The staff at As The Donald Turns concludes its look inside all the events and people at the premiere political event of the year over the weekend on Pasadena, CA. The star of the event, based on crowd following is clear, a US Congressman gets booed while some pretty shocking things, and there is plenty of bizarre randomness to be seen.
As The Donald Turns; Politicon News and Notes, Finale
- The second day of the event had one of the more widely anticipated panels, (and we know this because they held it in the largest room at the venue), “From Russia With Trump.” Vince Houghton, an author specializing in military and intelligence history was the moderator. He is currently the curator of the in-progress International Spy Museum in Washington D.C. When he says he is just barely to the left of Karl Marx and then proceeds to introduce the panel, you know this could get lively. Oh, and that panel….Congressman Ted Lieu (D-California), political commentator Ana Navarro, former NSA intelligence officer Malcom Nance and Congressman Dana Rohrbacher, (R-California).
The topic was clear, but could have gone in any direction. The scope was made a little more clear when the majority of 1,500 in the crowd booed Rohbacher just when he was introduced, albeit there was a smattering of applause from 20-30 people. The panel was so animated that Navarro, a well-known firebrand on TV, actually got in less to say than anyone else. We discussed Nance in Part 2, as he appeared with Joy Reid at the MSNBC stage. He has made many television appearances over the months but really made a credentialed impression on this crowd. He called the Russian interference in the 2016 election, “The single greatest intelligence operation ever, because of what it took to hack voter rolls, email systems, state voting data….” That got an immediate eye-rolling and scoff from Rohbacher. He made sure the panel knew that he had 30 years in congress, and military time in Vietnam, and that gave him a level of qualification regarding Russia that no one else on the panel had. He said the panel was, “full of people advocating policies with no proper background.”
Rohrbacher said there was one clear threat in the world, and it was not Russia. “Radical Islamic terrorism is the real threat in the world and Russia is one of the few countries that can help us defeat that. Vladimir Putin is a bad guy, but we have bad guys here too and that is just the world reality.” Rohrbacher said there was reason not to believe the intelligence community working on the Russia investigation because they are flawed and they have ulterior motives. “I have learned not to trust the intelligence agencies.” That drew a quick rebuke from Nance. “I walked past that Nathan Hale statue,” (at the CIA headquarters), every day for years and I was proud to be among people committed to the safety and service of this country and for you to question them is unimaginable!”
Rohrbacher said he wanted to know where the evidence of collusion was. Nance proclaimed this as the perfect illustration that it was the congressman and not the intelligence community, that was lost. “It is called intelligence for a reason. They gather data. They gather information. They talk to people. They question people. At such time as the intelligence gathering is complete, it either does or does not become evidence for prosecutorial purposes. The fact that you do not know that with all of your years of expertise is just sad!” Standing ovation and cue moderator for closing thoughts. Houghton: “A year from now if we had this panel, where will we be in the discussion?”
Lieu: “We will be talking about how many people in and near the administration have already been indicted and how many more are to come. You can either believe the heads of the CIA, DNI, FBI, NSA and hundreds of pieces of evidence, or you can believe Dana Rohrbacher.”
Nance: “The lawyers that (Robert) Mueller has hired are some of the biggest bad asses in the business. We will be in the impeachment process.”
Rohrbacher: We will be talking about where we are in the President’s political agenda and Russia will be a nothing issue.”
- The person at the two-day event who was certainly drawing the most devoted crowds was political commentator Ben Shapiro.
He is a libertarian-leaning-conservative talk show host and author and at the age of only 33, is the voice of the millennial-age conservatives. His army was prepared to blow-off all other panels to stand in line for two hours for one his three monologues. Many in the crowds were turned away because the ball rooms could not handle the crowd size. There was nary a person over the age of 30 at any of his events, but they were all appropriately adorned in the red Trump hats, or in shirts with Shapiro’s most famous line, “Facts Don’t Care About Your Feelings.”
The event conclusion was a debate between Shapiro and Cenk Uygur of the progressive Young Turks media group.
When it became clear that many of his fans, some of whom had been in line for three hours, were not going to get into the ball room because of space issues, organizers had to move it to the main Civic Auditorium and wait an hour for the 3,000 seat venue to be filled.
Unfortunately, the debate did little to live up to the hype with both sides relying on standard conservative/liberal talking points about health care, the budget and other wonky items. It did give Shapiro’s devotees plenty of time to stand and shout down Uygur.
As we say goodbye to the carnival-like atmosphere of Politicon 2017 and return to the circus that is the current presidential administration, we leave you some of the other candid moments of the event.