UPDATE: I've posted a short video featuring Gov. Sanford and Frank Luntz; in it, Sanford gets to the heart of why we were there.
My apologies for dropping out of the scene without warning; I had intended to wake at my folks’ place in NC last Friday morning and write a few blog entries, including one saying I’d be out of pocket for a bit. When I woke, Dad’s internet was on the fritz, so I just got on my merry way to a weekend to remember.
I and what seemed like about 150 other committed Conservatives were invited down to Governor Mark Sanford’s (R-SC) farm near Beaufort, SC for a weekend of wonky policy discussions, bonhomie, great food and a ton of fun. Sanford’s desire was to bring together this group, share common hardship (mostly everyone camped out in tents, more on that later), and bond as a way of gathering strength in the Conservative movement for the important work we have ahead of us.
We all met at the Sanford place (a beautiful spot I was told Sanford’s father purchased) on Friday evening for cocktails and conversation, followed by dinner and some great music provided by some friends of the Governor. Pretty much just an icebreaker, Friday evening served as a chance for people to get to know one another, something vitally important for me, as the South Carolina contingent was strong and very well connected to each other.
Saturday morning was right up my alley---about five straight hours of serious policy discussion with some incredibly interesting speakers. We had Stephen Moore (formerly of the Club for Growth, now of the Wall Street Journal), Pollster Frank Luntz, Conservative Radio Personality (and former Georgia Senate Candidate) Herman Cain, an economist who did a fascinating study on the impediments to business in West Virginia (he was preparing to do the same for SC), another economist who has done exhaustive research that leads him to believe our worsening debt situation will lead to hyper-deflation, and a diet and fitness physician who did a great job describing EXACTLY why bad carbs are bad for us.
Saturday afternoon was filled with watersports, driving range, skeet shooting, reading, napping, jogging, bike riding and all around goofing off. We met again for dinner and entertainment Saturday night, and said our goodbyes after breakfast on Sunday.
In between the formal stuff and the fun, there were countless policy/political conversations with a group of very well-informed, very committed, and very concerned Conservatives. Most interesting (and gratifying) to me was the complete scarcity of discussion about “social issues” like abortion or gay marriage. People were here for one thing, and that was to focus on the economy. Sanford’s recent fight with the Obama Administration and the SC legislature over stimulus money is really only the tip of the iceberg as far as his commitment to eradicating crushing debt. His six and a half years (after six years in Congress) has been monument to TRYING to get his state to live within its means---but he’s been only partially successful. He’s now coming to be known as the voice crying in the wilderness that debt will be the albatross around this nation’s neck, and that we must get our spending under control. In my opinion, he is articulating the clearest philosophical and programmatic alternative to Barack Obama’s vision of the role of government available in the Republican Party today. Sanford is a libertarian conservative, and as such, I find myself very much aligned with a lot of what he has to say.
Some highlights: Frank Luntz was a SCREAM…very funny, lots of ethnic Jewish humor AND searing insight into the language Conservatives MUST use to move the agenda forward. Herman Cain—an Atlanta based talk show host—was inspiring. An older African-American fellow, he used to be the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza. Stephen Moore and the economist who predicted deflation got into a bit of a (very civil) policy dust-up over whether we were headed for hyper-inflation (Moore’s view) or hyper-deflation. Governor Sanford stepped up and offered that whichever way things go, both views had at their heart the insidious evil of mounting debt.
All in all, it was a great weekend…oh—about the tents. Sanford made it very clear that one’s worth as a human was tied to weather you roughed it or stayed in a hotel. I arrived in Beaufort in the late afternoon in a monsoon. I naturally alighted to the “Sleep Inn” and got myself a room. Later, I headed over to the farm for check-in etc, and the skies cleared. Thinking this an excellent opportunity to try out my only once before tested camping skills, I set up my tent and enjoyed the evening’s events completely convinced that I would tame the elements in my Eddie Bauer tent. Around 10 PM, I went to my tent and began to read a bit (the Kitten having seen to it that I have all the gear I needed, including head-mounted reading light). Around 11, I put my book down to go to sleep, and these Philistines a few tents over lit off their generator, which provided the power to light their garish Christmas lights festooning their tent and nearby tree. Because the generator was making noise, they naturally began to talk very loud. I rolled up my pillow around my ears and tried to block the noise, but to no avail. So I headed down the road ten miles to my nice quiet hotel room. The weather was pretty sketchy most of the day Saturday, so I slept there again Saturday night.
Perhaps next year I’ll make it through a night in a tent.
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