Wonkette Conference Crash: FRC's Washington Briefing
Gentlemen, start your praying!
"Did you know, ladies and gentlemen, that every day we inflict on ourselves another 9/11?"
It was certainly news to us, but not to the thousand or so people watching with rapt attention the funny little man behind the podium at the Family Research Council's (or FRC Action, their lobbying arm) "Washington Briefing" (or "Values Voters Summit") last weekend. Gary Bauer -- former head of the FRC 'til he pissed off the Christian Right by running for president, having an adultery scandal, and endorsing John McCain in 2000 -- was the prodigal nutcase, welcomed with open arms as he riled the crowd up with stirring rhetoric that, unfortunately, came from a guy who looks and sounds like Radar from M*A*S*H.
The conference lasted all weekend, and we were at, uh, part of it. Exciting coverage of Gary, Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich, and yes, future United States Senator Katherine Harris (complete with pictures from Liz Gorman, Intrepid and Creeped Out Girl Reporter), is after the jump.
Gary Bauer: "And the turtles, of course... all the turtles are free, As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be." Wait, sorry, he was actually just saying some more crazy shit about baby-killin'.
The conference was held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. When we arrived Friday night, the entire block of Calvert in front of the hotel was cordoned off by a dozen squad cars with lights ablaze. We weren't really sure why, but the prevailing rumor seemed to be that the President of Peru (or something) was staying there. Or across the street. The concierge was no help on this matter.
The conference began Thursday, but, uh, we had stuff to do. La Shawn Barber sent us a very sad email on Friday about this ("Out of the four invited bloggers, I'm the only one on 'The Row'! Lonely!").
Nothin' but Diet Coke, nicotine, and blow in her system.
Anyway, we missed almost every single Friday event too, and when we got there they wouldn't give us two press passes. We made a rookie error in saying Liz's name before they flipped through the box of unclaimed badges, making it a bit more difficult to convince them that, no, we said "Gorman" but meant "Cox." The (very friendly and helpful, don't get us wrong) aide apologized, then offered to escort just one of us downstairs to the event-already-in-progress, as security was "very tight." We said we'd walk Liz out, then went down the other stairwell and wandered into Bauer's speech.
Mr. Bauer told the audience that he dreamed of a world in which fetuses "will have a seat at the table," and we had to stifle the first of many laughs.
Seated behind us was the press pit, or the bizarre parody of one. Periodically, the general audience would "amen" and burst into spontaneous applause. Somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of the seated press would do the same, with the rest either scribbling on legal pads or staring off into the distance.
Poor Gary was just the opening act for rock star Ann Coulter. Ann made one (1) "Al Gore invented the Internet" joke and made at least three (3) references to something called an "OJ Jury." Those references may be embarrassingly out of date to kids like you and us, but we must be charitable -- the lady's 45 years old. We lost count of the "Teddy Kennedy" mentions.
In her defense, Coulter's got at least one half-decent writer on staff -- her materially is usually sub-Leno, but she throws in a bit of Sarah Silverman to mix things up (best line, on the subject of abortion euphemisms -- "I'm having a Fetus Shower"). The remarkable thing about Ann -- and we never realized this until we saw her before "her people" -- is that she's got even less respect for her audience than so-called elitist liberals do. She's invariably condescending, and it seemed like nothing so much as a New England-born New York-residing godless secular type getting a lot of enjoyment out of stirring up some hicks. So, read as a subversive satire on the whole event, her speech was pretty good (we couldn't quite convince Liz of this interpretation).
This is a) the Coulter book-signing line and b) 1,500 people exiting a ballroom through one door -- a fire would've set the pro-life movement back a decade and bankrupted the Wonder Bread corporation.
What we enjoyed the most was her history of grassroots action against Roe v. Wade. In which she almost justified abortion clinic bombings ("I'm not justifying it, but I understand it") as a rational response to years of disenfranchisement, or something. It was pretty brilliant to take an audience riled up by a whole day of Holocaust comparisons and talk of mass slaughter and injustice, then make the subtext of Gary's speech completely explicit -- no one wanted to bring up ABORTION CLINIC BOMBINGS, WTF. Good show Ann.
Liz is cruel, but fair.
Also making the audience shift in their seats a little bit: "I'd say they were shoving gay marriage down our throats, but in deference to my gay male fans, I'll refrain." Awkward chuckle.
We admit it -- we didn't go see Sean Hannity or any number of other worthy Saturday events because there's no way in hell we're getting up early on a Saturday just to learn that we're going to hell. So we didn't make it back to the hotel until Saturday's Reception and "Family, Faith & Freedom Gala" dinner.
Careful, guys -- don't get carried away with that decaf!
The reception, uh, was a bit of a shock. Because we know what receptions are -- free food, schmoozing, and an open bar, to facilitate aforementioned schmoozing. So we showed up, met the one person there who knew who we were and still didn't want to string us up, and excused ourselves with a comment about going to find a drink. Guy just shot us a "you poor, deluded thing" kinda look and wandered off. A cursory glance around the Diplomat Room revealed free food, yes, and, uh, coffee, but no alcohol. How could this be? Where did all these people get those wine glasses? Just as the shakes started, a tuxedoed waiter entered with a tray full of cold beverages -- we hurried over and asked him what, exactly, our choices were. "It's soda!" he said, a little too proudly.
"Mmmm-mm. I'd like to investigate your tax-exempt status."
Even the presence of corrupt-but-lovable lobbyist Grover Norquist was not enough to keep us at that reception a minute longer. We hurried to the hotel bar, which was filled with college football fans and a couple other guys with press badges.
Apple Cider. APPLE CIDER, people.
The view from the hotel bar. That guy's badge identifies him as a wayward sinner.
So, the dinner. We sat at a table that was ostensibly for "media." Our tablemates were a talk radio host whose name, station, and city escape us, three or four Focus on the Family employees, and two homeschooled teenagers. They were all quite friendly, of course. Almost everyone was very friendly, as long as they'd never heard of Wonkette.
Then some pastor who sounded exactly like James Mason read a prayer (in which he implored us to look God in the face while imploring Him to bless Tony Perkins, as we kept saying to ourselves, "I want you listen carefully, Quilty -- you're going to die.").
The food, by the way, was fantastic. Filet mignon, salmon, and garlic mashed potatoes, with a sinfully rich (you see what we did there?) "chocolate orange custard tart" for dessert. And not a drop of wine. FRC Action is probably funded by Coors, either directly or indirectly, so we're totally justified in harping on this point.
Then Newt Gingrich came up to give a speech full of crazy and irrelevant talk about the Cold War, and we went out for a smoke break. We heard precisely half of a story involving Focus on the Family head Dr. James Dobson hunting a bear in the nude (and pictures of said trip), but we think this was a joke whose setup we missed and not the makings of a lengthy Wonkette investigation.
The Americans United for Life table had the hottest girls.
After dessert, the waiters brought out the coffee. We took a cup. When the waiter moved on to the guy to our right, he said, "do you have decaf?"
"This is decaf!" replied the waiter. We nearly choked, and began checking attendees' hands for black X's.
The President of Chik-fil-A won an award for his work advancing the (his words) "Marriage MOO-vement" and we wished we had access to his stash.
THEN! Representative Katherine Harris arrived, to the strains of "My Country 'tis of Thee." The fact that that song is the same as "God Save the Queen" could not have been an accident. Kitty was dressed conservatively for her, in a form-fitting little black dress and dangerous stilettos ("conservatively" = "no visible cleavage"). Her speech was delivered at an amphetamine pace (she is quite slim...) and was, naturally, chock fulla crazy.
"The route I'm walking right now is a thousand times tougher than the recount.... Someone said, 'it'll take a god for you to win,' and I said, 'good.'"
Talking about some mentor in her heady youth: "I had a chance to literally sit at his feet."
On Porter Goss: "All that's necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. And Porter was a great man."
"Think about the changes we could have when we take away one vote of his and add one of ours -- a difference of two." (w/ holding up of two fingers)
Kitty also repeated the classic line about "the lie we were told about 'separation of church and state'" and added a new bit on how "34% of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution come directly from the Bible."
Kitty, who'd entered to warm but not thrilling applause, won everyone over with her patented brand of crazy, and received a hearty standing O for her fever dream of a speech.
Soon after she finished, the smarmy Emcee came back on and said "If you liked Katherine Harris, you'll love Larnelle Harris!" Larnelle (sp?) is apparently some sort of nu-gospel singer. If our friendly tablemates had tolerated our smoke breaks, sarcastic asides, and inability to belong up to that point, the game was clearly up once we hurriedly excused ourselves in the middle of our National Anthem.
The Washington Briefing [FRC Action]