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Conservatives Contemplate Purgatory — in Paradise

Yesterday, the David Horowitz Freedom Center concluded its annual West Coast Retreat. The conference hosts a wide array of conservative politicians and thinkers (this year’s group included Ricochet’s own Victor Davis Hanson, Andrew Klavan, and John Yoo) over the course of three days. It also takes place in one of the most beautiful spots in California, which is helpful when you’ve got folks in the humor that all of us on the right have been in lately. A few nuggets from the proceedings:

– Those who think the Tea Party incapable of nominating serious candidates need to get themselves to a speech by Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson as quickly as possible. Smart, articulate, relatable, and no-nonsense, he’s exactly what I imagine most of us would want out of a member of the upper chamber. John Yoo and I spent some time talking to him after his speech and I can also report that he’s probably the most well-adjusted United States Senator I’ve ever met.

– John Brennan is going to meet a lot of resistance for his nomination to head the CIA. Michele Bachmann dedicated nearly all of her remarks on Friday night to why Brennan is far too wobbly on national security issues to deserve the position and Andy McCarthy sounded much the same note on a Saturday panel. Look for a tough fight ahead.

– John Yoo has a theory that all of American life can be explained through “Seinfeld.” He will be asked to expand on this thesis on a future episode of “Law Talk.” Speaking of “Law Talk,” many thanks to the Ricochet members who approached John and I at the retreat. You were very gracious in not verbalizing how disappointed you were that we weren’t accompanied by Richard.

 – The big takeaway from the retreat’s constitutional law panel: The Obama Administration is running wild with the use of “disparate impact” (the allegation that a  policy is disproportionately harmful to certain minority groups) as a legal cudgel. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is using it to sue employers who refuse to hire ex-cons. The Department of Education is using it to go after school administrators, who often have to take more disciplinary action against black and Hispanic kids than against whites or Asians (Gail Herriot, the University of San Diego Law professor who was making this case, noted that part of the reason for the disparity in disciplinary needs is how many of these kids come from single-parent households). HUD is now also attempting to use it to bring discrimination suits against private housing developments.

– Though I probably hold a world’s record for enduring articles and speeches on California, I’ve never heard as apt an analogy for the cultural divide between coastal California and the state’s vast interior than Victor Davis Hanson’s description of it as “what would happen if you fused Massachusetts and Mississippi into a single state.”

– Also of note: VDH, noting that his views on immigration are often mischaracterized (he told the audience that he’s been asked “Why do you hate us?” by Hispanics at his local grocery store in the Central Valley), said that he’s actually in favor of legislation like the DREAM Act, but believes it should be paired with legislation that cuts the other way, deporting illegal immigrants who are criminals or living off of taxpayers. 

– An interesting piece of trivia from VDH’s keynote: immigrant remittances back to Mexico are that nation’s second-largest source of foreign exchange.

– In a panel on culture, Ron Radosh spent the balance of his time hammering away at Showtime’s production of “Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States,” noting that it was basically rehashed Cold War-era KGB propaganda (he also took a shot at Mike Huckabee for having Stone on his show and failing to challenge any of his historical revisionism). Out of curiosity, I watched the first episode after seeing the panel. I assure you it is exactly as bad as he described it.

– On a panel on national security, the Washington Guardian’s John Solomon noted that intelligence agencies are finding it extremely difficult to keep up with Al Qaeda’s use of social media, creating a whack-a-mole game where, by the time they have discovered accounts, the terrorists have moved on. He also noted growing fears that terrorists may use a cyberattack to cripple American infrastructure in advance of a conventional attack, as well as a widespread disagreement in the senior military with President Obama’s diagnosis of a flagging Al Qaeda.

– An audience member at the national security panel asked what had happened to those who were rescued from Benghazi. The panelists responded that they’ve been completely silent with the media and Solomon — who has repeatedly tried — remarked that it’s virtually impossible to reach them. They also noted that the results of an autopsy for Ambassador Stevens (assuming it was conducted) have never been made public.

The Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Moore, while running through the familiar litany of Obamacare’s effects on the job market (companies refusing to hire more than 49 employees or give workers more than 30 hours a week) noted that he had recently spoken to a group of fast food franchisees. The owners of two competing restaurants, located directly across the street from each other, had worked out an arrangement where they shared employees between the two stores so that they could keep providing their workers decent hours without crossing the Obamacare trip wire (at which the audience broke out into spontaneous applause).

– During a presentation on gun control laws, John Lott, who had just come in from Colorado, mentioned that the White House had directly intervened in a recent gun control fight in the Colorado Legislature, with Vice President Biden calling wavering Democrats to get them to support statewide background checks and limits on the size of ammunition magazines.

– During the final lunch of the weekend, John Yoo received a patina of expert justification for his contention that the McRib is the apotheosis of the American culinary experience. I’ll let him tell the story, but expect him to be insufferable about it.

  1. Mollie Hemingway

    You live a block from there? I live a block from the railroad tracks. Just, you know, throwing that out there.

  2. Rachel Lu

    Yeah, I was just going to say: I think it’s pretty obvious that you only posted on this conference so you could brag about living there.

  3. Western Chauvinist

    Look for a tough fight ahead.

    This was supposed to be a laugh line in the week Hagel will be confirmed, right?

  4. PracticalMary

    Why doesn’t your description of the meeting make me feel better? Perhaps it’s the immigration stance. Perhaps it was that I didn’t sense any need or strategy to go get ‘em, just talk. You know, actively throw the book at them until that’s all they can think about instead of gun control. 

    We are out here being eaten alive by bureaucracy (and having huge chunks of our money taken) and I am not feeling quite so civil.

  5. Troy Senik, Ed.
    Rachel Lu: Yeah, I was just going to say: I think it’s pretty obvious that you only posted on this conference so you could brag about living there. · 21 minutes ago

    Actually, the real point there was that, due to my combination of laziness and agoraphobia, this is about all you could get me to do. But I’m now sufficiently self-conscious about it that I edited it out. Plus, I don’t want the IRS to get any data that’s too specific.

    Seriously, though, this is what people who don’t live in California need to understand. Yes, it’s a beautiful area. And that’s all it’s got going for it. Look at that picture again and ask yourself how bad everything else must be if a guy in that neighborhood is moving to Nashville.

  6. Schrodinger

    Four Seasons Santa Barbara? Pretty plush!

    Good work if you can get it.

  7. raycon and lindacon

    Back in my non-profit ministry days, we had an observation about the international do-gooders;  They show up in Ethiopia, for instance, stay in $1,000 a night suites, eat $250 a plate dinners and drink $400 bottles of wine, and then get together in conferences to discuss the starvation of people who see $1 per day as a good life.

    Are you guys in the conservative leadership ever embarrassed about a lifestyle that distances you from us commoners who merely want to live a life of simple freedom?

    Just sayin’.

  8. Pseudodionysius

    I am disappointed that someone of Troy’s obvious writing talent could not work an Adam’s McRib joke into that long discursus.

  9. DrewInWisconsin

    – Those who think the Tea Party incapable of nominating serious candidates need to get themselves to a speech by Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson as quickly as possible. Smart, articulate, relatable, and no-nonsense, he’s exactly what I imagine most of us would want out of a member of the upper chamber. John Yoo and I spent some time talking to him after his speech and I can also report that he’s probably the most well-adjusted United States Senator I’ve ever met.

    Absolutely. I am happy to have cast my vote for Ron Johnson; proud to have him representing my state.

  10. Troy Senik, Ed.
    raycon and lindacon:

    Are you guys in the conservative leadership ever embarrassed about a lifestyle that distances you from us commoners who merely want to live a life of simple freedom?

    Just sayin’. · 31 minutes ago

    I’m probably the last person to speak for the “conservative leadership,” and I almost never attend these kinds of events, but it’s worth noting that the vast majority of people who write, teach, or talk about politics for a living aren’t living in the lap of luxury. If you write some bestsellers, get red hot on the speaking circuit, or get a broadcast gig, then obviously that doesn’t hold. But most of these folks aren’t getting rich.

    Events like these are usually organized around attracting affluent donors who are used to higher material standards, a group that — needless to say — is essential in keeping the doors of non-profit organizations open. The speakers get the benefit of living like the other half for a couple of days, but then go back to relatively conventional existences. It’s a mistake to think the budgets of the donors match those of the folks they’re paying to hear.

  11. Annefy

    Next So Cal Ricochet meet up needs to be at Nelson’s.

  12. jt

    They don’t seem to be doing videos these talks and distributing them. I could only find one of VDH from 2012. Many computer conferences do this. They delay release by 3-6 months so as not to undercut attendance. Some charge for them. I don’t know how profitable this is but with all of the complaints about media bias and lack of conservative media exposure this seems like a missed opportunity.

  13. Mollie Hemingway

    OK, sorry for derailing a fine post with my snarky comment!

    These items sound fascinating. I’d love more information on this disparate impact legal strategy …

    and the Benghazi stuff …

    and I’m really glad to hear about Ron Johnson.

  14. Free Radical

    I think Ron Johnson is the real deal from interviews Larry Kudlow has done with him and his interrogations of the Sec. of HHS .  Hope he does not go native in Washington D.C.

  15. Nick Stuart
    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.: You live a block from there? I live a block from the railroad tracks. Just, you know, throwing that out there. · 3 hours ago

    I could toss a tennis ball underhand over the nearest of the three-track BNSF main line that runs in front of my house. “How I learned To Love The Burlington Northern” in 22 years or less.

    In the last year two huge 100+ car unit trains carrying crude oil from North Dakota to somewhere east of here have appeared. Tank car manufacturers can’t keep up with the demand.

    That Bakken and Alberta crude is going to be refined and used somewhere. I just won’t be transported by pipeline if the Obama adminstration has anything to say about it.

  16. Simon Templar

    An audience member at the national security panel asked what had happened to those who were rescued from Benghazi. The panelists responded that they’ve been completely silent with the media and Solomon — who has repeatedly tried — remarked that it’s virtually impossible to reach them.

    Have they all been “disappeared?”

  17. Pseudodionysius
    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.: OK, sorry for derailing a fine post with my snarky comment!

    A few, brief moments ago we were a team, seeking solidarity in snark. Now? I’m dangling alone at the end of a very long tree branch.

  18. Gabriel

    You want to talk disparate impact?  Let’s talk disparate impact.  The government is taxing at higher rates whites, Jews, Catholics, Arabs, Asians and all other groups who succeed above the average, in order to transfer money to blacks, Hispanics, and illegal aliens. 

  19. John Yoo
    C

    I love meeting the listeners at these conferences way more than the speakers.  And the best of these, as Troy suggests, was someone who was a “food chemist.”  I did not know that these jobs existed, but now they are my new favorite profession.  The woman worked on Gerber’s baby food and the Manwhich.  For those unschooled in the canned meats, the Manwhich is a sloppy joe in a can.  I bowed before her great contributions to American culture (cradle-to-grave, as it were), and then we agreed — much to Troy’s upset — that the McRib is a wonderful food product designed after much study and effort to replicate BBQ for those stuck far from good Southern barbecue.  After all, McDonald’s spends hundreds of millions a year to figure out exactly what our neolithic tastebuds want — resistance would be futile.   Of course, we had this conversation while eating the fanciest burrito’s known to man overlooking the Pacific Ocean and listening to Ben Stein. 

  20. John Yoo
    C

    There were two Senators there, Ron Johnson and Jeff Sessions.  And I left the conference thinking, while things in the nation are pretty bad, if the Framers’ constitutional system still produces men and women with that much common sense, knowledge, and integrity to lead us, there is still hope.