John Thune at CPAC: The Great American Experiment

John Thune is a soft, steady light in a galaxy of flashbulbs, an understated man who does not manufacture sound bites, although one occasionally slips out of his vest pocket.  He came to CPAC to deliver a speech loaded with specifics, and a simple message he doesn’t try to amplify with a lot of pyrotechnics.

The senator from South Dakota is a man who does his homework, as a visit to his neatly organized official website will make clear.  His speech was organized like a master’s thesis, beginning with a charming exploration of his family history, a band of solid Norwegians who became solid Americans two generations ago, changing their tongue-twister family name to match the name of the “Thune Farm” they worked in Norway. 

Thune is a very solid guy.  In the event of a nautical emergency, you could use him as an anchor.  He can turn a simple statement about his parents teaching their kids “about the importance of family, and the value of life” into a massive applause line, because his sincerity imbues every word with a world of meaning.

He’s a straight shooter in a city full of political operators who try to curve their bullets like the assassins from Wanted.  “You shouldn’t just talk a good game about your values, you should vote upon them,” he admonished.  Since throwing around piles of his grandchildren’s money is not one of his values, he says “the liberal party Democrats have been having on the taxpayer time is over.”

A bit of fun was had with the silly mixed seating arrangement from the State of the Union speech, where Thune dryly notes he was sandwiched between two Democrats, because it apparently takes more than one of them to balance him out.  He does not have much patience for symbolic gestures.  “A new seating arrangement is not bipartisanship,” he scoffed, “and new rhetoric is not a new agenda.” 

One bit of rhetoric that left him cold was Obama’s new sales pitch for his money-is-no-object agenda.  “Last year, the President talked about spending.  This year he talked about investment.  It all comes down to the continued expansion of the State, and “all that government means a lot less freedom.” 

He also has no patience for disguising the ugly reality of terrorism behind flowery language, saying “we can’t win the peace with apologies and reset buttons… we can’t win the peace unless we call it like it is.”

Thune has a fine appreciation for Ronald Reagan’s optimism.  “If we lived in any other country in the world, I’d be worried,” he confesses, “but the American way is to turn adversity into opportunity… Reagan knew the challenges that lay before us are no match for the goodness within us.”  Like Reagan, Thune sees “the greatest measure of our success is not how much our government can do for us, but how much our people can achieve.”

Thune has a specific list of reforms he wants to implement.  He called for more transparency in government, saying “Congress is the people’s house, and the people have a right to know what goes on there.”  He wants to form a Congressional committee “whose sole purpose is to cut spending,” and thinks “the time has come to finally pass a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

He’s determined to repeal ObamaCare, asking why “if we have waivers for Obama’s friends, we should let every state in the union opt out as well.”

On foreign policy, Thune encourages us to “stand up for our allies like Israel, and stand up to our enemies, like the radical Muslim extremists who seek to destroy our way of life.”  He maintains we should “use lawful interrogation techniques to obtain actionable intelligence” from captured terrorists, then try them in military courts.

“What will we do to ensure the great American experiment does not end on our watch?” Thune asked.  He’s got a very specific list of things he plans to do, and a relentless determination to get them done.  He concluded by quoting Churchill: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.”  Resolve is a quiet, but enduring, brand of courage.