Kentucky Senator Rand Paul takes the stage at US Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids Iowa. The presidential candidate took part in the Freedomworks Rising Tide Summit Saturday. -photo by Jeremy Griffith
by Jeremy Griffith
The American Millennium
This Saturday the conservative think tank Freedomworks hosted a successful Rising Tide Summit in Cedar Rapids Iowa, an event that drew over 2,000 participants and included five Republican Presidential hopefuls.
The Freedomworks event took place at the US Cellular Center in Downtown Cedar Rapids. Conservative presidential candidates Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Dr. Ben Carson and businesswoman Carly Fiorina spoke to a receptive crowd.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul opened the event. As comfortable in his own skin as he his in denim jeans and shirt sleeves, Paul wowed the crowd with classic libertarianism themes, mostly aimed at young people. Paul remains one of the big mysteries of the 2016 presidential season, bringing in low approval numbers overall, but appealing to small crowds where ever he appears in public. Indeed, you would have thought a rock star had entered the stadium as enthusiastic supporters shouted chants of “President Paul” over and over as they waived Rand Paul campaign signs while waiting in line to enter the arena in the Center atrium.
Paul’s comments brought in some of the most enthusiastic and boisterous applause amongst the Iowa conservatives, second only to Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Despite his standing in the national polls, Paul remains one of the most important people in government today. He has been consistent in his opposition to a big government bent on depriving citizens of their constitutional rights for the sake of security while continuing to spy on personal emails and cell phones. In the age of global terror and the NSA, Paul supporters show they are big fans of the Kentucky senator and no fan of government intrusion in their personal lives.
But, the Kentucky libertarian would not overshadow Texas Senator Ted Cruz. In a dark suit and reddish brown cowboy boots, the big Texan also established is bone fides as a rock star of the conservative movement, being greeted by thunderous applause. Cruz focused his comments on recent tragic events in San Bernardino California, security and the continuing war on terror. In his comments he promised to destroy ISIS through “carpet bombing” of their desert strong holds.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz is is greeted by an enthusiastic Iowa crowd in Cedar Rapids Saturday. -photo by Jeremy Griffith
“I don’t know if desert sand glows,” bragged Cruz, “but we’re going to find out!”
The Iowa crowd didn’t find much they didn’t agree with in Cruz, showing their appreciation over and over with loud applause.
Each of the candidates were presented with three questions, usually one or two from a peer over video on the jumbotron screen, and maybe one or two from a live questioner at the event. First District Congressman Rod Blum was a co-host of the event and asked each of the candidates a question. Blum was recently elected to the First Iowa district and has already established himself as an enemy of the establishment Republicans through his opposition vote to House Speaker John Boehner.
Other questioners of the candidates present included Louisiana Governor and Presidential Candidate Bobby Jindal, Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, and CKE President and CEO Andrew Puzder, among others.
Iowa Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds rallies the Iowa conservative troops. -photo by Jeremy Griffith
The Iowa Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds made an appearance to rally local voters to the conservative Republican cause.
Conservative radio talk show host Andrew Wilkow did a great job as MCEE of the event, impressing the crowd with his light hearted sense of humor and his gracious and skillful introduction of the various candidates.
Dr. Ben Carson was well received at the event as well, delivering a message of personal responsibility and achievement as a way for Americans to bring themselves out of tough economic situations without the help of government. Carson proved he still has a sense of humor regarding criticism of his quite manner and lack of “fire”. “I don’t do that sort of thing,” he said, “because that’s the kind of attitude that scares children!” Not a good way to behave if you’re a pediatric neurosurgeon, he joked.
Dr. Ben Carson was met by an enthusiastic and appreciative crowd. Over 2,000 people participated in the Freedomworks Rising Tide Summit Saturday. -photo by Jeremy Griffith
Carson drew a clear distinction between him and President Barack Obama, calling the media “rabid dogs” for their intense criticism of him, while largely ignoring the blatant flaws of the current president.
Carson provided two of the more awkward and silly moments of the event Saturday. Operating under instructions of his Secret Service Protection Detail, Carson left the stage too early before the question and answer session. He had to be drawn back through the tactful nudging of event MCEE Andrew Wilkow who gently chided the Secret Service agents by saying, “are we done with the questions and answer portion?”
Radio Talkshow Host Andrew Wilkow (right) introduces Baptist Rev. CL Bryant. Bryant made an appeal for funding on behalf of Freedomworks while Wilcow lent his talents as MCee. -photo by Jeremy Griffith
The video taped question from another presidential candidate, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana to Dr. Carson was a second awkward moment. Dr. Carson was turning to answer the question when Governor Jindal, in his pre-taped question, launched into a second question.
“Yeah, yeah! We got it Bobby!” said Carson, to the amusement of the crowd.
Carly Fiorina promises an interesting debate between herself and Hillary Clinton. -photo by Jeremy Griffith
International businesswoman and former HP CEO Carly Fiorina made an appearance at the event, proving to the crowd that she is a force to be reckoned with in this crowded Republican field.
“Admit it to yourselves,” Fiorina said. “It’s a guilty pleasure for you to think about the possibility of a debate between my self and Hillary Clinton!” Fiorina promised to take Democrats and Republicans to task in her administration, once and for all accomplishing what she promises instead of endlessly talking about it and making promises.
“It’s time to take our country back,” she said.
Rick Santorum touts his National Defense credentials. -photo by Jeremy Griffith
Rick Santorum made an appearance at the event, touting his experience fighting and defeating the Clinton machine. He also attempted to establish his credentials in national defense where he has a proven track record. Through the course of the evening, however, it appeared that the crowd was not as enthusiastic about a Santorum candidacy as they were for the candidacy of other contenders who appeared on stage. Santorum’s comments were met with polite applause at several moments but not at the same level as the response to some of the other candidates.
Runaway Slave filmmaker Rev. C.L. Bryant made an appearance on behalf of Freedomworks fund raising efforts. He asked for the continued support of the think tank and talked briefly about the unusually high incarceration rate of African-Americans in the United States. Bryant’s comments were well received but also provided the other two more awkward moments of the evening. In the midst of his comments about the incarceration rate and the current state of the United States, Bryant promised a bit of good news. During a pause in Bryant’s comments, a young person in the crowd volunteered the question, “Obama’s Dead?!” The comment seemed to fluster the speaker and was met with quite and a few snicker of nervous laughter. A woman behind me in the upper deck could be heard saying, “not cool” echoing the feeling that the crowd supported the defeat of the current president and his policies, and not personal harm. The Secret Service, quiet professionals, were not amused.
Secret Service not amused by random crowd comment: “Obama’s dead?!” -photo by Jeremy Griffith
In reply to the random comment from the crowd, Bryant replied, “I’m not touching that with a ten foot pole!”
“You know the Secret Service is here!” Bryant warned.
Overall, the Freedomworks event was well received minus the few random moments of awkwardness. The only other criticisms I have are these. The Secret Service and TSA presence at the beginning of the event for the purposes of screening the public, while understandable, delayed the event as the participants trickled into the hall at a maddingly slow pace. That said, the young agent of the Secret Service that I encountered, the one who wanded me and checked my camera bag, was courteous and professional. In the future I would think that Freedomworks would warn participants to come early and expect the kinds of delays a security screening will guarantee.
Iowa First District Congressman Rod Blum signs Freedomworks pledge to champion conservative values in his state. Talk Show host Andrew Wilkow, left, looks on. -photo by Jeremy Griffith