'More Voices': House Packed for Breitbart's Controversial 'The Uninvited' Panel
UPDATE: On Saturday, John Hawkins, founder of the People's Choice Blog Awards, issued this statement in response to Spencer's accusations:
Despite what he claimed on his website, Robert Spencer was never 'barred' from receiving the People's Choice award at the 11th Annual Blogger Awards (Sponsored by Right Wing News & TheTeaParty.net). Furthermore, even after Robert lied by claiming he was 'barred" from receiving the award, I alerted him publicly and privately that he won and there would be a plaque for him at the ceremony. He apparently chose not to show up or send anyone to receive it because I would not allow him to make personal attacks on anyone from the ACU at the ceremony. Since Breitbart's own article on 'The Uninvited' panel indicated "(Stephen) Bannon reinforced that the panel was not the time or place for personal attacks," that doesn't seem like an unreasonable position in the least. In any case, I believe you have a duty to at show some small amount of courtesy to an organization when you're a guest at their event and so I have no apologies, regrets, or second thoughts about my decision whatsoever."
Andrew Breitbart frequently spoke and wrote of the need for an American dialog including voices beyond those approved by the mainstream media and the political establishment. Therefore, in his honor, the Breitbart News Network put on a panel called "The Uninvited" to feature topics and speakers otherwise absent from the CPAC agenda.
Breitbart News CEO Larry Solov and Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon compiled an ambitious slate of foreign policy experts and activists, as well as a discussion of the cronyism that has turned our nation’s capital into a boomtown.
Despite the fact that the event was pieced together just days before CPAC commenced, the ballroom was packed and the audience was enthusiastic. Panelist Pamela Geller was greeted with standing ovations just for entering the room.
Iowa Congressman Steve King kicked the session off with a few remarks before Breitbart Editor-at-Large Larry O’Connor introduced former Attorney General Michael Mukasey. The former DOJ head charged that the FBI actively removed references to Islam in documents relating to the Nidal Hasan shooting at Fort Hood in November of 2009. The Obama DOD labeled the murder spree “workplace violence” instead of terrorism, despite that fact that Hasan shouted “Allahu Akbar” before he opened fire. Mukasey said that this is an example of the U.S. government redefining Islam in a politically palatable way at the expense of the truth.
Mukasey went on to make the case that, if left unchecked, the rise of global Islam would become the 21st century equivalent to fascism or communism. The former Bush AG warned of a “civilizational jihad” in which the Islamists attempt to destroy the entire Western world as we know it and enforce Sharia law. "They want a world without infidels," Mukasey told the crowd. "The want a world without us."
Mukasey also suggested that there ought to be hearings on Al-Jazeera's purchase of Current TV. "If an American medium is controlled by a political force from abroad, that's a proper subject for inquiry," he said.
Next, the panel took a brief diversion from the topic of radical Islam and shifted focus to cronyism in big business. Breitbart Editor and Government Accountability Institute co-founder Peter Schweizer described the Washington, DC boomtown and blistered DC’s political establishment and consultant class. “Both parties are complicit in a culture of corruption,” Schweizer said before noting that seven of the ten richest counties in America border not Beverly Hills or New York City but our nation’s capital. The crux of the problem, according to Schweizer, is the revolving door between Congress and the lobbying profession. “When they enter Washington, DC,” he asserted, “they think of it as a cesspool. But when they leave, they think of it as a hot tub.”
Schweizer wasn’t merely interested in identifying problems; he also offered up solutions. In particular, he proposed a lifetime ban on congressmen becoming lobbyists and more stringent term limits for federal elected officials.
The final hour of the program was devoted to a panel on radical Islam at home and abroad featuring Rosemary Jenks of Numbers USA, Dan Gouré of the Lexington Institute, The Hudson Institute’s Nina Shea, Frank Gaffney of Center for Security Policy, Jihad Watch blogger Robert Spencer, and Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs.
Jenks had the mic first and made the case against a pathway to citizenship and for a comprehensive e-Verify system (which would require employers to check the immigration status of their employees). One key reason to oppose a pathway to citizenship, according to Jenks, is that Hispanics are not natural conservatives, despite what many on the right claim. Jenks explained that, as a demographic, Hispanics tend to support expanding social programs. Thus, if conservatives support the legalization and naturalization of illegals, their compassion would be rewarded with electoral defeats.
Gouré followed with a discussion of how America’s lack of military preparedness undermines our economy. Nina Shea spoke on Christian persecution abroad. She said that while the Middle East was made up of 30% Christians 100 years ago, that number has dwindled to just 3% at present day.
In between Gouré and Shea was Breitbart veteran Frank Gaffney. One of the most prominent foreign affairs experts in the conservative movement, Gaffney criticized the Obama administration for cutting back America’s nuclear arsenal. While Iran and North Korea inch closer to nuclear capabilities, America is the only country on Earth that is depleting its stock, he explained. Yesterday, the U.S. announced that it would deploy 14 missile interceptors to Alaska due to the increased threat of the North Korean regime—which, according to Gaffney, is a reversal of the administration’s efforts to downplay the threat of nuclear conflict.
The final portion of the panel, and of “The Uninvited,” proved to be the most electric. Robert Spencer took the name of the session to heart, clearly outraged that these issues were not featured on the CPAC main stage. Before Spencer began his talk, Breitbart’s Bannon reinforced that the panel was not the time or place for personal attacks. This, however, did not deter Spencer from calling out several people in the conservative movement by name. Spencer’s Jihad Watch website won the People’s Choice blog honor this year at CPAC, but he was barred from receiving the award when he refused to promise not to attack Grover Norquist and Suhail Khan in his acceptance speech (both Kahn and Norquist are on the board of the American Conservative Union, which puts on CPAC every year). But Spencer used the platform at “The Uninvited” to do just that, despite Bannon's request. He took direct aim at Norquist, the founder of Americans for Tax Reform, for being “in bed” with "the same people as Obama" (he was presumably referring to the Muslim Brotherhood).
“Obama has aligned this country with the Muslim Brotherhood,” Spencer said, but the conservative movement is not sufficiently engaged in the fight against the proliferation of Sharia at home and abroad. This suggestion caused the room to erupt in applause.
Pamela Geller picked up right where Spencer left off, accusing Suhail Khan of being worse than Anwar al-Awlaki for what she described as secret ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. “The right sanctions a truth-crushing device,” Geller said of CPAC. She asserted that the group behind the conference is guilty of the same politically correct censorship that has caused the mainstream media to draw conservative ire over the years. “The media is self-enforcing the Sharia,” Geller said, and “the biggest threat to mankind, the biggest threat to freedom is the spread of this totalitarian philosophy.” According to the "Freedom or Submission" author, “you are a racist, Islamophobic, anti-Muslim bigot if you touch this subject," and most of the country is content to keep it that way, even many who describe themselves as conservative.
Spencer piled on. “People are very anxious not to appear bigoted or racist,” but “there are many groups that have the same goals as those who wage violent jihad.” “Infiltration is very great and very sophisticated and those with the best of intentions are falling for it,” Spencer cautioned the room.
During the question and answer portion at the very end, Gaffney reinforced the importance of the fight against radical Islam. “You'll be cannon fodder for the next war if you don't take these issues seriously,” he said.
Later on, Bannon asked the panel to address detractors that say some of the speakers are radicals and have marginalized themselves to the point where they are ineffective. The panelists responded by reinforcing the seriousness that the War on Terror and the threat of Sharia are to America and our allies abroad.
Toward the end of the Q and A, “Birther” leader Orly Taitz piped up and took the discussion off course with a question about Barack Obama’s eligibility to be President of the United States. Bannon—along with a chorus of booing audience members—shut her down, but the Breitbart Executive Chairman offered to have it out with her after the session came to a close.
Finally, Solov closed the session with the truly “Breitbartian” message of inclusion. He noted that everyone in the room likely disagrees with one another on many fundamental issues, but so long as speech is free and debate is open, the world will be better off. “Andrew preached the message of ‘more voices,’” Solov reminded the audience, and that’s certainly what attendees heard from this eclectic and informative CPAC panel.