Seven candidates speak at Iowa GOP’s Reagan Dinner

The Republican Party of Iowa is getting good use out of some of the items they bought for the August Straw Poll.  The huge backdrop for tonight’s speakers is the same scene — a vista where the Iowa statehouse is on a hill and the word "First in the Nation" are emblazoned on the blue sky.  The party also played the Caucus history video they made/bought for the Straw Poll. 

This evening, the candidates will speak in the following order:  Duncan Hunter, John Cox, Ron Paul, Tom Tancredo, Huckabee, and Thompson.  Dinner will be served between Tancredo’s speech and Huckabee’s. 

Senator Charles Grassley is the first elected official to speak. The crowd gave him a standing ovation as he took the stage.  "There was a time early in my political career when people stood up as you just did, I thought they were going to walk out," Grassley quipped. 

Grassley mentioned the Democrats in the US Senate who are running for president. "They’re going to do a heck of a lot less damage if they stay in the United States Senate," Grassley said.

Grassley is wearing what appears to be a pinkish purple tie.  Huckabee stopped by the media row a few minutes ago.  He’s wearing a blue tie with little white elephants all over it.  He confirmed for the assembled reporters that the tie was made in the USA.

Grassley ended his speech the same way he ends a phone call.  He stepped away from the microphone while he was saying his final sentence and started walking away.  Grassley, when talking on the phone, often says, "O.K., goodbye," as the receiver is headed down.

Hunter begins by talking about the California wildfires, telling some joke about his wife going back into their burning home (a few years ago) to retrieve his stuffed elk heads.  Hunter accuses Democrats of blaming Bush for the fires. "How ’bout if in ’08 we give them a Republican tsunami?" Hunter asked, getting applause.

Chicago businessman John Cox is second to speak.  He was on the wrong side and had to walk all the way around the stage to get to the steps.  It took about 45 seconds.for him to make the trip.

Cox began by attacking the "national media" for ignoring his candidacy. "I’ve been doubting my own existence the past few months," Cox said.  Cox then laid odds on his own chances of winning the presidency.  "….Let’s face it, it’s about as strong as the Cubs chance of winning the World Series," Cox told the crowd. "….I’m a Sox fan anyway."

He is giving a concession speech:  "I’ll go back to my clients and my many, many understanding friends," he tells the crowd.

Next up, Ron Paul. He starts with a few Ronald Reagan stories, since it’s the Reagan Dinner.  Paul was one of the congressman who helped establish the Gold Commission back in the 1980s.  "I met one-on-one with Ronald Reagan…We sat and talked about monetary policy….(Reagan said) ‘There has never been a great nation remain great once it went off the gold standard,’ and I think those were profound words….We’re in the midst of a currency crisis right now."

Now, he’s praising Reagan’s negotiations with Gorbachev.  Paul contends the present Bush Administration is "so frightened" that they "can’t talk to people." 

"There’s a lot of room for us to reassess our values….The Robert Taft position advocated non-intervention…and the founders were explicit," Paul added.

Now, he’s talking about the "major economic crisis" in the country.  "It is related to the monetary system," Paul contends.  "….The founders understood this issue…They said that only gold and silver should be legal tender….We can’t afford to live beyond our means….We have to be realistic.  We as Republicans are conservatives.  We’re the fiscal conservatives….We have to return to those roots."

A group of Ron Paul supporters is sitting at a couple of tables in front of my reporting station here, and they are applauding his points.  He’s now into his anti-government secrecy point.

"I resent very much the coming of the national ID card…We should not be supporting (it)," Paul says.

Ray Hoffman has walked up onto the stage.  Paul has gone past his allotted eight minutes. Paul wraps up.

Tancredo is next on the stage for his alloted eight minutes.  Tancredo says it’s "amazing" to get "that much time" to deliver a message.  This is a shot at those who put him at the "bookend" on the debate stage and then don’t call upon him to join the discussion.

"We’re paying a price for not standing on principle at all," Tancredo told the crowd.  Tancredo says illegal immigrantss have swarmed across the US/Mexico border in California to loot in the wake of the fires and evacuations.

"Hundreds have already been arrested," Tancredo says.  "….If they don’t self-deport, we need a president with the guts to deport them, to send them home."

"…The go-along-and-get-along conservatives have helped open the borders….When conservatives run on principles, they win.  When we run away from principles, we lose," Tancredo adds.

He ends with his invitation to "charge into the breach" with him.  "The good fight is always worth fighting…It is the right thing to do," Tancredo says. 

Ann Romney is next on stage to introduce the video message Romney submitted for this event.

The 650 people gathered here are now eating dinner.  So, in this interlude I shall report that Thompson will be cutting a commercial tomorrow here in Iowa. 

Huckabee is now on stage.  He begins by joking about the fly that is buzzing around the stage.  Now, he’s on to a discussion of how few Republicans there are in Arkansas.

"I understand something of what it’s like to be the underdog…but I also understand what it’s like to see progress & gains."

Now, on to talking about going pheasant hunting this morning. "We don’t have pheasant in Arkansas," Huckabee says.  "….I watched those dogs and saw how they could so masterfully go through the brush and bring the birds up…sometimes a reminder that the little things in life are God’s gift to us….We live in a country where we can enjoy moments like that."

"….Today I was reminded what a great privilege it is to live in the United States of America and what a threat who seek to undermine everything we hold dear….This is a war over whether or not whether your grandchildren will even live….It’s not a pleasant thought, but the next president had better understand the threat and how real it is…and to make sure that every night before he goes to sleep and every morning before he goes to work he is on his knees…"

Now, Huckabee is talking about "elevating" life, honoring it from conception to its natural conclusion. 

"We face economic threats.  Every day in this country 10,000 more baby boomers qualify for Social Security…and just wait ’til all these aging hippies find out they can get free drugs at the government’s expense….Part of what threatens our jobs today is a tax structure….The Fair Tax would give us the capacity to bring $10 trillion of working cap back to this country…."

Now, a discussion of food security.  "I want foreign food about as much as I want foreign oil for the future of this country," he says, to applause from the crowd.  Now, Huckabee is into his energy independence rhetoric.

"Every time we go to the gas pump, we’re helping to pay for the other side as Middle East governments subsidize the Madrassas…We’ve got to be able to provide our own sources of energy…and then we’ve got to have the capacity to fight for ourselves….I want to agree with my friend Duncan Hunter…when he says we’ve got to bring these manufacturing jobs back to the United States….a country that can’t manufacture its own (munitions)…It’s simply a servant…(crowd applauds)….

"….I’m obviously here like every other candidate and that’s not to eat the chicken dinner….But I’m here…becuse I want your vote, I want your support, but not just because I want to be president…I’m one generation away from dirt floors and outdoor toilets….You’re looking at a guy who has absolutely lived, experienced the American dream….I have an obgliation not to just run for president but to provide the kind of leadership so our children and our grandchildren and the future of this country will know that we did everything in our power….to pass it on to the next generation….I’m often asked, ‘Do you think you can win?’…I’ve been battling against the headwinds of Bill & Hillary Clinton’s political machine….Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton campaigned against me every time and I won. They didn’t."  (Many in the crowd stand to applaud at the conclusion of his remarks.  No other candidate had that many people on their feet tonight.)

Now, Fred Thompson comes on stage.  Some hooting and cheering from the crowd.  He digs into his pocket for his speech, rearranges the microphones for his height and buttons his coat.

He mentions the video that ran during dinner (it’s the video that was played at Thompson’s announcement).  He references his full of head of hair in some of the snaps featured in the video. Next, Thompson is paying homage to "fine soldiers" like former Governor Robert Ray, who he met with recently.

"Iowa is not only where it all begins but the Iowa GOP has led the way for a long, long time…I want to tell you how much I appreciate it.  I had the opportunity in 1994 to put aside the things I was doing and run for public office the first time… 

"I know where the rubber meets the road and I thank you for staying around….(jokes about being at the end of the line as a kid in school ’cause his name started with a T and he was very tall)….I believe that our country is going to be facing important decisions over the next few years…that’s going to determine the course of this country for a long time to come….

"We face an enemy…We are still spending our grandchildren’s money….We’ve seen division and rancor…on things that used to unite us in this country….My friends, it’s our obligation to take the greatest country in the world and make sure that it stays that way….It got that way because of strong, conservative beliefs…that we have honored throughout our history and that’s exactly what we need to adhere to in the future…"

He gets his first interruption of applause when he attacks an activist judiciary.

"….We gave honor to the rule of law in society….free competition among free people….(reminiscing about 1994 Contract with America)….We need to make sure that the American people understand that we haven’t changed our mind…and I’m proud to say that I have been privileged after that to serve eight years in Washington DC….as a strong, consistent conservative…We balanced the budget for four years….We fought for conservative judges…and all that time, I’m proud to say, that I accumulated 100 percent pro-life record that I was proud of….(applause from crowd)….I was conservative yesterday.  I’m conservative today and I’ll be a conservative tomorrow and that’s exactly the way I would govern as president of the United States."

"…When I think about the rule of law and when I think about national security, I can’t help think about illegal immigration.  A country that cannot protect its borders cannot remain a sovereign nation….It is not only a matter of burdening states and local communities, it’s a matter of national security….In the era of the suitcase bomb, we cannot have open borders….We have localities in this nation that basically say to their local law enforcement officers that they don’t have to cooperate with federal authorities when they find someone who came here illegally….We still have sanctuary cities….We should not be funding these cities that insist on violating the law."  (applause from crowd)

"…Under the category of doing something good for our country….is (to) win this election next year….The man who we honor tonight with this dinner had it right.  He was so great not just because he was a great communicator, but because of the strength of his ideas….He stood tall against the strong winds of a national media…set forth his priniciples….and he served as a magnet for all right-thinking people in this country….That’ll be the key to our success in November if we remember that."

"I think we can do something really, really good for America and it all starts right here, once again, in the state of Iowa."  Some people in the crowd rise to applaud.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.