Last Saturday I attended the annual dinner of the Center of the American Experiment. I was a guest at the table of my friend Howard Root, former CEO and founder of the hugely successful company Vascular Solutions & author of “Cardiac Arrest,” a riveting memoir of his persecution, and ultimate exoneration, over five years by the weaponized Obama Department of Justice. It was, on balance, a lovely evening. Thanks Howard, although I’ll never forgive you for not running for governor.
I used to attend many of these sorts of political gatherings: dinners, confabs, light hors d’oeuvres with drinks, campaign speeches at the end of yet another fundraiser. Eventually, the yield of diminishing returns caught up with me and I found myself simply not attending. Don’t misunderstand: all of these things are important, occasionally vital and routinely essential if Minnesota is not to become a one party state. I just found myself increasingly unable to deal with the Tracy Flicks of both genders, their staffers and their hangers-on.
Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas was the keynote speaker and I was looking forward to hearing him. My scheduled interview with the Senator for Alpha News was canceled at the last minute due to logistics. I remain grateful to Tom Steward, the Center’s most underappreciated member, in my view, for his efforts. As an event, the night went off without a hitch, save for my vegetarian entree for which someone should be sent to Gitmo.
However, not even my naturally ebullient nature could prepare me for what Sen. Cotton said in his remarks. I realized at the outset that he was a speaker who had no idea the degree of antipathy toward Donald Trump his audience possessed. Consequently, I was delighted to track in real time the strength of Cotton’s support for the President with an often tepid response–at times mute–from the assembled “conservatives.”
He was introduced by the new president of the Center, John Hinderaker. He now refers to the Center as an “activist organization.” I remained bemused by how a think tank can become such but I understand the positioning involved in the Age of Trump. It’s something, at least, and in Minnesota I’ll take anything I can get, believe me.
Hinderaker has previously stated his belief in turning Minnesota red by, in part, writing frequent op-eds to be published widely throughout the state’s newspapers. That’s always struck me as a non-starter given how few people read them. He screened a video the Center produced that he thought was cutting edge, leaving more astute members of the audience positively cringing, while far too many thought it was the berries (and would express it precisely like that). It can be viewed by clicking here. Make up your own mind. But this was an annual dinner and it would be churlish to dwell too long on how far the Center has to go to become truly activist, truly effective and relevant in a political sense.
Sen. Cotton gave a remarkable speech in which he spared no one and avoided nothing. Honesty in Minnesota republican politics is hard to come by and my intuition told me this audience was composed of those least exposed to it. Like D.C., Minnesota has its own swamp.
He began by suggesting we separate “the forest from the tweets” and proceeded to recite a litany of Trump’s successes: 14 of Obama’s midnight regulations repealed wholesale with no chance of future resurrection, major VA reform, increased sanctions against Iran and Russia passed by the Senate, the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, reduced penetration of our southern border by illegals, increased law enforcement, putting sanctuary cities on notice (the silence which greeted this was telling), killing TPP, withdrawing from the Paris climate accord and demonstrating strength abroad by use of Tomahawk missiles when Syria’s Assad deployed chemical weapons, in stark contrast to Obama’s dithering, then doing nothing and “hiding behind Putin,” as Cotton acidly put it.
Cotton assailed the media as a “lynch mob” that showed “a consistent and relentless bias,” most vividly shown by their “wild eyed, hair on fire allegations” of collusion with Russia despite there being no factual basis. He called CNN the “Comey News Network” and ridiculed the idea that Attorney General Jeff Sessions would play a role in a faux spy novel that Daniel Craig would refuse to act in, given the ludicrous premise of the supposed plot.
I Periscoped the first 18 minutes of the speech and then stopped. I was tired from holding my iPhone and had had my back the entire time to my dinner guests. I also didn’t want this to be my first and last free dinner from Howard Root. My Periscope video can be viewed by clicking here.
In a way, not recording what followed was a mercy to Minnesota republicans. In a pleasant, amiable way Tom Cotton stripped the bark off of their well practiced complacency. He noted that of the four rural House districts in the nation won by Trump but represented by Democrats, three of them were in Minnesota. Only in Minnesota, a wag might say. I chalked it up to his Southern manners that he declined to mention we still don’t have a candidate to run against Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Maybe an activist organization can get on that.
Cotton proceeded to talk in honest, real terms about Somalia and Somali immigration. I swear I could hear jaws clench. This crowd either supported open borders or was (mostly) too cowardly to speak about its downsides. Not Tom.
He detailed the enormous financial generosity of America toward the failed state of Somalia, including both humanitarian aid as well as military efforts, the latter at the cost of lives. “Blackhawk Down” and all that.
Turning to the realities of Somali immigration, he informed the audience that Minnesota spends more than 120 million dollars annually on that community. He noted that more than 80% of them do not speak English at home. He pointed out the obvious and ongoing problem of Somalis joining terrorist groups both here and abroad. He truthfully said that there is little cultural integration of them nor any particularly noteworthy contributions to wider society from them.
He mocked Gov. Mark Dayton for saying to those who had “real and legitimate” concerns about such a troubling situation that they “should find a different state.” He made plain that the Governor had it backwards, had it manifestly wrong and that American citizens have every right to question the consequences of immigration decisions from which they are largely excluded but are forced to live with.
Simple, candid common sense was the order of Cotton’s day and saying these things out loud made the Center’s audience deeply uncomfortable. Citizens have every right to question the settlement of those who don’t share our values or seek to change our culture into the backward one from which they came. Female genital mutilation comes to mind. That questioning can, and should, be done without rancor or unkindness but this crowd was largely made up of those who faint dead away at the thought of being called bigoted or racist.
Random but extensive comments I heard when milling about the audience after the speech confirmed my hunch that Cotton was a mixed bag for them. They were glad about Justice Gorsuch but not overly enthusiastic about the rest of the President’s successes to date laid out by the Senator. The factually true observations about recent arrivals positively made their status quo lips purse. The smart aleck in me wanted to ask them if they’d heard about our Lord & Saviour, Based Stick Man.
Tom Cotton being in the Senate, with impressive educational credentials and sterling military service, gives one hope that there are those in the fetid swamp of Washington who understand what is going on, the stakes involved and who see in Trump the voters behind him who made his improbable victory a reality. The Center deserves credit for bringing in a staunch, take no prisoners supporter of President Trump, whether it realized that’s what it was getting or not.
As for its audience at the annual dinner, next year the Center might want to consider bringing in someone who can pander to their political limitations and lack of strongly held beliefs, to say nothing of their lack of courage. Sen. Ben Sasse would be perfect.
In addition to Alpha News, John Gilmore is also a contributor to The Hill. He is the founder and executive director of Minnesota Media Monitor.™ He blogs at MinnesotaConservatives.com and is on Twitter under @Shabbosgoy