Losing Andrew Breitbart: Some Thoughts


There are only a few days in a lifetime like this. September 11, 2001 and the day Ronald Reagan passed away come to mind. And now, I am among a legion of others who will never forget where we were the day we lost Andrew Breitbart.

I had just left home for a day full of appointments…was five minutes into my trip…and then Glenn Beck got the news: “Andrew Breitbart is…dead.” I had to pull off the road, overcome by shock and sorrow.

Unlike many of my friends, I can’t claim to have been close to Andrew Breitbart. I have seen him many times and we’ve spoken on a couple of occasions, but I’m confident he wouldn’t have known my name. His influence on my life, though, was unsurpassed in so many respects. For one, we did share a host of mutual friends: Kurt Schlichter (& “Hot Wife” Irina Moises), Breitbart TV editor Larry O’Connor, Stage Right Show producer Meredith Dake, Big Journalism contributor Ben Howe, and of course, my dear friend Jenny Erikson…

This could go on and on. Because all of us in social media loved Breitbart. If there is a constant theme I’ve heard echoed all day, it would be fearlessness. Breitbart never held back; he gave it everything he had, whether skewering the Left or partying with his friends on the Right.

I’m a reader. As I shared with another mutual friend, Sarah Smith (@mamaswati on Twitter) earlier today, Breitbart’s 2011 memoir clearly came out just in time. It was one of the literary highlights of summer 2011 for me. I absorbed it at a time when I was working through a lot of changes, including the loss of my job in an unprecedentedly tough economy. The story of Breitbart’s success, despite his languid approach to much of the first half of his life (which he shared very candidly in his book) gave me hope that maybe there was still a role for me to play in the fight for my country, despite recent personal setbacks.

I ran into Breitbart a few weeks later at the Smart Girl Summit in St. Louis. I stepped into the elevator at the Crowne Plaza and there he was, busily texting away on his smart phone. I touched his arm to get his attention and told him how much I had enjoyed his book. He smiled broadly, thanked me and grinned somewhat self-deprecatingly…I couldn’t think of much else to say, so my friend Rick Hornsby chatted with him, and then we all exited the elevator and went our separate ways. At least, I got to express my gratitude…But I wish I’d have had years, decades even, to get to know him even better. The ache of loss is heavy…though not a fraction as severe as the pain is for his wife and four children.

I hate to personalize a day like this, but if I’ve internalized any conviction from our collective sorrow, it is this one: I need to be back in this fight. I have allowed my new career to detract me from blogging and connecting with fellow movement soldiers. I’ve listened to the voice in my head again for far too long that tells me what I say doesn’t matter, that too few care anymore for the country’s future and that the struggle is lost. It’s a lie. I am needed in this cause…and so are thousands upon thousands, yea, millions of you.

For Andrew Breitbart knew and embraced the secret: There are more of us…those who treasure the ideals of the Founders…than there are of them…the progressive detractors of the nation’s heritage.

So as long as I live, I will employ the Breitbart name as a rallying cry for freedom’s cause and I will never forsake this fight for the Constitution, for liberty…for the United States of America.

Rest in peace, Andrew Breitbart. We will NEVER forget you.

Book Review: “Democracy Denied: How Obama Is Ignoring You And Bypassing Congress…”, by Phil @Kerpen

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After reading just one chapter of Democracy Denied, I immediately drew a key conclusion: This is not just another richly deserved expose of Barack Obama’s wretched record. Not that it would have been wrong if that was all Phil Kerpen had accomplished with his inaugural literary effort. But he achieves far more than that.   

Kerpen compiles documentation of eight of the most egregiously un-Constitutional offenses of the Obama White House. Then, from the vantage point of having watched it all up close as Vice President for Policy at Americans for Prosperity, Kerpen provides riveting behind-the-scenes detail of how the damage has been implemented and the ensuing devastating fallout. But rather than simply identifying the offenses, the coup de grace that lends his account with the force that it possesses involves steps to solving each of these crises.

For instance, I had never heard of the REINS (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act until Kerpen wrote about it in Chapter 1. Co-sponsored by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Kentucky Congressman Geoff Davis, this bill, if passed into law, has the potential to roll back the size and cost of government as much as any proposed law in my lifetime. In brief, the REINS Act simply proposes that “all rules, regulations, or mandates that require citizen, state or local government financial expenditures must first be approved by the U.S. Congress before they can become effective.”

Kerpen provides the background story of the development of the REINS Act, along with far more details than I can here. There is, however, seismic potential here to force a return to Constitutional government here in a Washington that has run amok amid a chokehold of regulatory oversight. The REINS Act shines a glaring light on the Obama pattern of pivoting to regulatory agencies to implement what he cannot accomplish through the legislative process. But it would do more: short-circuit and even defeat such blatant attempts.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act–better known as Obamacare–comes under heavy fire as the most obvious instance of determined flouting of not only the will of the American majority, but of Constitutional consideration. Kerpen reminds us that the bill that eventually passed was originally touted as a draft bill that could be fixed in conference…but then, Scott Brown was elected to the Senate in Massachusetts. Obama and the Democrats saw no other option than to renege on their promise and to pass a tangled web of medically-based chicanery, laced with contradictions and double talk.

Other Kerpen targets encompass the Dodd-Frank banking bill monstrosity, Obama’s war on the energy industry via support for cap and trade and blocking of new drilling options and the Employee Free Choice Act (“card check”). But the chapter on the largely uncovered vast land grab that the Obama Administration has overseen is an example of the valuable service this volume provides. The breathtaking sweep of the Obama Administration’s thirst for control of private property is astonishingly illustrated, for instance, by the Clean Water Restoration Act. This outrageous legislation would literally “[expand] the jurisdiction of the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of engineers to all the land and all the water in the United States” (emphasis mine). Quite an apt metaphor for the stealthy, yet ever consistent overreach and unquenchable appetite for encroachment that constitutes the attitude of the Obama Administration since January 20, 2009.

Finally, I appreciate that in Democracy Denied, Phil Kerpen repeatedly cites the research of those working in the conservative movement trenches, such as my friends Seton Motley of Less Government and Erik Telford of the Franklin Center. These two and others like them may not yet be names that are known from shore to shore. But Kerpen recognizes where the real toil is done that accomplishes genuine change in the nation. How refreshing!

This is one of the most important books I have read this year. You will be well armed to argue the Election 2012 case if you make it part of your repertoire over your Christmas break.



Post-Herman Cain, Do We Really Want “Fresh, Unconventional, New, etc., etc.” Presidential Candidates?

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It is regrettable that the rise of the Herman Cain phenomenon coincided with a career change for me, to the extent that my first (and likely only) blog post about the campaign is about its spectacular flameout, rather than covering anything that occurred in the interim. There are probably, however, some metaphors in there somewhere that would apply to the execution of the Cain operation from start to finish. I’ll leave it to sager souls than I to figure out what those are.

Herman Cain and his Presidential bid have both been endlessly and somewhat tiresomely rehashed over the last month. He made his decision today to withdraw from the race, which I applaud. It appears that the most recent revelation that he may have, at one time in the past, supplied some cash to Ginger White (the most recent woman to come forward with sexual allegations) and then failed to inform his wife about it probably constituted the final straw in an already flagging White House effort.

Beyond a few questions that, in my mind, remain unanswered (Why would you give another woman than your wife a significant wad of money and not tell her about it? Also, why not go home for a while rather than continuing a speaking tour?), I have no compelling desire to pile on any further. Cain will do what he will do and some of his ardent supporters will back him to the hilt, regardless. So it is with public figures who project charisma and authority and have an engaging life narrative, to boot.

This is the question I’ll be toying with over the following weeks and months, perhaps even longer:

Do we really want what we claim to desire, as a Republican electorate?

Cain’s chief resume enhancement, by his own repeated admissions, was that not only had he succeeded in the private sector; he had never held one elected position. And at the outset, especially, I wondered if in fact that might work in his favor. I think it did, temporarily, and perhaps still holds some allure to a tiny minority of devotees. But Cain’s repeated gaffes in interviews, notably on foreign policy subjects (this and especially this spring oh, so readily to mind), combined with the egregiously inexplicable fumbling of the multiple sexual harassment accusations, ultimately outweighed any advantages his outsider status initially granted him.

I still like the idea (on paper, anyway) of a capable private citizen being elected to the highest office in the land. There is something so…AMERICAN, so ultimately Horatio Alger-esque about the notion that this COULD happen. But is it a realistically possible expectation in our time, after the descent into fiasco by the Cain campaign, witnessed (especially in its final days) by the entire nation?

There is only one caveat that I can see: Some may contend that indeed, such a race could be run and that someone other than Cain could have handled the scrutiny to which he was subjected with greater alacrity and enhanced intuition. Perhaps that is true, but I’m not so sure. It has only been a few short months, after all, since Cain’s biography and credentials were being praised in multiple serious quarters. How squeaky clean he seemed at the time…and my, how things change on a dime.

I have been fairly heavily involved in political activism ever since Barack Obama took office…not nearly as long as some of you, but sufficient time to garner some pertinent observations. And it is increasingly difficult for me not to conclude that at least a minimal amount of government/systemic experience is necessary, in order for a Presidential candidate to dodge the murky shoals that lie in wait for any campaign in these times. I wish I were wrong and I’d be thrilled to be proved so. But that’s my working hypothesis for the moment.

#BlogCon 2011: I Am Not Alone!

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I haven’t blogged for two months. Might as well put it out there and confess it straight up. So when the indefatigable Tabitha Hale of FreedomWorks contacted me and assured me I was still welcome to attend BlogCon 2011 (Twitter hashtagged as #BlogCon11), I was humbled and gratefully accepted the invitation.

I’ve attended enough of these events now that, riveting as many of the presentations are, I simply can’t recount all of the minutiae and do it justice. Or more aptly, I could, but can’t summon the requisite mental tenacity. The following, however, constitutes what I took away from a glorious couple of days.

Andrew Breitbart was not present for #BlogCon11, but he was ably represented by a sizable contingent of his “Bigs” retinue, including Kurt Schlichter and “Hot Wife” Irina Moises, Big Journalism editor, radio host and CNN contributor Dana Loesch and her husband, Chris, BreitbartTV editor and Stage Right Show host Larry O’Connor and his inimitably lovely producer, Meredith Dake, and Big Hollywood editor John Nolte.

Every one of these people brim with ideas and passion, but that wouldn’t matter if they were anxious to hoard the intellectual property they’ve garnered, rather than sharing it with the rest of us. To a man/woman, however, they are all invested not only in their own success, but the ongoing prosperity of the conservative cause. As John Nolte put it, Andrew Breitbart is committed to the idea of building stars through the
vehicles of his “Big” Internet publications. I’ll editorialize and note that he is succeeding spectacularly.

I have been acquainted with Tom and Deneen Borelli of Project 21 and the National Public Policy Center for a while now. They were featured speakers at the mini-BlogCon event FreedomWorks sponsored in Indianapolis this last March. For those who have not met her, Deneen is a black conservative.  I had not, however, heard DeNeen tell her life story up to this point. She only spoke for about 15 minutes right before lunch on
Saturday. But she received the only standing ovation I witnessed during the whole conference. In her own words, “I have been called a house n—-r, a sellout and an Uncle Tom. But I will not back down in this fight for freedom.” Deneen’s new book hits stores in March. Let’s send it to #1 on
the New York Times bestseller list.

My new friend, Kira Davis, is another African-American conservative woman who affirms the fact that truth and opportunity trump race-baiting and blather any day of the week. Kira’s inspiring story of her journey from Left to Right is another narrative that merits a wide audience. In her case, a conservative father-in-law refused to stop asking her probing questions about exactly why she didn’t like George Bush, what the Democratic Party had done for African-Americans, etc. Kira saw the light and is a radiantly eloquent evangelist for the free-market movement.

On another note entirely…I have admired CNBC/Reuters contributor Jim Pethokoukis for some time now because of his astute analysis and timely commentary on free-market economics and current events. I enjoyed his Saturday morning presentation…at least the part for which
I was in my seat. Pethokoukis had probably been speaking for about 5 minutes when I felt a wave of dizziness sweep over me. I didn’t pay it much heed and quaffed a few more sips of coffee. Then the second spasm hit…and I really thought I might pitch over into my seatmate’s lap.

I was spooked enough that I turned promptly to said seatmate, my friend Bethany (Murphy) Mandel of “Commentary” magazine, and asked her to follow me out to the hall where I collapsed into an easy chair. It became abundantly obvious that I was suffering from the same altitude-induced ailment that I had noticed was afflicting a significant number of my New Media colleagues. Bethany plied me with Gatorade, as well as some applesauce and a banana, after extricating the vital statistics  on what nourishment I had consumed that day (which was nil, although I had already imbibed an astounding amount of caffeine).

Bethany’s kindness notwithstanding, I struggled for much of the day Saturday with a raging headache, shortness of breath and dehydration. I have traveled to Colorado countless times throughout my life, but I don’t recall ever struggling with anything of this sort on prior occasions. I don’t care to ever endure it again, either.

Our location in Denver was only a couple of blocks from the 16th Street Mall. Good eating abounded, of course, and we took advantage of it. Friday night, I enjoyed a 12 oz. New York Strip at Marlowe’s, along with Kimberly Haney (@KimberlyHaney on Twitter) and her daughter, along with Jeff Schreiber of America’s Right (@AmericasRight), Jack Nischik (@Mr_Fastbucks), and my friends April Gregory (@AprilDGregory) and
Julie Borowski (@JulieBorowski). The atmosphere and cuisine at Marlowe’s are highly recommended, but be warned that it is more pricey than Outback or Applebees.

On Saturday night, about twice as large a group of us gathered at Pho’s Vietnamese Grill. Jeff Schreiber, April Gregory and Jack Nischik were all back, as well as “Bigs” contributor Mandy Nagy (@Liberty_Chick) and guy pal Scott Jacobs (@AblativMeatshld), John Hawkins of Right Wing News (@johnhawkinsrwn), Amelia Hamilton (@Amelia Hammy, author of a lovely little book you must buy for your kids for Christmas: ), David Hauptmann (aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell), Cord Blomquist (@CordBlomquist…a GOP webmaster extraordinaire whose knowledge on all things tech-related knows no earthly limits), Colorado native and libertarian Michelle Ray (@GaltsGirl) and filmmaker Matt Perdie of @PerdieFilms. Pho’s offers very reasonably priced Vietnamese fare that I would describe as hearty and tasty, though not extraordinarily flavorful unless you aren’t shy about adding your own herbs and spices, which I’m not.

It was good to see Indiana’s own State Treasurer Richard Mourdock making his case at #BlogCon11 as he wages a bid to become Indiana’s next U.S. Senator. Richard is campaigning to upset 35-year GOP veteran Senator Dick Lugar in the May primary next year. As FreedomWorks’ Alex Pappas articulated, Lugar has been around long enough to vote both to bail out New York City in the ’70s and to bail out the banks in the 2000s. He has been part of the problem in Washington, D.C. for a long time and has not been called “Obama’s favorite Republican” without good cause. Mourdock needs your support. Please consider showing it tangibly here.

Perhaps my most cherished memory, however, came at the conclusion of the day yesterday. About 30 of us were crammed into Stephen Kruiser’s suite on the 17th floor of the Crowne Plaza and it was getting on towards midnight when Matt Perdie raised his voice slightly to the dozen or so of us hunkered down around him. His question to us all: “What animates you every day and keeps you involved in the cause?” For the next 20-30 minutes, I listened to my comrades for freedom powerfully articulate the various reasons that keep them fighting in the arena of ideas. I will never forget it. My friend Kathleen McKinley, in her understated, yet confident style, reiterated her belief that we are engaged in an ideological
struggle that pits right against wrong, truth against falsehood and good against evil.

And at the end of the day, this is what #BlogCon11 meant to me. As I sit here on the plane ride home, tears well in my eyes and a lump warms my throat as I realize anew that I am not alone. This has been a year of intense upheaval for me and my family that has included a career change I did not anticipate. But the three days in Denver affirmed my knowledge that I’m a part of a supportive community of activists and friends that are
there to cheer me on and lift me up when I realize again I can’t do it alone. We aren’t just an alliance of political convenience. We’re a family. And I couldn’t be more delighted to know I’m still a member in good standing.

P.S. I know what you’re thinking! What about #OccupyDenver? Exactly…That merits its own post later on…


Four Reasons Why I’m Backing Rick Perry for President


(Photo courtesy of the "American Spectator.")

Eleven days ago, at the RedState Gathering in Charleston, South Carolina, Texas Governor Rick Perry officially announced that he will be a candidate for President in 2012. It was indisputably the most energizing speech of its kind I have heard in 23 years of paying attention to politics. I commented on Twitter a few days later that for me, the race has just now gotten
fun. It had kind of muddled along up to that point, but Rick Perry injected a major adrenaline boost into this contest.

We had been hearing rumors that Perry would jump into the race for a couple of months before he finally made it official. I arrived at a personal point of support for Rick Perry in the 3-4 week run-up to August 13. My enthusiasm for Perry’s candidacy centers around four major factors.

Rick Perry has served as a successful Governor of one of the nation’s largest states for 10 years. The last Presidential race was a choice between two less than desirable options, to say the least. Americans were forced to choose between a community-organizer-turned-politician with a glitzy campaign and a career Senator with some conservative perspectives, mixed with a heavy dose of quasi-progressivism (think McCain/Feingold and cap and trade, for starters).

Of course, that contest itself was small potatoes in comparison to the disaster that the winner of that race has visited upon this country. Barack Obama’s lack of governance credibility has been displayed for a watching world to view over the last 2 ½ years. Obama never looked more like a bystander than he did in the recent debt ceiling fight. While representatives of the two parties tussled, Obama dithered and gawked on the sidelines like a wide-eyed teenager, occasionally interrupting with a sullenly sarcastic rejoinder, but never a genuinely constructive suggestion.

We cannot take the risk again of turning the Presidency over to anyone with no record of executive experience. For that reason, all things being equal, I can’t see myself ever voting again for someone who is a career DC politician when there is an alternative on the ballot who has either governed a state or led a business that was responsible for creating wealth.

Under Rick Perry’s leadership, Texas has flourished, especially in comparison to the rest of the country. Texas has not been exempt from economic difficulty in recent years. The unemployment rate there has risen, just as it has in every other state in the Union. Yet according to Bill Peacock of the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Economic Freedom, on Rick Perry’s watch, Texas has seen a net growth of 1.2 million new jobs.

However, even more astonishing, quoting Peacock once again, “since June 2009…Texas has added 265,300 net jobs, accounting for 45 percent of net U.S. job creation.” (Emphasis mine) In other words, in the heat of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, Texas has managed to generate close to half of the nation’s new employment activity.
Profoundly impressive.

Rick Perry is an unabashed conservative and always has been. I read George W. Bush advisor Karen Hughes’ memoir Ten Minutes from Normal about 8 years ago. Nearly a decade on, I still recall one of her postulates as she discussed
the decision for whom to vote in any given election, “Perfect is not on the ballot.” This is a perennially true axiom and it applies equally for 2012.

Newsflash: Ronald Reagan was not a perfect conservative. Nor have I always been. For that matter, neither have you. The same truth applies to Rick Perry, who is a human being like all of us. Has he deviated at times from the path some of us would rather he walk? Yes. But it is more important to me that a leader admit error and institute a course correction than tout perfectionist aims that cannot be achieved.

Rick Perry has not only proved capable of this; he has also proved to be an instinctive conservative who understands the power of limited government. Furthermore, his promise to “work every day to make Washington, DC as inconsequential to your lives as I can” is as sound a reverberation of conservatism as we have heard encapsulated in one sentence in decades.

Rick Perry is a solid social conservative. He grasps the economic incentives that low taxes and an easing of regulation provides. He will do what must be done to strengthen America’s national defense. In addition, he understands that our debt is crippling our ability to function and, indeed, threatening our very survival. Whether you cheered or cringed, Perry’s
characterization of a potential QE3 (quantitative easing yet again by Bernanke’s Federal Reserve) as “almost treasonous” amply exemplifies the truth of the last sentence.


Rick Perry can take the fight to Barack Obama and I believe he will beat him. The bloom is definitely off the proverbial rose in 2012 for President Obama, but the powers  of incumbency in our system of government are immense. You need only read Craig Shirley’s book on the 1980 election for a reminder of how close the polling was between Reagan and Carter for the bulk of that year.

Ronald Reagan won that year because he was willing to tell the truth about the economic havoc wreaked by a Democrat President who sported a wide grin and harbored a nasty streak. Reagan carried the day with applause lines like the following, “A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. And a recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses HIS.”

The following from Reagan’s 1980 Republican National Convention speech could as easily be uttered in Tampa in 2012, replacing “Carter” with “Obama”:

“Our problems are both acute and chronic, yet all we hear from those in positions of leadership are the same tired proposals for more government tinkering, more meddling and more control — all of which led us to this state in the first place.

“Can anyone look at the record of this administration and say, ‘Well done?’ Can anyone compare the state of our economy when the Carter Administration took office with where we are today and say, ‘Keep up the good work?’ Can anyone look at our reduced standing in the world today and say, ‘Let’s have four more years of this?’” 

It is not a stretch to imagine Rick Perry saying exactly that! I had heard Rick Perry speak and been aware of him for a decade. But my ears perked up when I heard him utter these words at the American Conservative Conference in New Orleans:

“We need to stop apologizing about stemming the tide of entitlement mind-set that’s out there…Our party cannot be all things to all people. It can’t be. And our loudest opponents on the left are never gonna like us so let’s quit trying to curry
favor with ‘em!”

The time for kid glove treatment of an immature, petulant, economically clueless President is long past. The nation is in dire straits and it is time to be forthright about who bears the lion’s share of the blame for its ruin: the current occupant of the White House, Barack Obama. We need a candidate who is unafraid to expose the media charade that catapulted Barack Obama into power.

The right candidate for 2012 will combine a revealing portrait of where the past has taken us with a vision of what can be again if freedom is restored and the shackles are removed from the American economy. It will take a daily, disciplined, undaunted effort, but Rick Perry is up to the challenge. He is a proven leader. And he can win. I am proud to support him.

Twitter Personality of the Week #48: 10 Questions for Ericka Andersen (@ErickaAndersen)

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With a fair amount of regularity, I like to turn the Twitter Personality spotlight back to my own state and profile a fellow Hoosier. It has
been a few months since I did so; I think the last selection to hail from Indiana was Fingers Malloy. This week, we feature a Hoosier-turned-DC-resident who has made Indiana conservatives proud by making a positive difference in the nation’s capital: Ericka Andersen.

With my Dad and sister.

I first met Ericka last fall when she was working for the GOP House Leadership team, led at the time by Indiana’s most well-known
Congressman, Mike Pence. In early September, Ericka convened a gathering  right in the Capitol Building of bloggers from across the country that served as the official opening event for the first annual BlogCon, sponsored by FreedomWorks. I was favorably impressed as I observed her professional demeanor firsthand, since she was responsible for arranging the logistics of the event.

I have continued to be pleased with Ericka’s comprehension of the increasingly integral role that social media plays in the conservative
movement. Since moving over to the Heritage Foundation a few months ago, she has maintained outreach to New Media outlets around the country. But Ericka isn’t simply an observer of the blogging scene; she is a bona fide participant who understands the medium in a way only those immersed in it can.

There is a decent chance, though, that none of the above would matter a whole lot if Ericka wasn’t a luminously kind and gracious woman. But she is. I’ve found Ericka Andersen to be that radiant type of person you always enjoy getting to talk to for a few minutes…still brimming with a sense of wonder and joy, rather than hardened by the cynicism that can be prevalent in Washington. Keep reading and I believe you’ll concur with my assessment.

10 Questions for Ericka Andersen

Ericka and Rick...who occupies a signature role in her life!

1. It’s about time I profiled someone else from Indiana! I know you’re an IU alumnus, but did you grow up in the state?

Actually, I was born in Witchita, Kansas, where my parents lived for a short period of time when they were young. I only lived there for a
year and then moved to my parents’ home town of Bloomington, Indiana – where I remained until the end of college in 2005!

2. What led you to DC and eventually to the point where you worked on Capitol Hill for a few years?

After college, I wasn’t sure what career path I would take. I majored in Journalism, but just didn’t see myself becoming a typical reporter. It was at this time that I was becoming interested in conservative politics –  mostly reading Townhall.com and the Drudge
Report daily.  I had to make a decision about starting a real career, so I applied for an internship in DC with the National Journalism Center and was placed at the Washington Examiner. Little did I know how far NJC would take me. They have an amazing class of alumni and are so well respected within the conservative movement. My stint there really helped introduced me to lots of influential and important players. Eventually, I landed a job reporting at Human Events – a place where I continued to rub shoulders with so many well respected conservative leaders. I had the opportunity to interview Senators and Presidential candidates.  It was a dream come true. After that, I took the chance to work for a conservative startup publication called Culture11, which was spearheaded by Bill Bennett. In fact, Bennett interviewed me for my job and I was ecstatic to start on this new project. Unfortunately, it didn’t last. I moved on to Capitol Hill after that – getting a blessed job in the House Republican Conference under Chairman Mike Pence.

With Indiana Congressman Mike Pence, while serving the House GOP Leadership team..

I initially applied for the job  because I really respected Pence and because he was from Indiana. It was there that my career in social media and communications began to take off a bit more. I had a wonderful experience on the Hill and really enjoyed working so closely with Members of Congress and being inside all the excitement.

3. Tell us about your current role at the Heritage Foundation.

I’m currently on the online communications team at Heritage. I work primarily with our social media – Facebook & Twitter  — to develop online strategy and deliver the Heritage message in an effective and wide reaching way. I keep up with what’s happening in the new media world and try to come up with ideas we can use to get our message out. I also help do blogger outreach with the same folks (and new ones being added) I’ve been working with for several years. The great thing about my jobs has been that I continue working for the same cause, so I’m able to keep my contacts fresh and utilize them everywhere I go. It’s been great keeping up those relationships and working with folks who are truly online activists. I also write for our blog, The Foundry, and generally try to come up with new ways to increase our traffic, increase reader interaction and make the Foundry the best product we can.

Two good friends!

4. If you were asked for 3 formative influences (aside from your parents) who have led to the development of your conservative worldview, who would they be?

This is a tough one for me because my life’s influences aren’t typically politically related. Stories I’ve seen over the years of entrepreneurs in my own family (there are a lot of them!) struggling to build a business and finding success in that have had a strong influence on me. I’ve always been inspired by the writings of great conservative thinkers like Buckley, Bill Bennett, people like Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan, of course. All the great success stories in life – of people that overcame hardship, disabilities, overwhelming setbacks and mere impossibilities – those are all cases for conservatism, in my opinion. They are about hard work, self reliance, determination, pride, confidence, strength.  These attributes, of course, are still valued today, but the encouragement to reach for them has  been dulled by the idea that the government can and will take care of many things for you. There are people that need help, there are safety nets that must be in place…there is a right place for government, but the culture of apathy and dependence has really begun to take over. I think pride in oneself, in one’s work, has been really lost rather recently. That’s a little off topic but…I could go on!

5. You’ve recently started a very attractive food blog with lots of tasty-looking recipes that I’m eager to try! What led to this decision?

Thanks for mentioning my new blog! It’s actually food and fitness, as I also write about my marathon training and nutrition. One of my
good friends started one and I began reading hers, which linked to other food/fitness blogs. Well, I became addicted to reading these things! I enjoyed reading about women whose lives were balanced, full and focused on health, fitness and good food.  It was like I
discovered an entire community of people I could connect with in a way I never had. I kind of felt like I was discovering the Internet for the first time! So I took a blog that I had previously used for personal political postings and made into an apolitical food and fitness blog, where I try new recipes and basically share the details of my life. That’s everything from Birthday parties and vacations to book reviews, personal essays and more.

6. Have you always been an avid fitness fanatic and do you run every day or do you skip a morning every once in a while?

In Chicago to run the Marathon there.

I have always been interested in keeping fit, but started running in 2003.  I always kept it up, but in 2006, I started thinking I might like to run a marathon. It seemed daunting, but not impossible. When my sister ran her first marathon in 2007, the urge got stronger – so, I signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon. I did not train very well for this race, but was still able to run it in a decent time. Since then, I’ve run two other marathons and will be running 2 more later this year. I do not run everyday….my legs get tired! I run 3-4 days a week and usually, just one of those is over 6 miles. Marathon training keeps you on a good schedule so your legs do not get too worn out.
Right now, long Saturday runs are reaching over 16 miles, so it’s getting tough! After my marathons this year, I plan to take a month off from running.

7. Please share some of your favorites in the following pastimes, that you’ve come to enjoy: Books, Movies, Musical Artists, FOODS (and throw a few random categories in here, too!)

I’m a book fanatic…I read everything: fiction, nonfiction, biographies, chick lit, classics. I just finished both Anna Karenina and the latest Jennifer Weiner book. I’m in a book club with a bunch of girls and we have a blast!

I love country music….it is so unique from any other kind of music and I just love the community you see in the country music sphere. They seem so much less pretentious and more down to earth than any other industry. Their music tells a story and it just makes me so happy – and nostalgic. My high school and college years were filled with some awesome nights, all to a soundtrack of Hank Williams Jr, Brad Paisley, George Strait, Montgomery Gentry and more.

Everyone who knows me knows my all time favorite thing is dark chocolate. I love it more than probably any other food. If you put dark
chocolate and peanut butter together, I’m in heaven. I have a major sweet tooth and probably eat chocolate every single day. I also love sweet potatoes!

Traveling in Lebanon.

I have a passion for traveling. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Africa, India, Europe, Venezuela, Lebanon and more. I am intrigued by other parts of the world and inspired by what I’ve seen though. I believe it has given me a deeper perspective about the world and an appreciation for other cultures.

8. You’re still young, but you’ve been in Washington,  DC, long enough to witness some history up close! What do you call to mind when you think of both the trials and joys that come with participation in the conservative movement?

It can be frustrating because conservative opinions are stereotyped SO much in the news. Not to focus too much on the “liberal media”
but…when they zero in on issues like abortion and gay rights, it takes away from the WIDE ARRAY of issues conservatives care about. Social issues get too much focus in the media, in my opinion. Also, just the stereotypes that come from the label “conservative,” in general. In DC, you can go places where when people hear you are a Republican, and it’s like you are a foreign creature. Often, I’ve heard, “you’re not so bad for a Republican.” Or people have been surprised that I’m nice and have compassion for others! The
misconceptions are endless. People who think conservatives want to get rid of EVERY kind of government help or are simply completely ignorant to the long term goals or reasons behind why some conservative policies seem harsh. There’s a big picture that most people don’t take the time to identify.

9. Are you a person of faith and should religious conviction play a role in politics?

I am a Christian. Religious conviction will always play some role in the decisions people make in politics, whether they think they are or not. I don’t think policy or legislation should be guided by a certain religion, though. In fact, I really keep my politics separate from my
religion completely because I don’t think they mix.  Though I will say I dislike when liberals use the Bible verses about feeding the poor and hungry as an excuse for the federal government “taking care” of everyone. I believe that verse applies to individuals and God is commanding us as individuals to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, etc. To me, it is so clear that Jesus is speaking to each person, not to some vague, faceless government. I don’t think Jesus would have affiliated with a political party though there is a need for good people to be involved in politics and ensure that they are protecting the important principles of this country.

10. What would you like to be doing in 10 years?

In 10 years, I would like to have a family and be raising my kids – as well as continue being involved in causes for which I’m passionate. I will always write so I’d love to be a stay at home mom and do freelance writing or have a job where I can work from home doing something that I think matters to the world as a whole.

Twitter Personality of the Week #47: 10 Questions for Rafe ________ (@Diggrbiii)

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I’m not sure when the elusive provocateur with the ubiquitous presence whom we call @Diggrbiii burst onto the Twitter scene. He was impossible to ignore or underestimate, due to the reckless abandon with which he pursued the perennial offenders on the Left, such as Eric Boehlert and Oliver Willis of Media Matters for America. His zeal to take the fight to their ilk was so immense it couldn’t fail to impress and galvanize others.

You’ll notice right away that in contrast to the typical “10 Questions” feature, there are no photos this time around. I don’t even know @Diggrbiii’s last name. He has well-founded reasons for the secretive nature of his identity, which are enumerated below. But @Diggrbiii is definitely the social type, and if you talk to him on Twitter, chances are he’ll dash off a reply. So if you want to know all the pertinent info on him that he keeps obscured, start getting acquainted now.

The characteristic that I appreciate most about @Diggrbiii is that he trains his rhetorical powder where it is most effective: on progressives and their deeply flawed ideology. He doesn’t waste resources on the circular firing squad that, at times, paralyzes the Right. Also, as gifted as he is at scornful rejoinders, props are due @Diggrbiii for his ability to marshal scholarly sources when needed in defense of his arguments. One need only peruse his regular Big Journalism contributions in order to discern that he not only comedically, but capably skewers the Left.

There are many with whom I enjoy interacting on Twitter, but only a handful I would characterize as “must follows.” @Diggrbiii is on that list.

10 Questions for Rafe _______ (@Diggrbiii)

1. You have made a name for yourself on Twitter by absolutely taking it to the liberals, relentlessly skewering their lack of logic. Has this bold, in-your-face approach always characterized your general demeanor?

You might be surprised by this, but in “real life,” I’m very laid back and while I’m definitely opinionated, I’m not very confrontational. I will usually only talk politics with people I know are conservatives because I’d rather not make my friends who aren’t conservatives feel stupid. I do have a couple of friends who are Democrats (no raging liberals, mind you – they’re moderates) whom I tease about their awful decision to vote for Obama, but for the most part, I steer clear of getting in their faces about it – it’s really hard sometimes, too. I’m pretty sure they regret it now. Everyone who knows me knows I’m a Republican. They also know I’m a no-nonsense kind of guy so there’s an unwritten rule that if you don’t want to get an earful, don’t bring Lefty talking points to the table because I know them already.

So the short answer is no. My “bold, in-your-face approach” does not characterize my general demeanor.

2. Many may not know this, but you’re an American of Hispanic descent. As conservatives, we don’t go out of our way to highlight ethnicity, but we do celebrate the diversity within our ranks. Does your heritage impact your ideology?

Big time. But it isn’t my heritage in the sense that I’m Hispanic. It’s my specific background and where my parents are from. Both my parents were born in the Dominican Republic and lived there until their early teens. They didn’t meet until after they came here to the United States. If you know about the DR, you know that back in the fifties, it was ruled by a dictator (Rafael Trujillo). My parents were both young children when he was assassinated (by a group that included a member of a family one of my aunts on my mother’s side married into, by the way).  Trujillo left that country devastated and that’s why my parents’ families left to come to the US. Even though the dictator was gone, the corruption in the government remained and the situation was very unstable – still is, to a certain extent.

I was told of the horrors of the regime at an early age. Because of that, my parents unknowingly instilled in me a healthy skepticism of big, intrusive government. This is why I said that it wasn’t my ethnic heritage that impacted my ideology. I think I would have been the same if my parents were from some old Soviet bloc country instead of the Dominican Republic.

Also, while my parents definitely cherished their country of origin and the culture of their youth, they came to the US and became Americans. Not hyphenated American, just Americans. There were never any conflicting loyalties in my house.  We were Americans living in the greatest country in the history of mankind. So as a kid, when I coupled the thought of what my parents lived through with my being born here in the US, my sense of patriotism (and good fortune) was very strong and my belief in limited government and individual freedom defined me. I felt lucky to be born here. I never took it for granted.

3. Where do you hail from now and where did you spend your growing up years?

I currently live in Northern Virginia, but I was born and raised in New York City. I was born in Manhattan (Spanish Harlem, natch), we moved to the Bronx briefly and when I was school aged we moved to Queens. We moved around a lot because the cheapest places to live were also high crime areas. Each move was a step towards a better neighborhood as my father moved up in his career and eventually started his own company.

I spent the longest stretch of time in Jamaica, Queens, living there from 2nd grade to 8th grade – private Catholic school, too. It was an interesting childhood. We did all the normal things city kids do. We played stickball and touch football in the streets and basketball at the park. We’d go on subway rides for no reason, and we got into graffiti and breaking (we never called it “break dancing”). We’d have egg wars with other blocks in the neighborhood on Halloween, and we’d ransack abandoned cars that car thieves would dump at the park up the street. The usual stuff. Then there were the occasional quarter-mile sprints I would do while running away from older kids trying to steal the McDonald’s dinner I was sent to get. Or the all too frequent trips around the neighborhood with my father to get the bike that some thug knocked me off of and rode away with. Good times. All joking aside, it wasn’t that bad. This was back in the days
when fights were settled with fists primarily. Guns and knives didn’t start to become the norm until I was in high school and we were already living in a
better neighborhood –Woodside. Then it was smooth sailing (said partially in jest – those who know Woodside know what I’m talking about). High school –also Catholic – was four years of me staying out of major trouble, playing baseball, soccer and volleyball, and getting accepted to college (Penn State) in another state so I could break free of the NYC trap. Too many older kids I knew had never even left the city and it showed. I wasn’t going to be one of those guys.

I chuckle now, thinking back on those days and seeing the wannabe thugs out here in suburbia. They wouldn’t last a week where I grew up.

4. Have you always been a conservative and how would you define the word?

I’ll answer the second part first. Conservatism, to me, is the belief in the concept of limited government and free enterprise. The belief in the civil society where the government exists to keep things orderly, not to run people’s lives. Conservatism is the belief that individuals are born with rights which
are not granted by government. Okay, I’ll spare you the recitation of the Declaration of Independence. It basically boils down to this: Government is a
creation of man and therefore imperfect. A good government is one that is limited to a defined set of duties to advance the cause of individual liberty,
protect individual God-given rights, and protect individual property (the fruits of one’s labor). Those aren’t necessarily three different concepts. I just wanted to make sure there were no assumptions if I just said “individual liberty.”

And yes, I have always been a conservative.

5. I know you’re a bit reticent about aspects of your identity for very understandable reasons. But I’ve heard you are a family man and I know that has to be important to you. What can you tell us about them?

Let’s get the anonymity thing out of the way first since I’m sure everyone is dying to know (heh): The reason I’m anonymous online is primarily because of the industry I work in and what I do (which I’ll explain in greater detail in question 8). I’ve actually had people try to figure out who I am so they could “out” me and while I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t get fired, I’d rather not take the risk. Why? Because of my family. (Nice segue, huh?)

I’ve been married for 10 (11 in September) years to a wonderful, loving, beautiful (literally, she’s hot) woman who is a pediatric nurse practitioner. Yes, it was love at first sight. We’ve been together for a little over 13 years. I thank God daily for the circumstances that brought me to Northern Virginia by way of Penn State. It meant dealing with a very bad relationship for a few years, but the end result has been a blessing.

We have four incredibly smart, incredibly stubborn, and incredibly beautiful (they take after their mom) children. Three girls, aged 9,7, and 5. And my son who just turned 3. Yes, I’m fully aware that I will have three girls in high school at the same time for a year. I’m blocking that out from my mind as much as possible. Also, shopping for a shotgun.

They keep us busy. Really busy.

6. You write quite regularly for Big Journalism, one of Andrew Breitbart’s online publications. I think the Bigs and Andrew Breitbart specifically are the new media sensation of this decade. How do you feel about being involved with this enterprise?

It’s an honor to be able to contribute to the Bigs. I’m a huge fan of Andrew Breitbart because of his no-holds-barred approach to taking on the institutional Left. I’m also a huge fan of Dana Loesch (editor of BigJournalism), who also has the same approach to dealing with the Left. It is a thrill to be able to fight along with them in whatever way I can.

I’ve been observing and commenting on bias in the “mainstream” media for a long time. It’s a part of what I call the Left’s Ideological Iron Curtain. In short, the Left has dominated the media (including Hollywood) and academia for so long that they have this apparatus in place to basically drown out any opposition to Progressivism. Anyone who goes against the dogma has to deal with a Left-leaning press, alleged “experts” who are statist Progressives but have credibility because they’re from prestigious universities, and places like Media Matters and ThinkProgress who are nothing more than smear merchants who use all the “research” from Progressive think tanks and other biased sources to push narratives that are not based on reality. It has been frustrating to see it operate. When Breitbart launched BigHollywood and then BigGovernment,  it was like someone finally got it. And then BigJournalism launched and I literally did a Tiger Woods fist pump. It was game time.

Now, don’t get me wrong; places like the Media Research Center have been at this fight for a long time. They do incredible work. They built the foundation of scholarly research proving  the bias in the media. They still crank out tons of content on a daily basis and everything they do is invaluable. You really can’t overstate how much they’ve done to change the narrative and to even the playing field. Breitbart just kicked it up a few notches by getting in the Left’s face and calling them liars point-blank. The MRC, unlike Media Matters, adheres to the rules governing tax-exempt organizations. Breitbart doesn’t have those restraints. It really is an exciting time to be involved in the fight against Leftist smear merchants and narrative-shapers.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t thank Brandon Kiser for building TheRightSphere.com and letting me contribute there. That’s really where I was able to hone my blogging skills and gain some attention (some might call it notoriety). The young man has a very bright future ahead of him.

7. I think there are a lot of readers who will be curious to learn more about what you enjoy in life, so tell us about some of your favorites (and why they are) in the following categories: Books, Movies, Foods, Musical Artists, Sports Players…whatever else you want to toss in here.

Books: I’m a big fan of fiction. I read so much news daily I like to take a break from the real world when I sit down with a book. Anything by Dean Koontz. I like Stephen King. David Baldacci’s stuff is great. Tolkien. You get the picture.

Movies: Favorite Movie of all time: Godfather II

Food: I’m from New York. Pizza! Duh. Seriously, I love Italian food. Wait. What am I thinking? My wife’s cooking!Whew!  Dodged a bullet there. She really
is a great cook.

Music: I like everything from classical to hip hop. I’m not kidding. About the only thing I won’t willfully choose to listen to is death metal. I’ve listened to the Mumford & Sons album about 1000 times.

Sports: Football, Baseball, Basketball and Volleyball.

Teams: Giants, Yankees,  Knicks, and Misty May Treaner / Kerri Walsh

8. What do you do to earn a living in your “other life?” 

As I mentioned in an earlier answer, the main reason why I maintain anonymity in the “online” world is because of where I work and what I do. I’m in sales. I sell a product / service that is 100% online so I don’t have to travel (even locally) very often. The entire sales process is easily done online and over the phone which is how I can be on Twitter and blogging during the day. Multitasking FTW!

My customers / prospects are all government contractors. They obviously want to play both sides of the aisle so they tend to be very non-partisan when it comes to their public statements. Because of this, my company also urges its employees (like me) to remain very non-partisan in our public statements. I also work in Virginia and as a right-to-work state, employers can let people go without cause (for the most part). As I said earlier, I probably wouldn’t get fired but there’s no sense in risking it.  There’s also an added benefit. Leftists can’t go Alinsky on me and can’t make the debate about me instead of what I’m writing. I see it as a win-win.

I actually received a degree in Marketing with an emphasis in Sales / Sales Management. I’m one of the few people I know who have made a career out of what they studied in college. I’ve sold pretty much everything you can imagine, too. From services (professional services aka staffing, outsourcing) to boxes (copiers, computer hardware) to software and internet backbone access. Give me the value proposition of whatever you’re trying to sell and I can run with it.

9. Besides your parents, who are three people who were influences in your life that led your thinking in a free-market direction, rather than a progressive one?

Well, I have to say my father is the biggest influence in that regard. I know you said “besides my parents,” but I can’t not put him on the list. He’s the one who taught me that free enterprise and the pursuit of it is the American Dream. Ironically, to this day he doesn’t consider himself a conservative. I’ve tried to explain it to him but he’s pretty set in his ways. He thinks he’s a libertarian / borderline anarchist. He can’t stand politicians. Any of them. He doesn’t vote because of it.

I also have to mention my mother because without her, I think I would have been sucked into the anti-Reagan mindset that was so pervasive during my formative years in the 80’s. She was a lifelong Democrat. But she was a Reagan Democrat. From a political standpoint, my father was no help, obviously. He despises anyone who runs for office. My mother, on the other hand, adored Reagan. She referred to him as “My man, Ronald.” I can remember her telling me to listen to how he spoke about America. She told me to not just pay attention to what he was saying, but how he said it. I forget the exact speech, but I remember watching parts of it on the news and watching as my mother listened intently, nodding at some parts, disagreeing with others, but always ending with, “That’s my man, Ronald” or something similar. I also remember realizing that I agreed with everything he was saying even as my mother was shaking her head – and my father was saying something like, “pfft” in the background.

So yeah, it’s cliché, but Ronald Reagan is the one person, besides my parents, who influenced me the most  in politics and ideology.  William F. Buckley, Jr. is another, although the realization came later in life. I remember watching him on TV (“Firing Line”) and thinking he was a bit of a jerk. A little snobby. It wasn’t until later that I realized just how much of a genius he was. He acted that way to get under the skin of whomever he was interviewing to rattle their cage a little and put them on the defensive. It was brilliant. I realized he did this because he knew what they were going to say and wasn’t going to allow them to ramble off the talking points unchallenged. In a way, I emulate his style a little when I challenge the left online and in my writing.

Crap, you said three people besides my parents. I think I’d have to say Jack Kemp. He fought for free enterprise and the power of the private sector until the day he died.

(I could have lied and gone all intellectual by citing Hayek and Friedman but the truth is I instinctively believed in the free market long before I ever knew who they were.)

10. What part do you see yourself playing in the conservative movement, five years from now?

You know, I honestly haven’t thought about it too much. My main focus is raising my kids and instilling in them the values I hold. If they can take what I’m teaching them and continue to live by those conservative principles, I’d have done my job.

I guess it would be great if I can parlay my writing into a paying gig at some point. That would be pretty cool. Until then, I’ll just keep on fighting the good fight and expressing my views to as many people as possible.

(But, if anyone out there is looking to pay me for expressing my views – my views, not theirs – hit a brother up on Twitter. I’m open.)

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