As a younger man I was less chaste and more chased, but now if I don’t chase Manhattan I can’t bank on having much to recount. One place I never go for fun is Washington, D.C. The drudgery of regulating our lives makes the folks there dreary company. So I make a living writing about a city I never visit, which explains why I have a reputation for objectivity.
But once a year I do come to see my tax dollars at play, to visit the ruling edifice wrecks. I stand in the waning heyday of the nation and watch the sunset in my winter coat, the spy who came in to the cold. And then… and then… I go to have the one guaranteed good time in town, the annual banquet of The American Spectator at the Capital Hilton.
This year marks the 45th anniversary of this great magazine I began reading in 1979, a quarter-century before I was published in its pages. The founders are still around, not only basking but still tasking, dispelling the doom and the gloom of the liberals and mocking the dumb and the glum of the pundits. They are surrounded by younger generations of protégés who bring new energy and talent into the fray.
Every year is special but this was extra-special. It was nice to say hello to Laura Ingraham, who was there for cocktails. I gave some of the other celebrities shorter shrift than usual, because I was being a loyal Dad, schmoozing up a Yale Law professor about my son’s impressive LSAT score. Then, the honor guard, the national anthem, the invocation, the food (my kosher meal was gourmet, simply scrumptious) and finally — thankfully no trite video — the program.
Ben Stein demonstrated his mastery of ceremony as he surveyed with clear eyes the government’s attempt to win his money. He shared the touching story of how Editor-in-Chief R. Emmett Tyrrell attended the funeral of Ben’s father, the late Herbert Stein, and energetically participated with rolled-up sleeves in the Jewish custom of mourners shoveling earth to fill the grave.
Editorial Director Wlady Pleszczynski got up and spelled his name, then we ran out of time. Ha, ha, just kidding. Everyone knows his real name is Wally Pless but he thought that lacked polish. He gave a rousing thanks to all the writers toiling in the vineyards while we hung our heads in humility.
G. Gordon Liddy spoke warmly of President Jimmy Carter who issued his pardon. Ha, ha, just kidding again; we were in no mood for a stunt like that after this election. Rather he spoke about his retirement and the fact that he missed getting inappropriate emails from his radio audience. He introduced industrialist T. Boone Pickens as a great American advocate of freedom.
Pickens took the microphone to admit he had expected better results on Election Night. He promised not to rest on his laurels but to put his money where his mind is and work to promote better electoral results to reflect the cause of liberty. He noted he had paid 665 million dollars in taxes over the last twelve years. I, for one, could have won the election for Romney three times over with 1/100th of that sum.
The great lion of democratic capitalism, Dr. Michael Novak, spoke eloquently of the theological basis of the American Revolution. The founders understood that if God wanted to be loved by Man “as a friend,” Man must be free. Thus William Penn’s famous declaration that “there can be no friendship when there is no freedom” is actually intended as the basis for the notion that God has endowed Man with life and liberty.
This idea was exciting to me, inasmuch as the Israelites are called “friends” of God in the prayer describing their first moment of freedom after the splitting of the sea redeemed them fully from Egypt. A great mentor of mine explained that the Hebrew word — yedid — used in that context is constructed by doubling the word yad (hand) to imply hand-in-hand friendship.
Then we got to hear from the founder and Editor-in-Chief. Mister Tyrrell gave an unbowed and uncowed defense of Constitutional liberty. He declared that liberalism is no less dead for having achieved a Pyrrhic victory in its death throes. The left is out of ideas, and they are simply running on fumes… and on fuming.
Senator Tom Coburn delivered the keynote address, admitting that on the face of it the United States was in a historical downspin, unable to face its crises in a responsible fashion. Yet he noted that this country had cheated the rules of history a time or two in the past and had the capacity to do so again.
I flew back to Miami energized. The good guys were digging in on the front lines. And I would try to do my part too over the next four years, fighting for truth 800 words at a time.