Editor: Peg Brady of Centennial, Colorado, a tireless grassroots worker for constitutional government and conservative reform, is first to file again this year, as she was in 2010, with a comprehensive journal of key points and memorable moments from the 19 hours of programming at Western Conservative Summit 2011. If a comparison with James Madison’s meticulous and indispensable journal of the 1787 Philadelphia Convention would be too lofty, still we must salute Brady as the Madison of this year’s Summit—always with pen in hand when others’ attention or stamina may have flagged, faithfully recording all of it to the benefit of everyone else who did—or perhaps even more, who did not—attend the memorable weekend at Marriott Denver City Center.
BRADY’S SUMMIT DIARY
Friday, 29 July
John Andrews and Bill Armstrong
To stirring cheers, WCS co–director and Centennial Institute director John Andrews welcomed us and promised an avalanche of information and inspiration. As CCU president and WCS co–chairman, Bill Armstrong affirmed our shared dedication to our beloved nation’s great future. This year’s Summit upholds as its theme “Fulfilling America’s Promise” through restoring Conservative principles.
Rick Santorum and Rick Perry
As joint keynote speakers, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry conveyed their thoughts about “America at the Crossroads.” We all recognize that a vast divide separates our Conservative economic and political perspective and principles from the Left’s viewpoint. The success of our principles is needed to safeguard America’s future, and thus that of all people who cherish freedom.
Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum averred that we must all do our part to ensure that success. It will not be pundits and politicos who determine America’s future but energized, dedicated people. The Left’s goal is total government power controlling every possible aspect of our lives. Obamacare is a prime example: more than an economic threat, it undermines our private health choices and insinuates bureaucratic control into every business decision. Obama’s “czars” are not officials elected by the people to govern; rather, they are political cronies with little or no experience in the fields over which they rule.
Mr. Santorum defined our Constitution as America’s “operating manual,” our Declaration of Independence as our “heart.” Rights do not come from the government; government’s only role is clearly delimited in our Constitution. The “happiness” our Declaration of Independence proclaims is not self–indulgence; rather, true happiness derives from doing what is right and freely accepting responsibility for our choices. He cited Abraham Lincoln’s straightforward directive, “We do not have the right to do wrong.”
Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, emphasized the criticality of a flourishing free–market economy as the bulwark of freedom. In Texas style, he enjoined Americans to “corral the federal government.” While intruding into every corner of our lives, the government nonetheless fails in its responsibility for defending our borders. Government bureaucrats declaim policies without regard for science and aimed at increasing government control, not ensuring our well–being. The Left is “addicted to spending.” He cited four essential Conservative paths, encouraging investment and economic growth:
- Spend only what is needed for genuine Constitutional functions
- Keep taxes as low as possible
- Enact only regulations that are logical, necessary and predictable
- Reform the judicial system to forestall frivolous lawsuits
Saturday, 30 July
Mr, Carlson, editor–in–chief of the Daily Caller political website, addressed “What Americans Want from the President and Congress.” His brief answer—far more than we get. The Left–dominated federal government does not deliver what we expect of them, their Constitutional obligations. Instead their actions target goals that are “unintelligble” to us. Nor is the Left solely responsible for the madness tearing at America’s fabric; party politics weakens the impact of those whom we elected to uphold Conservative principles. We mandated that they reduce spending and limit government, but their promises to do so have scarcely flowered. The Tea Party’s great boon has been holding politicians accountable to Conservative economic constraints.
Especially deleterious is the media’s role in undermining American backbone. “The media is even more Liberal than you think,” he warned. Endlessly promoting pleasure–seeking and irresponsible disregard for consequences, the media encourages people to demand ever more government handouts and “rights” without regard for cost. Media promote the notion that government largesse is free. Approximately fifty percent of American residents pay no federal taxes, ever worsened by illegal immigration.
Successful businessman and inspiring Conservative activist, Foster Friess explored possibilities for “Replacing Obamacare after Its Repeal.” First, he explained, it is necessary to recognize that Obamacare is about power, not about health care. It seeks to drive most Americans into dependence on government welfare and subject to government control. The Left repeats this pattern in climate, energy, immigration, and every arena in which it can stir or exacerbate a “crisis.” Instilling fear and guilt are the Left’s prelude for promoting government intervention. To promote readership/audience, the media intensifies the Left–induced emotional tension.
Rather than Obamacare, Americans would be better served by personal and/or employer’s health–savings accounts. Further, founded on his own clear business judgment, Mr. Friess detailed Conservative constraints for sensible legislation:
- Base decisions on reliable information sources
- Prioritize to pay down the debt and cut spending
- Promote self–determination and responsibility
President of the Center for Security Policy, Frank Gaffney fully comprehends the threat that Sharia poses for overriding our Constitutional rights. In his topic “Our Choice: Sharia or the Constitution,” he described Sharia as totalitarian. A well–known example is Sharia’s utter disregard for women. Moreover, Sharia promotes overthrow, by violence or by stealth, of all governments founded on personal freedom. Becoming common in Europe are “Sharia–Controlled Zone” signs, delimiting areas within which Sharia, rather than the nation’s political and justice systems, rule.
Dedicated to implementing Sharia worldwide is the jihadist Muslim Brotherhood. Its self–proclaimed goal: “eliminating and destroying Western Civilization” by any means. An effective tool of Muslim Brotherhood leaders is inducing citizens to adopt “tolerance” and then to enact Sharia–based legislation. One of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Sharia–implementing sub–organizations is the Islamic Free Market Institute, a disguise for persistent and penetrating attacks on capitalism. Countering these seditious assaults is the American Laws for American Courts movement.
Mr. Gaffney summarized the threat: “Sharia is completely antithetical to Constitutional freedom.” He urges Conservatives to repeat President Reagan’s defeat of Communism, directing our 21st century efforts to eradicating the Muslim Brotherhood and all of its destructive offshoots. And he averred that Obama embraces the Muslim Brotherhood.
Ambassador Bolton, a highly respected scholar of geopolitics and fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, explained what “Defending America in a Dangerous World” requires. “Security is being independent,” including freedom from economic dominance. But our current president “has no interest” in defending America. Although bin Laden has been silenced, the threat of rogue nations and terrorist cults has not diminished. Especially dangerous, international organizations have taken upon themselves the power to demand American compliance with policies that undermine America’s economic and personal freedom. The UN Security Council has declared itself “the sole source of legitimacy.” International decisions in such areas as climate, small arms and defense override our Constitution, and our current government subjugates us to these ruinous policies.
Theodore Roosevelt believed that we must make the world “safe for ourselves.” But Liberals demand massive cuts in defense funding, and our current president is reducing our missile defense sites and helping Putin re–establish Russian hegemony. Our treasured ally Israel is especially threatened, as are Japan and South Korea, by Obama’s weak–to–nonexistent foreign policy. It is not strength but weakness invites violence.
It was Alexander de Tocqueville who first proclaimed that America is “exceptional.” Belief in American exceptionalism is not arrogance. It is love of our great nation, President Reagan’s “shining city on the hill.”
At the 2010 Summit, participants thronged to sign the Lone Tree Declaration, proclaiming Conservative values and America’s greatness as freedom’s beacon. This year’s Summit appends further clauses to that shining message of America’s promise.
National Public Radio fired its political analyst Juan Williams for stating his concern about airline safety after 9/11. He described the experience, especially his dismay that he was denied any opportunity for discussion or rebuttal. “Political debate need not be polarizing. Rather it should be the pursuit of truth.” Instead, now disagreement incurs belittling ridicule and marginalization. Special interests attempt to intimidate those who do not adhere to their dicta. A sad example is the abusive attacks on Bill Cosby for advising young blacks to adopt self–determination and responsibility. While avowing their dedication to diversity, the media exacerbate tensions by exaggerating extremes; controversy sells news. But balance and bridges offer the best likelihood of sound decisions for America’s future.
Honoring President Reagan’s centennial year, author, radio host, columnist, professor and symphony conductor Dennis Prager reminded us of “Lessons from Reagan for the New Century.” Liberals crave self–esteem, hence they promote the nannyist doctrine that self–esteem and equality trump achievement or even effort. But nannyism erodes true self–esteem by destroying dignity and motivation. “The bigger the state, the smaller the citizen” because the less they do for themselves; less achievement thwarts self–esteem. Moreover, rewarding non–achievement undermines others’ motivation and ultimately threatens America’s entire self–reliant value system. Welfare corrupts family life and individual freedom as well, further weakening our values.
So ingrained has the nannyist interpretation of equality become that the UN ranked Cuba and the US equal in health care—not on the quality of health care but merely on whether health care was equally available to all. Cuba’s appalling health care is indeed equally available to all and hence ranked with our excellent health service.
Left–wing intrusion into people’s lives deepens daily. A newspaper’s choice of the 10 best composers omitted Haydn because the list already included too many Austrians. In San Francisco it is illegal to sell soft drinks, in Maryland receiving a high school diploma depends on demonstrating familiarity with environmental dogma, and California schoolbooks expound gays’ and lesbians’ contribution to American history. “Truth is not a Left–wing value.” As Reagan rightly averred, “Government is not the solution. It is the problem.”
Professor, author and french–hornist Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, compared ”Free Enterprise vs. Big Government.” The budget and debt debates in Washington are the newest manifestation of the 70–year slide into statism, steadily eroding our freedom. Government spending lowers economic opportunity, and burdensome taxation can only bleed the economy. Obama’s so–called “balanced” solution, requiring tax increases, worsens the economic damage that his policies have imposed.
Nor is the Left’s doctrine “fair” because it precludes job growth and, far worse, blocks “earned success, the avenue to true happiness.” The Left’s notion of fairness is redistribution, but true fairness rewards merit—hard work, skill, ingenuity. In contrast, it is highly unfair and corrupt to reward non–achievement. Free enterprise, not government spending, offers equal opportunity. And, because excessive government spending necessitates borrowing, the Left is stealing from the American people—and their children.
Combating this corruption is vastly difficult but crucial. An important weapon is truth. Reversing the Left’s misuse of language will promote clear discussion. For example, we need not hesitate to state that redistribution is theft. And we can truthfully point out that a government that steals from some people can target anyone. Poverty reduction derives from free enterprise, not government. Mr. Brooks advocates replacing income tax, which penalizes productivity and encourages deceit, with a flat tax so that everyone pays his share. By keeping the amount small, even poor can feel contributive, rather than dependent. True self–esteem grows from doing one’s best.
Mr. Brooks concluded with a telling comparison. Free–enterprise fiscal Conservatives view a successful entrepreneur’s millions and fervently hope that their children can succeed as well. A tax–and–spend statist would say, “Let’s steal his stuff.”
“Answering the Black Lie” has become businessman/engineer Kevin Jackson’s passion. Rather than promoting cooperation, politicos play on racism to advance their own aims. “People are actually less interested in race than in character,” Mr. Jackson contended. After briefly summarizing black history in America, he protested that welfare does not help but deeply harms disadvantaged Americans. “Liberals are destroyers” of peoples’ hopes. They “steal ambition” and “corral” blacks in impoverished neighborhoods with poor schools. Liberals use “sneaky” vocabulary to confound truth. In comparison, Conservativism is the “antithesis to racism” because it promotes self–activation. “Your only entitlement is what you earn.”
As a Democratic strategist, Pat Caddell is expert at “Understanding the Culture Wars.” Mr. Caddell maintained that “America is too young to die” but is strongly threatened. Our next generation may not be assured a better life enriched with freedom and virtue. How did we let thieves steal our riches? The government never stops spending, Mr. Caddell explained, and he continued that politicians of both parties are at fault. “None cares about us, only about re–election.” So unconcerned are they about Americans’ freedom and prosperity, to fund their runaway spending, they have made China our banker.
Freedom of the press is essential for our freedom. Our nation’s founders viewed the press as our protection from government. Now the media side with the statists.
Mr. Caddell characterizes our elected officials as elitist, inept and partisan, governing for their own benefit. Democratic Party leaders are corrupt and statist. “If you knew them as I know them, you wouldn’t sleep at night.” Republican Party leadership is unable and unwilling to fulfill their mandate to repeal Obamacare and cut government spending. They approved Eric Holder as Attorney General without a fight. Both parties require our legislators to knuckle under and vote as party leaders, not their constituents, dictate.
Worse than the economic waste, political corruption circumvents the Constitutional balance of power and destroys our Constitutional freedoms. We must restore common sense and proclaim once again that power resides exclusively with the people. We should require truthful discourse. Right and wrong do exist and virtue must be upheld. Only in a free–enterprise economy can personal freedom flourish. We must hold our officials accountable to the criterion “Act worthy of your office.”
John Andrews, Theresa Melaragno, and Kevin Miller
Because the Summit schedule is too tight, the “Is Freedom or Responsibility Paramount?” debate will take place at one of Centennial Institute’s upcoming Issue Monday events.
Entrepreneur and author Theresa Melaragno spoke briefly about the “integrity meltdown” of Washington’s elitist bureaucrats and officials. Their decisions are based on greed, not the nation’s well–being. They are addicted to tax–and–spend power games. Their personal lives manifest infidelity and self–aggrandizement. To them, democracy means two wolves and a rabbit deciding what’s for lunch, whereas we know that democracy requires a well–armed rabbit.
Kevin Miller, consultant, author and founder of CCU’s School of Business, believes that we Conservatives are our own worst enemy. Government cannot deliver freedom nor ensure virtue. Government should (although our current leaders don’t) protect freedom, while virtue is our own job. Because giving government control over virtue (e.g., reducing obesity and carbon usage) empowers their intervention in our lives, we must guard against such encroachment, however well–intended. What government is most likely to deliver is unintended consequences.
Canadian activist Mark Steyn introduced his topic “After America” by quoting Tony Blair: “All power is transient. All that matters is what did you leave.” Will we soon lose the world’s beacon of prosperity and hence liberty? He declared that the Left is seeking power at all cost, and the cost could be ruinous. “It’s not about the debt ceiling, it’s about the debt,” as America spends $1 billion every hour. By 2020 we will spend more on debt interest than on defense. We now fund 80% of China’s military; by 2025 we will fund it all. How ironic that the Left discounts American exceptionalism but believes that we can defy economic reality forever.
Still, “It’s not just a spending crisis. It’s a moral one.” Too many Americans have abdicated on personal responsibility. The Left’s incremental erosion of our moral fiber is nearly impossible to combat—but we must.
New Yorker magazine described Brad Stine as “God’s comic,” blending Christian values with edgy cultural satire. He advocated personal responsibilty; for example, the “pursuit of happiness” does not guarantee outcomes but instead requires hard work. “Decisions have consequences.” Countering Lefty trends, he declared that “Political correctness … restructures reality” and that “Not all ideas are equally valid.” “If the truth offends you, that’s your problem.”
Sunday, 31 July
Author and columnist Cal Thomas decried activism’s misdirection, eroding morality in its efforts to instill “good.” When the Left takes up funding our nation’s institutions (with our money), they redefine the purpose of those institutions. Schools have become bastions of “feel good” equality but fail to educate kids nor develop their understanding of right and wrong. Families are enjoined to ensure their kids’ self–esteem and safety, defeating the kids’ need to become functioning, responsible adults, “Good” behavior—or bad—is the person’s individual choice, and people need to accept responsibility for their choices. Yet the Left wants a safety net always protecting people from responsibility. That’s bad policy, keeping people dependent rather than helping people grow in freedom.
Recognizing the truth of President Reagan’s admonition that “freedom is always only one generation from being lost,” Mrs. Obenshain, vice president of Young America’s Foundation, emboldens young people to become knowledgeable and active in the cause of freedom. She introduced her topic “Young and Conservative: Anybody There?” with the belief that one informed, dedicated person can change the nation. She reported that young people are disillusioned with “hope and change” rhetoric, especially those who are now seeking jobs in the market Obama squelched or those who are employed but find themselves paying exorbitant income taxes. Surrounded by Left–wing diatribe and anti–Conservative discrimination, though, they flounder for lack of guidance. They intuitively perceive that the Left’s rhetoric doesn’t make sense, but that’s all that they are taught. As a result, young people are disillusioned, rather than disaffected or disinterested
In its place, we Conservatives must proclaim our values, our economic concept and our dedication to freedom. We can create a new “morning in America” to re–vitalize President Reagan’s great message. Obama speaks at a campus on average once every 12 days. We must counter that by boldly and openly championing our principles, and she empowers young people to do just that. She helps them learn to “stand up