Grassroots Washington

“America is waking up to the fact that we have to scream in order to be heard, that’s what this is all about…They (Congress) won’t do the right thing unless we demand it.”  Herman Cain, Defending the American Dream Summit, October 5, 2007

It was called the Americans for Prosperity Defending the American Dream Summit.  It was a meeting of about 1300 of the free market faithful in Washington, DC to hear motivational speakers like Herman Cain, but also to see and hear first hand, their presidential candidates.  Rudy Guiliani was the first candidate to speak, followed by Ron Paul.

Rudy was the best received of all the candidates during the day on Friday.  The buzz was about what would Mitt Romney say that evening since the Romney campaign had been very aggressive towards Guiliani in the couple of days leading up to the summit.  Romney sees his lead dissipating in New Hampshire and he went on the offense against Mayor Guiliani.  Conversely, Rudy made his speech about is fiscal record in New York and how he would run against the probable Democrat nominee, Hillary Clinton with little to no mentions of his Republican opponents.

Cong. Ron Paul, the libertarian maverick from Texas, was riding high on his fundraising numbers. He went from raising $600,000 the first reporting quarter, to $2.4 million the next, to over $5 million for the quarter ending September 30.  The average donor is $40 each which does allow him to go back multiple times to donors.  It is still not nearly enough to run a presidential campaign.

His supporters were vocal and seemingly everywhere.  The fundraising numbers would contradict the view that he has the same 20 guys following him around every where but the large group that was there seemed to know each other from other events of this kind.  The “Paulites” give the campaign gypsies a new twist.  

The most important issue of our time is the terrorism.  If we get that wrong, it won’t matter what our views are on anything else because the age of American Exceptionalism will be over and our republic will be compromised.  Ron Paul has it wrong on terrorism.  He claims that he has a stronger position on terrorism, because he understands it.  Paul says the neo cons think terrorists hate us “because we are free and prosperous and we are Christian, I don’t believe that for a minute,” Paul said Friday, “and as long as we believe that we can’t solve it.  I see myself as taking a stronger position on terrorism.”  He then falls back on his argument that The Constitution doesn’t give us the authority to go into other counties and that we are less safe today.  How isolation makes us safer — and just how the Constitution prevents self-defense – is not something Paul will (or can) explain.  

One of the framers, Thomas Jefferson, later became president and was the first president to have to deal with terrorism in the fight with the Barbary pirates.  It was the infancy of our republic and for 15 years paid blackmail (up to $1 million dollars a year) to terrorists for safe passage around the Barbary Coast of Africa.  These were, by the way, Muslim pirates — terrorists — in the first modern-day jihad.  By the time Jefferson became president he was able to act on his motto, “millions for defense, not one penny for tribute.”  He went to war to protect our interests of free trade and commerce in the region. Where do you think in the Marine anthem the phrase, “from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli” came from?

The biggest disappointment was Fred Thompson, the late entry and former Senator from Tennessee.  He filled the room but didn’t leave the crowd with too much enthusiasm for his message.  The big question is what is his message, anyway? How much time does he have to get that message out?  The clock is ticking on being able to answer those questions to the satisfaction of primary voters, who are a fickle bunch.

One thing that is clear from the Defending the American Dream Summit is that Republicans want a fiscal conservative who is tough on terror for their presidential nominee.  And what of the James Dobson “Values Voters” threat to put their own candidate up if Rudy is the nominee?  Didn’t hear much of it at the Mayflower Hotel in the heart of Washington, DC this weekend.  That position comes from the kind of folks who don’t go to Washington for this kind of meeting, but they will be at the Family Research Council’s Washington Briefing in Washington, DC later this month.  We know the impact values voters had in staying home in 1996 and we saw how values voters got out the vote in 2004.  Their power will be tested in this primary.

This Republican primary field is like a bunch of lumberjacks who have to navigate a river by walking across rolling logs.  They are all in good shape or they wouldn’t be there, but it’s a hard to tell who will make it to the other side in one piece.


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