Conservative bloggers meet up at Jeff County Lincoln DaySaturday night's Jefferson County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner was not unlike other such festivities around Tennessee, except that not every such event will have a table filled with some of the area's most notable bloggers. A lot of thanks ought to go out to Mike Faulk for making that happen, because he felt that the blogging community needed to have a little recognition for the unsung work he feels we collectively do for the conservative cause. He invited Nicole and I to join him at the Jeff County Lincoln Day, and Terry Frank, Stacey Campfield, and Rob and Angela Huddleston joined us as well.
Nicole and myself arrived first among Faulk's invited guests, and very shortly after Mike led us to our table, Stacey came in with Terry Frank in toe (Lee, it turns out, was not feeling very well). Stacey had expressed some hesitancy about attending, and I think he feared some kind of party backlash among those who thought he was grandstanding on his abortion legislation. I reminded him that this was Jefferson County we are talking about, where they proudly boast of being the reddest county in a red State, "I believe you will be a celebrity among this crowd," I said. It turned out that I was right, and I will explain more in a bit.
I should mention that Chairman Hobart Rice seemed genuinely glad to have us there, and Nicole and I were the only Jefferson County residents at that table. Chairman Rice made certain that I got a card and had all of his contact information-greeted us as we entered and begged us to please be careful of the weather (it did not co-operate) as we left. Indeed the weather was so bad here that I wondered several hours beforehand whether the dinner would happen at all.
My wife Nicole and myself with our next State Senator, Mike Faulk.
While the snow was keeping things cold outside, the atmosphere at our table was warm and friendly. Rob Huddleston got a choice seat immediately next to me. This creates a problem because whenever Rob and I get together, it is a giant chatterbox. My wife commented on the way home that she felt badly for Stacey...he got the seat to her right and that didn't put him in on the continual chatter and she said she could tell that he wanted to be. The table was large and square, and was large enough that it made it impossible for all of us to carry on a conversation at once. Mike Faulk later commented to me that he was sorry we all could not have visited more than we did. Even though the logistics made a large-scale conversation impossible, we did all get to talk to one another-just some more than others.
Frank Niceley introduced the Lt. Governor. He pointed out that power is finally shifting to East Tennessee and said "we aren't asking for more than our share, we just want our share." He called Ramsey's election by the Senate "a political earthquake" that "slid all the power from West Tennessee" and sent a bit more in our direction, making things evenly distributed.
Governor Ramsey impressed me deeply-I believe he is a man of sincerity and conviction. He said that change is afoot in Nashville and one of the first things he mentioned would change is that "pro-life legislation will be given a fair hearing in the Senate," and he mentioned Stacey Campfield by name. He said that he asked his wife if, back when she married him, she imagined in her wildest dreams that they would be where they are today. "I don't know Ron...you aren't in my wildest dreams." The line produced raucus laughter. He said that for him, politics was not a job, it was a calling. You could tell that Ramsey has a real sense that he is doing the Lord's work, and he seems to conduct himself with that in mind.
Ramsey introduced David Davis. Davis' speech was a good one-to be honest, it was far better than I had expected. His points about immigration were spot on, and he said he was going to push for a pardon for the border control agents who are being held in prison for doing their duty. He then said that if the President would not pardon these men, he would lead the way in trying to find out if there was any way that Congress could exercise a similar power.
Davis also discussed being unabashedly and unashamedly pro-life. He also mentioned Stacey Campfield.
The one part of his speech that did not agree with me was his war line. He continually uses the phrase "cut and run" in a way that sounds like an echo chamber for the administration. If Davis believes that the war in Iraq is prosecuted for good reasons, fine (well not fine...but he would not be alone in that belief) but we cannot pretend things are going well in Iraq. This is the First District, his seat is safe (in theory), and that means that like Jimmy Duncan, he can be critical of the administration without giving the Democrats traction. I would venture to say that voters here have come to expect that independence in their Congressman. If Davis has a plan for how to improve the situation in Iraq (no, stay the course does not work) now would be the time to present that.
Congressman Davis is right that radical Islam is an enemy to our religion and our way of life. However, he compares Iraq to Korea or Vietnam, and seems to take the attitude that we will lose out if we do not "finish the job" in Iraq-in fact he used those words and pointed to Korea and Vietnam as examples of that policy. Whether one believes we should have gone to war in Korea or Vietnam, there were ways to win those wars militarily and we did not utilize the proper strategy. There is no way to achieve military victory in Iraq as we understand it without total genocide-and that is the difference, and it is why Davis' war argument is seriously flawed.
Congressman Davis' other great problem is articulation. I agree with nearly all of his other positions aside from his war stance, but he articulates himself poorly. You can get away with that in the General Assembly, but in Congress it will come back to bite you. I do think that he is probably somewhat aware of this problem, which would explain his inordinately high number of early floor speeches-practice perhaps?
Rob Huddleston and myself
One person of note who was there and whose presense was very odd was Van Hilleary. I could not help but wonder why Van came, but he was introduced with the other dignitaries. I didn't notice him speaking to many folks aside from Chairman Rice and a few people at the head table, and he left very early and did not socialize.
The real action occured after the speeches were over. Davis' District Director, Paul Chapman, sought me ought and apologized for not having answered me for some months after he had begun a correspondence with me of his own initiative after the November election. He gave his card and all kinds of contact information. Davis' staff were working the room really good, and I talked to a couple of them in the course of the evening and discovered that apparently this weblog is read in certain quarters among the good Congressman's staff.
Congressman Davis did come over and shake everyone's hand and said he was glad to see us. I am quite certain that if he did not know who I was, his staff made him aware. I had wanted to talk to him some more, but by the time he got to us, he was clearly on his way out.
Meanwhile, Stacey had become preoccupied. I had wanted to get everyone together for a group picture, but Stacey had admirers and supporters coming up to him when the rest of the group was free to do this and I was free to talk to him, and when he was finally free, I was in the middle of a conversation. If you don't think Stacey Campfield is now well thought of in conservative circles in this State, you should have seen him Saturday night.
I also had the pleasure of meeting Frank Cagle for the first time. I have long admired Frank's work from a distance, but the man is as admirable in person as in print-I also got the impression that he had read some of my work, though he did not speak of it specifically.
One person who did was Frank Niceley. This was the first time we had met in person, but Niceley is a man who would be hard not to like even if you didn't like his politics. He comes across as a real down-home sort of person, and he has a charm that reminds me of my Granddaddy-that's a high compliment. He also admitted that he reads my blog (and he brought that up, not me), and he invited me to Nashville as soon as I could come. He also made sure I had all of his contact information and let me in on when the best times are to contact him personally-since I am a constituent of his.
I am not sure if Mike Faulk was gladhanding, or if the folks just wouldn't leave him alone, or both-but he seemed to be constantly talking to someone during the post-speech social hour. He personally introduced me to one of the people he was talking to, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey. When I tell you I got a good impression of Ramsey, that was cemented during our all-too-brief meeting. I asked Ramsey a tough question-what the difference was between what Mike Williams did, and how he became Speaker Pro Tempore, and what Rosalind Kurita did, and how she became Speaker Pro Tempore. "There is one key difference," Ramsey said, "Mike Williams, a member of the majority, voted to keep the minority in power. Rosalind Kurita voted that the majority should be the majority." He further pointed out that Mike Williams was given the post of Speaker Pro Tempore after having decided on his own to support Wilder-leading me to believe that Speaker Pro Tem was put on the table for Kurita, but she would not have jumped if she did not want Wilder gone. Ramsey also said that very few people knew that there was a deal in the works with Kurita, but one person who did know was Jason Mumpower.
The Lieutenant Governor and I shook hands as he left. His eyes hinted at an inner integrity and his smile was spoke to his happiness with his calling in life. I think the man believes he has a purpose to do right by the people.
Mike Faulk and I talked for a couple of minutes before he left and I made sure to get a snapshot of the two of us for the occasion. I told him how much I appreciated the invite. Should Mike choose to run for the State Senate (a move that I think is now all but certain), I will be glad to help him in whatever way I can.
Before we left, Chairman Rice handed me his contact information, and I told him I would be interested in one of the Precinct delegate or alternate positions in my precinct as the Jefferson County Party reorganizes. Ultimately, that isn't really up to me so we will see what comes of it.
Rob, Angela, Nicole, and I walked out together, again the chatter continuing (the conversation with Rob is always good). The last bit had to do with Mark Albertini's alcohol problem. Rob and Angela waited with me so that I would not slip on the ice as Nicole brought the truck around.
From left to right: My wife Nicole, myself, Mike Faulk, Angela Huddleston, Rob Huddleston, and Terry Frank.
Stacey wasn't in this picture when Cecile snapped it because he was in the middle of a conversation. He was one of the most popular guests of the evening. Before the dinner, Stacey pointed out that a well-placed bomb could take out East Tennessee's biggest conservative bloggers in one fell swoop.
This photo courtesy of Hawkins County GOP Chairman Cecile Testerman
Labels: Republican Party