I was taken aback to see Steve Hayes of the Weekly Standard on Fox News’s Brett Bair panel with Laura Ingram and Charles Krauthammer Thursday. Given that he is a regular, why would that be?
Last Sunday through Wednesday, he was with about 170 of us on the Weekly Standard post-election cruise. Steve is very good about learning everyone’s name and welcoming one-on-one conversations.
So by Thursday, it was “Hey, Jack” and “Hi, Steve” around the elevators and at the meetings. Then, suddenly within hours of having spoken to him, I see him on Fox. He flew back to DC from Puerto Rico on Wednesday evening. Freaky.
I am not a Weekly Standard subscriber, but my wife is, and she signed us up for this cruise. It’s a conservative magazine. I’m a libertarian.
The program is kind of somnolent compared to what I’m used to a FreedomFest. That’s a libertarian convention held in Las Vegas every July. At FreedomFest, there are maybe 15 breakout sessions simultaneously all over the hotel (Paris Hotel this coming year) and audience members typically take copious notes. I took a pad to each Weekly Standard session, but never took a single note. The Weekly Standard sessions were shoot-the-bull sessions with a panel of admittedly knowledgeable experts, but rather subjective and vague compared to the speeches I give. Also, the energy level is much higher at FreedomFest.
The topics were more or less how did Trump win, what will his administration be like, what does his victory mean for future presidential elections.
The FreedomFest crowd is older than average, but the Weekly Standard crowd, is really old. It’s also really white albeit more female perhaps than FreedomFest. I am not pushing for affirmative action identity group quotas, but I fear for the future of any institution that is almost all white couples in their seventies and eighties.
To be sure, the people on stage—Hayes, Bill Kristol, Mary Catherine Ham, Molly Hemmingway and her husband Mark, and others are young or middle-aged, but not the audience.
On thing the Weekly Standard did which I liked was assign us to tables for dinner. And on two evenings, our table number was red indicating that one of the speakers would be at that table. Mary Catherine Ham was one.
I managed to look not very up-to-date on her. At one point I noted that Kirsten Powers was supposed to be on the cruise but was not and I expressed the suspicion that was because she had moved from Fox to CNN. Mary refuted that by saying, “Me, too.” She had also moved to CNN months ago. I did not know that.
Then I was talking to her about the asymmetricality of the liberals’ use of intellectually-dishonest debate tactics. I noted that both Juan Williams and Kirsten had written books complaining about the Left’s efforts to stymie free speech by the Right. I added there was a third book that I forgot the title and author of. “That was my book End of Discussion,” she said.
Oh, yeah, right. I knew that.
Our other celebrity dinner mates were Mollie and Mark Hemmingway. Both Mary Catherine Ham and Mollie Hemmingway told me they were more libertarian than conservative. I urged them to speak at FreedomFest. Mary said she had been invited once, but the scheduling did not work out. In both 8 PM celebrity dinners, our group of about eight people ended up talking until about 10:30 and were almost the only people left in the dining room when we left.
At one session, during the Q&A, an attendee asked about investigating and maybe prosecuting Hillary. Bill Kristol said it was a question that “should be directed at the man sitting behind you, Ken Starr.”
We all laughed, like Ken Starr, the White Water special counsel investigating the Clintons in the 1990s would be an attendee like the rest of us.
But it was not. The man sitting behind him was, indeed, Ken Starr.
He had not been listed as a speaker but Bill persuaded him to do a session about his perspective on the judiciary and his career. He did not speak about Hillary at all. I was going to ask a question in the Q&A, but there was no Q&A. But Ken lingered afterward and I got to ask him one-on-one.
One question was whether he agreed that the public has somehow gotten the impression that you can’t criticize a religion. I said it seemed to me that the other part of the 1st Amendment, freedom of speech, said I could say almost anything I wanted about religions. He said, “Except for fighting words.” I noted that I had recently researched fighting words and was surprised to find it was still good law. “Oh, yes,” he said and rattled off the name of the pertinent court decision.
I also asked him about my belief that Islam was a broader set of behavior rules than the Founders had in mind when they created the religious-freedom clause in the First Amendment and that those broader parts, like mutilating the genitals of young girls, honor killings, murder of infidels, and wearing clothes that conceal not only your identity but also your gender and whether you are wearing a suicide vest, carrying a couple of AK-47 and a dozen grenades.
He said he did not think a US court including the Supreme Court would approve a burka ban and that the security personnel needed to find a way to make a thorough inspection in spite of the religious garb of Muslims.
I was very impressed by Starr. He was very confident and comfortable in his own skin, extremely quick and knowledgeable, a possessor of massive experience in the U.S. government and judiciary, a first-name buddy to all sorts of famous judges and justices. I previously thought of him as a sort of sad sack who had been beaten to a pulp by the Clintons’ politics of personal destruction operation.
We also generally enjoyed our other non-speaker dinner partners.