous. Here’s the thing. Glenn Beck is an extremely successful, nationally syndicated radio talk show host. That means he has Millions of listeners (with a capital “M”). He absolutely has earned the right to ask whatever question he wants. It’s his show! Medina agreed to be on-the-air with him. When she said yes to the request, she was in essence agreeing to fully participate in a public interview with a national newsmaker. She had an implied responsibility to answer his questions, or at least, to clearly state that she refused to answer a particular question. On the other hand, Glenn Beck was under no obligation – nor should he have been – to limit his questions to what she and her supporters wanted her to talk about (which apparently boils down to two things: private property rights and gun ownership).

Beck set up the interview for his listeners by stating clearly that he didn’t know much about Medina, that he was interested in the Texas governor’s race, that he already knew he didn’t like Kay Bailey Hutchison as a candidate, that he liked some things he’d heard sitting governor Rick Perry say (about state’s rights and immigration, in particular), and that he was surprised by Medina’s surge in the polls. So he wanted to “get her on the phone.” OK, so when he did get her on the horn, Beck apparently knew enough about rumors of Medina surrounding herself with truthers (there seems to be a fair amount of “truther” slogans at her events) to ask her what turned out to be the fatal question. I don’t think this means that he was out to set her up (especially not as a Perry schill). I do think it means that he was generally aware of the association rumors and, as part of his efforts to learn more about her, wanted to know if there were any truth to the “truther” talk. It’s a big issue for him. But that’s a far cry from conspiracy, although it follows that the truther crowd could interpret everything in a conspiracy context.

And that’s my other point. Medina’s supporters are an aggressive bunch. They do not brook any talk by conservatives or republicans of supporting other candidates, as if Debra Medina has some divine constitutional right to be governor of Texas. I’ve had a few Twitter encounters with these “Mediners” and I’ve seen them tweet-flock others who point out Medina’s flaws, or Palin’s virtues, or Perry’s successes. These constantly critical supporters do not serve their candidate well with their incessant bashing of anyone who doesn’t say what they want to hear about Debra Medina. Supporters who called in to Glenn Beck’s program after Medina’s on-air failure even took on a tone of immaturity. I heard one caller from New Braunfels – who initially claimed to be a “good” caller – proceed to sing-song a “nanee-nanee-boo-boo” type of taunt to Beck when the call didn’t go his way. How childish.

Ronald Reagan essentially said that your policies and position are evident by the company you keep. If these supporters are the voices in Medina’s head, then she has more political problems than just a bad morning on the Glenn Beck show. And in her head I think Medina’s supporters are indeed; it seemed that one of the reasons she held back from clearly denying a 9/11 truther position to Beck, was that she was more concerned about losing truther-supporters than with how she may have sounded to Glenn Beck and his audience. It was astounding that Medina seemed not to “get” the magnitude or altitude of the stage she on that morning; another clear sign of her inexperience and lack of comprehension about how things really work beyond Wharton, TX.

As for the Medina supporters’ conspiracy theory that Glenn Beck set her up; even IF Beck actually intended the interview to be a “french kiss” (Beck’s words) for Rick Perry right from the beginning, I would encourage Medina and her followers to grow up a little. This is not a sandbox that she’s playing in, albeit Texas-sized. This is politics and the Glenn Beck show is a national stage. What really came through in the interview was Medina’s inability to tolerate questions or to quickly and clearly state her position on an issue. It was this lack of experience that ultimately turned me off completely to her candidacy. I think we have already seen enough of the results of inexperience from a presidential candidate elected to a level of office for which he was – and remains – extremely ill-prepared.

What’s most unfortunate to me about Debra Medina’s candidacy is that she didn’t first put her energy, passion, time, and talents into getting the state-level experience she needed to be considered more seriously as a gubernatorial candidate. Medina sounds like a constitutional conservative with a pretty good personal track record of success in a limited arena. But knowing history isn’t the same as making history. I would like to have seen her offer to serve in Gov. Rick Perry’s administration, learn the ropes, and make a serious run at taking the reigns of state republican leadership when Perry moves on. Medina and Perry probably agree on more than they disagree. Unfortunately, Medina’s approach of digging in as a third candidate has probably not been good for the party and definitely not good for Medina herself.

Plenty of people have already pronounced Debra Medina’s candidacy “dead” in the wake of the Glenn Beck debacle so I won’t go there. Instead, I will speculate ahead. I think we could still see the possibility of a political future in Texas for Medina, if she is teachable and learns the lessons of this episode. Medina is undoubtedly a strong woman and she’s a Texan, so I think she has what it takes to reinvent herself, her campaign, and perhaps even her followers for the future. The question is whether she will have the gumption to stand up and say who she really is and what she really stands for, not only to the Glenn Becks of the main stage but to her supporters as well – whoever they may be and whatever they may stand for.

A Super Sunday for Perry-Palin 2010

Faces of the New Right

16-year old Jonathan Keener and mom, Gwen, wait to see Sarah Palin and Gov. Rick Perry

Super Sunday Rally, Berry Center, Houston, TX, 2-7-10

Perry-Palin supporters on line in Houston

There was one pre-game show on Super Sunday that didn’t take place on a football field in Florida. It happened in Texas, where thousands of political fans of the re-energized right streamed into the 10,000 seat Berry Center to see and hear two of their political heroes; Governor Rick Perry of Texas, and the ubiquitous former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin.

“We’re here to get a fresh feel for their platforms,” said Alex Cestero while waiting in line with his wife, Erin. “This is our first event like this. We haven’t been involved with the Tea Parties or anything. But it’s a critical year for conservatives on every level – state and national – so here we are.”

Nicole Ho and Steven Teoh, both from the Willowbrook area of Houston, said they are registered voters who came out to support Governor Perry.

“We want to know what Perry has to say about the future of Texas. We haven’t made up our minds yet about Sarah Palin.”

Others were already fans of Palin.

“I love Sarah Palin,” said 17-year old Lauren, also from Houston. “She’s very cool and stands for everything I agree with.”

Sixteen year old Jonathan Keener, an African-American homeschooled student, liked Palin’s principles and hoped to get her autograph on his copy of her book. But he said he supports Governor Perry as well. Keener likes the governor’s fiscal policies, position on immigration, and anti-Washington attitude. Adds Jonathan’s mother, Gwen, “We don’t vote color. We vote principles.”

Perry-Palin Super Sunday Rally, Houston, TX, 2-7-10

Aggies William Lucas, Michael Kinzer, Travis Campbell rally for Perry-Palin

Giving an Aggie “whoop” for Perry, Texas A&M students Michael Kinzer, Travis Campbell, and William Lucas said they support Perry as an Aggie and as a conservative. They like Palin, too (“hottest grandma ever”), and see both Perry and Palin as “refreshing new faces for modern conservatism.” Michael Kinzer said they came out to the Super Sunday rally to see a “rededication of Texas politics to conservative values.”

Young and old, black and white, hispanic and asian, aggies and longhorns, they came, ready for a good time but seriously sincere in their determination to make the right side of Texas seen and heard.

Needless to say, the event was what it was intended to be – a red, white and blue “booh-ya” from supporters and from Sarah Palin for Texas A&M cheerleader-turned-Governor Rick Perry – delivered in full patriotic pep rally fashion. Following the solemn presentation of colors (eagle scouts), pledge of allegiance (hispanic state supreme court justice), and opening prayer (black pastor), rally-goers whooped and hollered and stomped their feet in true Texas football season style in anticipation of welcoming their governor and his famous friend from Alaska. But first, legendary (old) rocker Ted Nugent warmed up the crowd with a souped-up Star Bangled Banner guitar solo after announcing his unique affection for Governor Perry and all things Texas.

Star Spangled Banner solo at Super Sunday rally

Ted Nugent rocks the Star Spangled Banner

“I wasn’t born in Texas but I got here as soon as I could,” hollered Nugent – wearing a plaid flannel hunter’s shirt topped by a battered cowboy hat and bringing a cheering crowd on its feet. “I was in a deer stand hunting this morning and I don’t come out of a deer stand for nobody. But I came today for Governor Rick Perry. I’m here because I believe the governor is steering the Good Ship Texas toward the Promised Land.”

Other patriotic warm-ups  included state senator Dan Patrick as emcee, and a country tribute to soldiers in Iraq. All were received with enthusiastic cheers.

State senator Dan Patrick and Eagle Scouts

State senator Dan Patrick emcees

But the crowd didn’t reach its full potential until Perry and Palin were announced and in the house. It certainly sounded like a Super Sunday for the powerhouse political pair. The crowd’s reception rivaled the fan fury for any winning sports team. And neither governor disappointed. Perry was absolutely in his element and, with the republican primary a few weeks away  and early voting just days away, he hit all the right conservative Texas notes on education (student accountability), a balanced budget (curb taxes and government spending), and abortion (unapologetically pro-life). Then the governor wasted no time in taking dead aim at DC.

“The answer (to every problem in this country) is less Washington and more Texas,” boasted Perry, adding, “America would be better off if Washington did things the Texas way. The Sarah Palin way would be pretty good, too.”

Obviously enjoying himself, the governor playfully diss’d the mainstream media as he introduced his former gubernatorial colleague amidst hoots and hollers.

“If Keith Olbermann were here for the rousing welcome you’re about to give Sarah Palin, his head would explode.”

Instead, the crowd exploded with their appreciation for the shot at a favorite MSNBC target, as much as for the governor’s guest from Alaska. Palin, who was not paid to speak at the event, responded to the enthusiastic welcome with a characteristically cheeky labeling of Texas as Alaska’s “little sister state,” and then connected the conservative dots between the two big states.

“Alaskans & Texans want the same things. We will proudly cling to our guns and our religion.”

Palin kept the crowd mostly on its feet throughout her 12-minute stump for Perry, fulfilling that responsibility by citing the Lone Star state’s continued prosperity and prescribing a Texas cure for what ails Washington, and the nation.

“Governor Rick Perry is a common sense conservative leading the way for Washington, which is broken.”

Perry responded by making Palin an honorary Texan onstage. No surprise there. Now the question is whether a Perry-Palin ticket in 2012 would come as any real surprise. Or would that be a Palin-Perry ticket? Either way, the two politicians certainly sounded presidential in spots and took every opportunity to up their game to the national level for the Berry Center crowd. After seeing and hearing the two guvs together today, I think the real fun will be in seeing which one would get top billing if such a ticket were to emerge.

When asked about a Perry-Palin/Palin-Perry ticket in 2012, Super Sunday rally goers were enthusiastic at the prospect but divided about which candidate would make a more viable presidential nominee. Everyone acknowledged that both seem favored by the Tea Party movement and thought that could have some influence on potential GOP nominations.

Rural TX Tea Party sign alongside highway

Grassroots Tea Party in rural Texas

But that’s another blog for another day. For now, on Super Sunday 2010, Perry and Palin put on a crowd pleasing pre-game show. Their fans will just have to stay tuned to see whether they’ll team up for the Super Bowl of politics in 2012.

Read more Super Sunday rally quotes at: http://nakedquotes.wordpress.com

See more rally event photos at: http://bit.ly/agRKEa

and at:

http://bit.ly/cVTx73

@FreemanTweets