On Saturday evening, I hiked over to Manchester for a shindig hosted by National Review. This was a reprise of their successful New Hampshire Primary event they did back in 2008. And it was fun in 2012 as well. Even though I brought my iPad, it went unused—too lazy, sorry—so my report is incomplete and relies solely on my hazy memory.
True fact: On the way, I saw an actual Buddy Roemer sign posted at the Lee Traffic Circle. Not that that has anything to do with anything, I just thought I'd mention.
Saturday nights in Manchester are usually pretty sleepy, but Saturdays three days before a contested primary are an exception. Media outlets were setting up, satellite trucks in the streets, noisy Ron Paul supporters on one corner, an "Occupy" group set up in Veterans Memorial Park to try to leech off the primary coverage.
On the way in, I noticed George Stephanopoulos holding court at the front door of the Radisson. But four years ago, I saw Tim Russert in roughly the same spot; we all know how that worked out for Tim. Stay well, George.
NR's event had free food (yay!) that was gone all too soon (boo!) Had I known, I would have grabbed more bacon-wrapped scallops; truly, they are the food of the gods.
Things were centered around the GOP Candidates' debate hosted up the street at St. Anselm's College; the room had a big-screen set up so attendees could watch. But we had a couple panels before that.
The first was introduced by NR's publisher, Jack Fowler. He mentioned that he'd run into a guy who had been a subscriber since 1971. Had I known there was going to be a competition, I would have mentioned that I've been a reader since… I'm pretty sure it was 1967. I remember an article by James Burnham on civil disobedience; I think the cover was a bomb with Dr. Benjamin Spock's picture on it. (I was very young.)
Anyway: the first panel contained NR stars Rich Lowry, Ramesh Ponnuru, Robert Costa, and political consultant Mike Murphy. They were funny and insightful. Lowry introduced the group as "the most impressive collection of RINOs since Lincoln Chafee had dinner with himself." Managing both a little GOP in-joke, and semi-humorously referring to the outrage supporters of conservative candidates feel when they feel their guy or gal is disrespected in the magazine's pages. It would be a recurring theme.
Mike Murphy asked for a show of hands about who the folks in the room were supporting; most were for Romney and Santorum, with Romney hands getting a significant edge. When Murphy asked for Ron Paul supporters, he made a crack about their flying saucer arriving on the Radisson's roof. (A safe joke to make in that crowd.)
The evening's second panel was funnier, due to their making no pretense at sober political analysis: Jonah Goldberg, James Lileks, and Rob Long. The memorable argument here belonged to Jonah, where he talked about the "RINO" slur (RINO == "Republican in name only", in case you didn't know).
Jonah's argument, paraphrased: I'm a RINO. Most conservatives are RINOs. Otherwise, you have to get behind Arlen Specter; you have to get all excited when Olympia Snowe gets re-elected. No thanks.
But it wasn't all that serious; the term "cuddle puddle" was mentioned quite often, and apparently it's a real thing.
I got to briefly converse with Mr. Lileks afterward, basically to express my appreciation for his work. I was a little apprehensive, because what could be more tedious than listening to some fanboy mumble incoherently about his fanboyhood?
But… Lileks talks about his NH jaunt in today's Bleat. And, what do you know:
The greatest bestest happy-happy-joy-joy moments came when I met Bleat readers from the region: made my night, folks. You have no idea how cool it is to hear that you're readers. Just wish I’d gotten a haircut before I met you all.Whoa, he's talking about me! (And no doubt many others of course. But including me.)
I didn't foist myself on Jonah, Rob, Rick, or even Jack Fowler. (What I would have said: "Gee, Jack, I sure get a lot of mail from you." Maybe we're both better off.) I also saw Robert Stacy McCain (who later dubbed the event "RINOCon" and the " National Review Romney GroupHugFest") and Datechguy. I heard Mickey Kaus was around somewhere, but not anywhere I was. ("Hey, Mickey. I read The End of Equality. It was good!")
As the time for the debate drew near, they put the big-screen back on; ABC's show before its debate coverage was "Wipeout", where competitors attempt to navigate a messy obstacle course, mostly to their humiliation. I was talking to Skip Murphy (proprietor of the great and mighty GraniteGrok) at the time, and I think we were in agreement that we'd pay real money to see the GOP candidates compete in that event.
But my ass was already flat, and I could not face the prospect of sitting in those uncomfortable Radisson chairs for another couple hours. And the road back to Pun Salad Manor was long and dark. So I bugged out, and hope I didn't miss much.
The general attitude seemed to be that Romney has the nomination sewn up. (Although NR, unlike in 2008, hasn't yet actually endorsed him.) Few are enthusiastic about that, but what are you going to do? Yes, he's flawed, but you know who's even more flawed? Everyone else, that's who. He's better than Obama. He's better than McCain. I'm with Frank J: Stop whining and suck it up.