In case you wondered why I was gone last week…Mrs. Crucis and I took off for a long weekend in Nashville. We went to the NRA Annual Meeting. This wasn’t a first attendance. We went when it was in St. Louis in 2012. This time, as in 2012, I had media credentials. That meant J and I could get in to all the closed meetings without paying. (Yes, I’m cheap!)
The real reason Mrs. Crucis wanted to go was the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum on Friday. If we did nothing else, the forum was her reason to come. It was worth it…the banner in the Music City Center Ballroom said it all!
Unlike St. Louis, the media did not have a seating area next to the stage at the Forum. The relationship between the NRA and the MSM has deteriorated, not surprisingly. Foreign media were not credentialed, only domestic outlets. Those in the press room were mostly industry writers. Guns & Ammo had two people. Hornady had their PR people there (you could tell from the logo shirts they wore,) Sig-Saur and several others.
For a time, Mrs. Crucis and I sat across the table from Mike Vanderboegh of Sipsey Street Irregulars blog. He was being interviewed by another blogger and was pontificating over a number of topics including a diatribe against Chris Cox of the NRA-ILA. The issue was the BATFE’s regulation that could make felons of anyone owning a 12ga shotgun with a pistol grip. The BATFE has decided these are now ‘destructive devices.’ The penalty could be a fine of $250,000 and up to 10 years in the slammer for each count. Vanderboegh was accusing Cox with making a ‘deal’ with the BATFE.
Vanderboegh does have a reputation of digging out a story. He, with some others, broke the news of the BATFE’s Fast and Furious project. He also has a reputation of shooting from the hip…and of having delusions of grandeur. “A real piece of work,” he was described by another gun rights blogger.
The Leadership Forum started at 1:00pm of Friday. Anticipating the same situation I had in St Louis, I left my pistol locked away. In St. Louis, because it was an election year and several of the speakers were candidates, the Secret Service prohibited weapons in the auditorium. This year, perhaps because it was too early in the campaign season, there were no prohibitions on weapons. I felt naked. I had my lock-blade knife locked up, too.
From this point on, I will give my impressions of the speakers. Attendees were required to have tickets. Mrs Crucis and I did have them. I bought them by mistake when I registered in advance. I waved my media badge and walked in. Behind me, Mrs. Crucis had our tickets. I don’t think the attendee checked them, eying our media badges instead.
Instead of using our reserved seats, we walked down the left aisle. In St. Louis, the media had a separate section complete with tables and power outlets for laptops, tablets and cameras. This year the media was in the back, well away from the stage. No MSM cameras were allowed up close to the stage unless they had prior approval from the NRA. This did not set well with the MSM. I saw one local FOX TV station with cameras set up with long lenses. None from the MSM. The NRA stated that videos of the speakers would be made available. I found them all, except for one, on You Tube.
In St. Louis one of the MSM celebs was Michael Isikoff. I think he was assigned to cover the NRA convention as punishment. He was surrounded by a clutch of groupies and instead of listening to the speakers during the 2012 Leadership session, he spent his time with his back turned on the phone. Mrs. Crucis took delight twitting him by applauding and hooting loudly for her favorite speakers to Isikoff’s consternation. This year the MSM was notable by its absence.
We marched down the aisle to the front and found a lightly used section where we grabbed a couple of seats. I didn’t know this was a reserved section for local notables and politicians. Mrs. Crucis connected with a youngish (38 he said, and that it was his birthday) man sitting in front of us. He was a state representative from the south-eastern part of Tennessee. Many of the pols about to speak had arrived the previous day for a meet ‘n greet with local dignitaries in the Tennessee capitol. The rep showed Mrs. Crucis a photo of him and Scott Walker taken that previous day.
One ‘controversy’ arose about the speaker list. Some people were saying the Rand Paul was not invited because he preferred to work with the National Association of Gun Rights (NAGR). Many gun rights activist consider NAGR to be a FUDD organization. It was a question the NRA PR folks went to pains to answer. They provided a list of those invited to speak. If I’d been faster on my feet, I would have grabbed a copy. I did have a chance to briefly scan it. There were around 30 names on the list. Some declined because of scheduling conflicts. Rand Paul was said to be one of those. Others, like Sarah Palin, were scheduled to speak and had to withdraw. Some, like Carly Fiorina, couldn’t attend but provided a video. The bottom line was that Rand Paul had an opportunity to be on the speaker’s list and declined. There is a faction in the shooting community who prefer to spread controversy where none exists. If none can be found, they’ll create one.
The session opened with a video by Ollie North and then a speech by Chris Cox. I later heard some NRA folks praise Cox’s speech. I thought it was good but expected as the host of the forum. Wherever possible, I will provide links to You Tube videos or embed the video of the speakers.
After Chris Cox came Wayne LaPierre and Tennessee Senator Bob Croker. As the ‘pub Senator from Tennessee, Corker spoke first noting that he was one of the few speakers who wasn’t a candidate for president. I remembered that Corker’s voting record placed him firmly in the RINO ranks of the GOP.
Bobby Jindal was up next. Let me state that ALL of the speakers swore to uphold, respect and defend the Constitution and the 2nd Amendment. I believe all of them—except for Jeb Bush and Lindsey Graham. I’ll get to them later.
Bobby Jindal was a good crowd warmer. He didn’t say anything controversial. Nor did he say anything new. Like some of the following speakers, he alluded to a possible run for prez but didn’t make any commitments.
Let me make one point clear. With the exception of Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee and Lindsey Graham, I could vote for any of the candidates and possible candidates who spoke on Friday afternoon. I don’t trust Bush for a second. His brother had good initial intentions and responded well as a war-time leader following 9/11. But GW had pitiful subordinates and trusted Karl Rove too much. I voted for him twice. I don’t trust Jeb Bush at all.
Scott Walker was next. He hasn’t announced his candidacy…yet. It’s coming without a doubt. Bobby Jindal spoke wearing a suit and using a teleprompter. Walker walked on stage to an outstanding applause with no jacket and with his shirt sleeves rolled up. He was obviously playing to the audience as being one of them. It worked.
Walker got the crowd stirring. He made a personal connection with the audience. It was obvious from their response.
Rick Santorum was next. His speech was different and it was obvious that he was not running for president. His speech was on the first amendment, the freedom of religion and its free expression. It was received with strong support. The audience was aware of the LGBT activists’ use of lawfare to subvert 1st Amendment rights. Santorum made sure the issue wasn’t overlooked with all the other political fronts being fought.
After Santorum, Milwaukee County Sheriff Dave Clark walked on stage. He was obviously surprised by the response he received. He was self-conscious and wore his official sheriff’s uniform. He saluted the audience at the beginning and again when he walked off. He was a hit.
Rick Perry is a candidate. He may not have announced that yet but he is one. I can’t describe it in any other way that to say he had a presence. His topic was leadership and he made it obvious that he was a leader and provided proof. Perry opened his speech with a video—shooting steel plates with an AR. The audience ate it up!
After Perry was Jeb Bush. I didn’t bother taking a photo of him. If you want to watch his talk about supporting gun rights and the Castle Doctrine, you can find it here. It was obvious he had been waiting in the wings. He tried to copy Scott Walker’s everyman look by removing his jacket. He couldn’t get away with the image. He kept his carefully knotted tied and didn’t rollup his sleeves. I guess his cuff links hindered him. Bush just couldn’t carry his image off. Compared to the previous speakers, even Dave Clark, Bush just came off as…pompous.
Contrasting Bush’s pompousness was Dr. Ben Carson‘s humility. He followed Bush and the difference between to the was startling. Bush was pompous. Carson was…humble. Carson has had, perhaps erroneously, a reputation as being soft on the 2nd Amendment. He went to extreme pains to correct that impression. In fact, his explanation was the main theme of his speech. Towards the end, his efforts was almost embarrassing. Without doubt, Dr. Carson is a good man. As a presidential candidate, he’s out of his league. There are areas in the administration where he could excel, Surgeon General perhaps, or, as I heard suggested by others in the audience, as Secretary of HHS.
Carly Fiorina couldn’t attend. Instead she provided a video. As a potential candidate, she’s exceeds, as a potential president, Bush, Graham, Huckabee, or Christi. I would have liked to have heard her in person. Something is just lost watching a prepared video. But at least, unlike Rand Paul, she at least sent a video for the audience and made a presence with the others in the lineup. I tried to find a copy of her video and have failed. Perhaps in a few days it will surface.
The next speaker in the lineup was Marco Rubio. He has since officially announced his candidacy for President. He made his announcement today. My wife, throughout the list of speakers, had a running conversation with a Tennessee state rep. We can’t remember his name other than his district was in the south-eastern area of the state. When Rubio reached for his water bottle, both my wife and the state rep said, “Oh, no!” in unison. Rubio caught himself and made light of the near faux pas.
After Rubio, with the the exception of S. E. Cupp, the speakers were, for the most part, wannabees…Mike Huckabee, Lindsey Graham who, like Joe Biden, seemed to have a shotgun fixation, and Donald Trump. They were the lead-ins to the final and most anticipated speaker in the lineup—Ted Cruz.
Let no one doubt. Ted Cruz won the day with the crowd. It was a campaign speech and it was welcomed. He was practiced and polished. Instead of standing behind the podium, he stood to one side to show he was speaking extemporaneously—no notes, no teleprompter. I don’t know if he chose to be the last speaker or it was happenstance. Regardless, he closed the forum. You can see and hear the audience’s response to him.
If the speakers to the forum were to be graded, I would have to place them with Cruz first, Walker second followed by Perry and then Rubio. I put Perry over Rubio for a reason. The difference is that Perry has…a presence, a presidential presence. Rubio lacks that and frankly he appeared at times to give the impression of a high school sophomore asking out a girl on their first date.
Don’t doubt me that if Rubio wins the nomination that I wouldn’t vote for him. I would. But, I don’t think he’ll get it—this time around. There are too many other, better candidates running this election. Cruz is the leader. Scott Walker, who hasn’t announced yet, would be a real contender and Perry, with the experience of one campaign for prez under his belt, is formidable, too. The race is in its starting stages. No one knows who will be the final choice. It’s a long time until November 2016.