Thursday, December 25, 2008

Unto You Is Born This Day

Luke 2: 1-14

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.



Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:30 AM

Friday, December 19, 2008

Paul Weyrich: Someone Who Led the Fight for All We Believe In

Joyce and Paul Weyrich
Joyce and Paul Weyrich in 1992

It was with great sadness that we at the National Center for Public Policy Research learned today of the passing of conservative leader Paul Weyrich.

Paul was never officially affiliated with the National Center, but we learned so much from Paul over the years that when we purchased our national headquarters building in 2004, we named the first floor in his honor. That should tell you something about the appreciation we have for Paul, as nonprofit organizations usually reserve naming opportunities for major financial donors. It also will tell you something when I say that we haven't yet named any of the other floors.

I first met Paul in 1982, when I gave him a call at the suggestion of another conservative leader. The National Center for Public Policy Research was brand-new back then, and no one had ever heard of it. Paul was about 39 and already prominent; I was 22 and utterly anonymous. He was out when I called, but he called me back within an hour. He had no idea who I was, but he still called me back himself. Many would have had an underling do it.

That week I started attending the coalition meetings run by Paul's Coalitions for America. That's where Paul's genius for leadership really showed. Those meetings were the center of the conservative movement. In the pre-Internet days; these meetings were by far the main information-sharing mechanism for many dozens of influential organizations and elected officials, but there was a lot more to them than that. Information about a problem or goal on a public policy issue would be shared by one of typically 5-8 guest speakers per meeting. The speaker would make one or more specific action requests (and woe to the speaker who came without action requests). Then the organization representatives assembled would volunteer to help (and woe to us if enough of us didn't). And then Paul typically would add his two cents: he'd name other things that could be done; other people who could help; offer to call legislators or others on the speaker's behalf to move roadblocks, or whatever else might be needed. On the fly, he'd design a complete victory strategy and recruit a team to get the victory accomplished.

Oh, and did I mention that the whole thing would be done in ten minutes or less? That was the rule. Speakers had five minutes to convince everyone about the seriousness of their issue and what help they needed to prevail or, well, Paul would help. And when he did, let me tell you, you'd be able to hear him in the back.

The news media typically describes Paul as the founder of the Heritage Foundation, as the CEO of the Free Congress Foundation, and as the major Religious Right figure who coined the phrase "Moral Majority." All true, but can you imagine the impact of Paul's meetings, week-in, week-out, held from the 1970s and continuing today? And the impact made, then and for years after, by the conservatives who sat in his meetings and learned how Washington works? How it really works?

Another thing about Paul that set him apart from many is that he was no toady. If you were a prominent elected official and you squished out or made lame excuses, Paul let you have it, no matter how many years of seniority you might have or how famous your name might be. (In fact, the more power you had, the harder he might be on you, because he expected more from those who ought to know better.) Typical Washington behavior is to toady-up to power (part of the reason so many of our legislators are so bad). Not Paul's style at all.

I remember a meeting Paul attended in the White House back in 1983. We had assembled a half-dozen prominent Congressmen and Senators and a group of heads of conservative organizations to urge then-President Reagan to stay stalwart against the nuclear freeze (the left-wing suicidal lunacy of the day) and to use his presidential bully pulpit more often to condemn the proposed freeze. We all talked about our meeting strategy before the President came in, mutually agreeing that we would speak strongly and forcefully, firmly and specifically listing examples of opportunities we thought the Reagan Administration was failing to take that could help bring the American people to its side on these critical defense issues. It was also agreed that the most prominent people in the room, the well-known defense-hawk Congressmen and Senators, would take the lead. The rest of us would back them up.

But when President Reagan came in, a funny thing happened. In Reagan's presence, most of the Congressmen and Senators morphed into wimps. The heartfelt concerns they had for how the Reagan White House was conducting public outreach on defense issues were not spoken of. In their place were platitudes of praise. Despite being Congressmen and Senators (and well above average ones at that), they were too intimidated by the President's presence to be constructively critical.

Do you suppose the same thing happened to Paul? (You won't suppose so if you are among those who knew him.) In tone and demeanor, he was every bit as respectful to the President as were the elected officials, but when Paul talked, the President understood what was on the table. Paul wasn't the only one of us to speak, but his firm approach carried the day. Had we left it to the elected officials, the meeting would have been little more than a photo op.

I was present in only a very minute fraction of all the meetings Paul attended with powerful people over the years, but I believe his willingness to be frank when needed about the real issues (the hoary cliche', 'speak truth to power,' for once, fits) would have given many others who otherwise might have been intimidated into silence the courage to speak. Only the Lord knows how much good has been done.

I suppose you could almost call Paul a populist leader, not in the sense that he was led by public opinion (Paul was led by principles and merits), or ever motivated by anti-intellectualism, but in the sense that he held everyone to the same equal standard regardless of lofty position or lack of it: You'd better pitch in and stick to your conservative principles, or you'd hear about it, whether you were a Senator or you were an intern. But if you did do those things, you could get as much praise as an intern as you would as a Senator (maybe more).

I posted at the top of this post a picture of Paul with his wife, Joyce, I took at a party in 1992. I think it captures Paul's vibrancy and personality more than stock photos. You could not do what he did, and he did a lot, without being constantly active and working very, very hard.

Many of the anecdotes I've heard and read about Paul today are only about conservatism. I bet here's one you aren't seeing in many places: Paul could make up bad -- and I mean really bad -- puns better than anyone.

Paul also was there for friends. There are many people who were much closer to Paul than I was, but on one occasion some years back when I was going through a rough patch, Paul called and told me that if I was ever having a sleepless night, and needed somebody to talk to, even if it was 2 or 3 in the morning, I could call him and he'd talk with me for as long as it took to make me feel better. To demonstrate he really meant it, he then sent me a hand-written note in the mail with the same message.

I never called him in the middle of the night, but there were many times I remembered him making the offer. I can only imagine how many times he made a similar offer to others, but I bet he helped many. Journalists covering Paul's passing are telling us Paul coined the phrase "moral majority," and so he did, but which of these things is a greater epitaph?

Not counting the Christmas card we received from Paul and his wife today, the last time David and I heard from Paul was yesterday. He sent us a handwritten note thanking us for something he needn't have thanked us for at all. Most of the note was personal, but it included this one paragraph about policy:
Guys, the Obama Administration will be difficult for us as Obama tolerates no opposition. We must win the so-called 'Fairness Doctrine' fight. If not we can kiss goodbye to any revival in 2010 and 2012. I know you will help.
That was Paul. Even gone, he leads us.



Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:15 AM

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Obama Administration on Science

From Melanie Scarborough:
Carol Browner, the latest Clinton administration retread to be tapped by Barack Obama, will serve in the newly created and still undefined role of White House ‘energy czar.’  If her statements earlier this year are any indication, she also will serve as court jester...
Read it all here.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:33 PM

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I Wouldn't If I Were Him

Jesse Jackson Jr. says, "I want my name back."

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:47 PM

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Here's Hoping They Don't Go Into Medicine

Animal welfare activists kill 5,000 chickens.

P.S. I spoke too soon. They may be killing humans already.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 6:53 PM

A Way to Help End the Recession


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 8:16 AM

Monday, December 08, 2008

Marlboro Didn't Sell as a Pinko Brand

Project 21 Senior Fellow Deneen Borelli spoke on the future of the conservative movement at the 2008 Restoration Weekend. FrontPage Magazine has now reprinted a transcript of her remarks, along with those of others from the conference.

From Deneen's remarks:
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Restoration Weekend. I am feeling restored! I don't know about you. I'm glad to be here among this distinguished panel, and I think it's very important for us to talk about the future of the conservative movement. And briefly I'm going to describe the reasons I see the recent political defeat and the outline of a strategy that will carry us to victory.

Now, let me state the obvious: we lost, okay? During this past election the conservatives suffered a significant political loss. Not only did Obama win all the states that Kerry and Gore won, he also won the traditional red states like Virginia and North Carolina. Obama won by an electoral landslide, with momentum that carried him with a good number of Senate and House seats. In summary, using a football analogy, it was a rout, and we got rolled!

So, where do conservatives go from here? Let's start with the good news. I don't believe the election was a referendum on conservative principles. How could it be when John McCain was the candidate? While McCain is a true American hero, he's not a conservative. We remember legislation like McCain-Feingold, McCain-Lieberman – I think you know where I'm going with this.

Similarly Obama's victory was not a referendum for liberalism. Obama won simply because the majority of the America people were mad at the Bush Administration. And, boy, are they going to get the change that they never seen before in their lives!

Now, one major problem is that too many Republican politicians have abandoned the conservative principle of limited government. From a marketing perspective, some of our Republican politicians have muddled the message of the conservative brand.

Since I have more experience in marketing than politics, I view our challenges chiefly from a marketing perspective. To summarize, brand management failed, the conservative market share dropped, and the competition forged ahead.

Now, the conservative brand has been mismanaged from our sales force, Republican elected officials. Over the last eight years we've seen an explosion in spending: the expansion of government under Bush's watch, Ted Stevens from Alaska, the "bridge to nowhere"….

Going back to marketing basics, the success of any brand depends on whether the product or service can successfully deliver on its core attributes, consistency, quality, and also deliver as a feel good for a person to relate to that product.

So, tell me something, how many of you were proud to wear the McCain button? How many of you are happy to get those RNC donation letters in the mail still? Not too many. The bottom line is this, the future of the conservative movement depends on communicating the brand's key attributes: limited government, national security, and low taxes.

Now, by adhering to these themes through policies and actions, the conservative movement can generate political momentum to win elections. Now, given this fractured state, the conservative brand needs to be reinvented.

First, we need to demand that our Republican politicians communicate these core values. Knowing that once elected, that some officials tend to go to the dark side, and so we need to establish a mechanism for them to enforce these values.

Our conservative leaders need to be reminded that actions have consequences. To ensure compliance we need to establish a grassroots effort of quality control, sticking with the marketing theme.

Individuals can blog, write letters, attend townhall meetings, and report on what our elected officials are doing and saying. And, believe me, elected officials tend to have e-mail alerts that let them know that their name is in the press. They don't like negative press. So if an elected official claims to be conservative, and they don't live-up to their words, they should be recalled, just like a defective product.

The conservative movement must also reach new demographics, something that has been mentioned already by some of our panelists. Now, Obama got 67% of the Hispanic vote. He also got 95% of the black vote. Now, this is where an extension of the brand is necessary. Copying the way consumer products are marketed to different groups, the advertising of conservative values need to be tailored to reach new demographic audiences.

Now, unfortunately, many blacks voted for Obama because of his race and not his policies. Now, tragically, Obama's policies will propagate government dependency in urban communities. His overall message is, "Ask not what you can do for your country, but ask what your country can do for you," the opposite of John Kennedy's message.

With all the problems in urban communities -- failing schools, single parent households, unemployment, drugs, gangs, big government cannot solve these problems. So to chip away at Obama's overwhelming popularity, the conservative movement needs a top, down and bottom, up approach.

Now, from the top, conservatives need to communicate the conservative message by, let's say, a popular, well-known, trusted black leader. Maybe in the entertainment world, sports world, media world. Oprah Winfrey comes to mind, but we all know where Oprah Winfrey stands. And if she would only say, "School choice is great," can you imagine what a game changer that would be? Someone like Lynn Swann comes to mind.

From the bottom, conservative principles can be communicated through popular mediums which were referenced up here, such as YouTube, videos, music videos. It is a hit means of reaching our younger generation to get them involved, educated and informed about the issues. To this point, there are several popular videos on YouTube right now, where there's a young Black man, a formal liberal mind you, who raps about the message on the conservative movement. If you're interested, you can find it on Macho Sauce Productions, and he's got a really positive message. I'm hoping it's connecting with the younger generation. And we have Joe the Plumber.

So, in conclusion, despite the recent election and the overwhelming support of demographic groups for Obama, anything is possible. I didn't think I would be standing up here talking a year ago, so anything is possible.

But I'd like to leave you with this thought. I wonder how many of you know that the Marlboro brand cigarette was formerly marketed towards women, complete with a pink filter. It had a pink filter to match lipstick. Now, in the '60s the brand was remarketed, totally transformed, with the Marlboro country western theme. Now, ladies, you remember the cowboys – the handsome men, tall, chiseled features. It was the creativity of this vigilant brand management that helped Marlboro maintain its brand identity, its brand loyalty, and the 50% market share that it still has today.

So as we look towards the future of the conservative movement, the brand must be revitalized, and it must be communicated, and we must stay on message with our values: limited government, low taxes, and national security. These are the powerful concepts that can attract newcomers and reinforce brand loyalty.

Thank you.
Marlboro didn't sell as a pinko brand. There's a lesson in that.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:33 AM

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Will Economic Crisis Make Obama Think Twice About Global Warming Regulation?

Senior Fellow Tom Borelli's latest column examines President-elect Obama's attitude toward global warming regulation.

He asks, "Will the economic crisis make Obama think twice about cap-and-trade?, and answers: "There’s no sign yet that it will."

Read it all here.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:16 PM

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