The Amen Corner on Assignment: Polk County GOP Picnic
I tagged along with Rebekah to the Polk County GOP Picnic for one reason: to hear Governor Rick Perry. I have never heard the “new GOP frontrunner” speak and, because I am an Iowan with the unique opportunity to vet each of these candidates personally, I thought that I should.
Three GOP candidates were featured–Ron Paul, Rick Perry, and Thaddeus McCotter. Dr. Paul spoke first, but not before he arrived a bit early to the event and went through the venue, shaking hands with the attendees. I was sitting at a table with Rebekah and Iowa State Representative Kim Pearson, who has endorsed Dr. Paul, so it was no surprise when he stopped at our table to chat for a bit with her. We ended up having a little conversation about his views on the “Rules of Engagement” in Afghanistan and Iraq.
He made certain to remind us he does not believe in the wars, but he is also against the current rules of engagement–he wants our soldiers to be able to do their job and believes those rules tie their hands. He stayed with us for about 7 or 8 minutes, before he moved on to a table of men who were waiting to meet him for the first time. They all rose and shook his hand, thanking him for his service to our country and for speaking out on things no one else will. To be sure, Ron Paul is much more accepted during this presidential run than he ever has before.
Dr. Paul’s speech was quintessential Paul. He starts right in on the big stuff–no small talk, no joke, no chit chat. Just like a professor who picks up where he left off the day before in his lecture, he started right in on economics, militarism, and the Federal Reserve. I was a bit taken back by the audience–folks all over the place were talking loudly while the congressman was speaking. I can only assume that the majority of them were either there to hear Perry or they were just there to socialize. It was distracting enough that, after Dr. Paul spoke, event MC Simon Conway of WHO addressed the rudeness and asked the audience to refrain.
Speaking of Simon Conway, in his lead-up to introducing Rick Perry, he discussed in length his legal path to citizenship and his disdain for Obama’s newest attempt at back-door amnesty for illegals. Given Perry’s soft position on illegal immigration (detailed well in this article by Tom Tancredo), Rebekah and I both wondered if Simon did it on purpose, hoping Perry would discuss the issue. I don’t know–but Perry didn’t touch the issue with a ten foot pole.
In fact, after being introduced to the very loud strains of a country song that I won’t even pretend to know (sorry, not my genre), the Texas Governor gave a very safe, very generic stump speech. He told us how much Iowa reminded him of home, talked about how bad the economy is, talked about his record of creating jobs, and said that our best days are still ahead of us as a county. He spoke for about 10 minutes.
One brief observation of the event, I saw a lot of former Pawlenty supporters and I know they were not there to hear Ron Paul. Looking for a new home?
My, how empty the State Fairgrounds look in off-season…
I was glad to get a few minutes of conversation with Dr. Ron Paul before his speech…but I had a few more questions after he spoke that remain unanswered at present. Paul noted the danger of the current government entitlement system. He memorably called the high tax rate and debt situation “a symptom of the people’s appetite for government,” illustrating our own complicity in America’s financial and moral bankruptcy.
But Paul’s main line of hope is that Americans, really all people, just want freedom and less government intrusion…unless, apparently they have the government providing their needs. I’m not sure which of those urges is supposed to be more natural, more powerful in the American psyche, and how Dr. Paul believes so completely in freedom as universal imperative in the face of Americans’ ongoing government dependence/ welfare addiction. Hopefully, I’ll get the chance to ask him for clarification…it’s more a philosophical than political musing anyhow (and those can get this optimistic young gal in trouble).
The crowd at the picnic was varied and amicable…and largely there to check out Governor Perry, it seemed. He was featured between Congressmen Paul and McCotter and captured the chatty crowd’s attention with an entourage and country music fanfare (“Heartland” by George Strait and “Hard-Workin’ Man” from Brooks and Dunn…I’ve got your back, Jen).
Perry’s was a “getting-to-know-y’all” type of campaign speech, very broad in warm-fuzzies about Iowa and American promise, very shallow in actual strategy for how he’s going to bring us back from the brink (maybe he saving that for his next book?). He said nothing about immigration or social issues, focusing on promises to take out Obamacare and create jobs. He did call out Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack for his “food stamps as economic stimulus” statement, and the crowd loved it.
He’s a southern gentleman, courting the voters. There was nothing about this particular appearance to dissuade Iowans from supporting Perry, and they appear to be willing to be won (but not before a reasonable number of dates, of course).
Speaking of courting, I noticed one revamped slogan stuck in Perry’s speech: he said “We need change. Not the rhetoric of change, but the results…” Eerily similar to Pawlenty’s major campaign line, Results, Not Rhetoric. But perhaps it was just a coincidence.