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.