Washington Insider David Keene Disses Governor Palin, Claims to Speak for Grassroots

Amidst all the exciting news coming out of NY-23 yesterday, there was an article in the Washington Examiner by Mark Tapscott. At the very end of Tapscott’s article, David Keene is interviewed about the Upstate New York campaign:

This race will have more impact on the Republican politics than any other this year. I believe Hoffman will win on Tuesday, but regardless of the outcome, he and the conservative base of the Republican party have already won by proving that conservatives can no longer be ignored by an establishment that has all too often ignored those it is supposed to serve. Every once in a while, there is a race that can reshape politics and this one in what many believed to be an obscure Adirondack’s district is one that will be remembered for a long, long time.

This is all pretty innocuous so far with Keene merely stating the obvious. However, Keene is skating on pretty thin ice when as he seems to be implying that he is speaking for the conservative base against the establishment. In spite of this, he has thus far managed to avoid saying anything noteworthy. He should have stopped here. Unfortunately for Keene, he couldn’t stop his lips from flapping:

Establishment Republicans and quasi-conservatives like David Brooks were saying as recently as last night that those supporting Doug Hoffman against a candidate that he described as a centrist were ‘crazy,’ but with the New York GOP establishment bowing to popular pressure one wonders who should be dismissed as crazy. Scozzafava’s decision to bail out today demonstrates that when people step up to the plate on matters of principle and work toward a common goal they can change the political world.

Here Keene begins to dig a hole for himself. One gets the unmistakable sense that Keene considers himself on the side of the conservative base against “establishment Republicans and quasi-conservatives”. Keene, who endorsed Hoffman on October 29th, appears to be attempting to co-opt and take credit for all the hard work being done by the conservative volunteers on the ground in NY-23, as if he’s one of them. He isn’t.

Keene’s attempt to portray himself as part of the current grassroots movement is both ludicrous and insulting to those in the movement. How can a guy who contributed to Arlen Specter’s campaign as recently as December 2007 be considered part of any conservative base? This was not an isolated occurrence. Ramesh Ponnuru noted in National Review that Keene, inexplicably, supported Specter in his primary contest with real grassroots conservative Pat Toomey in 2004. Toomey had the full support of the conservative base in 2004 (as he does now) yet Keene supported Specter. David Keene is chairman of the American Conservative Union (ACU), an organization which, among other things, rates public officials on how conservative they are. In 2004, Specter received an ACU rating of 47. Toomey’s rating? 97. One wonders if Keene will back Specter (who is now a Democrat, by the way) against Toomey in 2010 as well.

Why would Keene, chairman of the ACU, back a candidate with an ACU rating of 47 against one with a rating of 97? Keene has had a long career as a Washington lobbyist. James Justin Wilson wrote an article for the National Review back in 2003 which chronicled the, shall we say, cozy relationship between Keene and Specter. Mr. Keene, it appears, has a long history of subordinating his principles to his business interests in classic Washington insider style. R. A. Mansour further illuminated Keene’s corrupt self-dealing when she exposed a “pay-to-play” scheme in a post last summer. Is this what Keene means by stepping “up to the plate on matters of principle”?

Keene’s ACU also puts on the annual CPAC conference in Washington. CPAC originated in 1973 as a meeting of dedicated grassroots conservatives and is partially credited with the rise of Ronald Reagan in the late 1970s. David Keene assumed the chairmanship of the ACU in 1984 and since then CPAC has steadily strayed from its grassroots origins. Today it is the ultimate establishment event.

In the last three years CPAC has devolved into nothing more than an annual love fest for the most established of establishment Republicans, Mitt Romney. It should come as no surprise that David Keene supported Mitt Romney in 2008. However, I’m sure that Romney’s three consecutive victories in the CPAC straw polls is entirely coincidental. After all, the conservative base loves Romney, right? Readers may recall that Keene’s CPAC invited Governor Palin to speak in February, then falsely claimed she backed out when she had never agreed to attend in the first place.

Keene next grabs a second shovel so he can dig even faster:

There were winners in this one and there were losers. Fred Thompson, Mike Pence and Tim Pawlenty were big winners and Newt Gingrich, the Republican House Leadership and Michael Steele will always be remembered along with the David Brooks of the world for their failure to ‘get it.’

Where to begin? I can accept and agree with Keene’s praise of Fred Thompson. Thompson is a forthright conservative who, along with his wife, Jeri Thompson, Dick Armey and others such as the Club For Growth, had the temerity to endorse Doug Hoffman early when nobody gave him a chance. But what about Keene’s claim that Mike Pence and Tim Pawlenty are the other “big winners”. First, I will state for the record that I have nothing against either Pawlenty or Pence. They are both fine mainstream conservatives. That said, Keene’s pronouncement is a head scratcher, to put it mildly. How can any list of “big winners” exclude the biggest game changer of them all: Governor Palin? Her endorsement was the seminal event that precipitated the tsunami of support which flooded into NY-23. Everyone else simply followed in her wake.

Mike Pence, to his credit, refused to support Dede Scozzafava. However, he did not actually endorse Doug Hoffman until yesterday (October 31st). Tim Pawlenty, on the other hand, embarked on a much more circuitous course. Governor Palin endorsed Doug Hoffman on the 22nd. On the same day, when asked where he stood on the race, Pawlenty replied thusly, according to Peter Hamby of CNN:

“You know I haven’t been following that, I haven’t studied the race at all,” he said. “It’s not that I would or wouldn’t, I just don’t know anything about it. I haven’t taken the time to study their positions, their records, so I haven’t taken a position on it.”

Pawlenty either hadn’t even heard of Doug Hoffman or was practicing the fine art of political fence sitting. His thoughts on the race were as inspiring as his speeches. Propelled by Governor Palin’s endorsement, support for Hoffman’s campaign “exploded” over the weekend, apparently prodding Pawlenty into allocating sufficient time to “study” the candidate’s positions. He then followed Governor Palin’s lead and endorsed Hoffman on the 26th, which, presumably, earned him Keene’s coveted “big winner” status. Get it?

David Keene, of course, has a history of Palin Derangement Syndrome (PDS). In July, Mitt Romney sycophant Ron Kessler “interviewed” fellow Romney supporter David Keene in an article for Newsmax. The general thrust of the article is that Governor Palin is not ready to run for president because, well, because she’s not Mitt Romney. Keene cited all the usual discredited talking points made by liberals and Republican elites to back up his assertion.

John Ziegler, famously, attempted to question Keene about his irrational hatred of Governor Palin at the Western CPAC conference (WCPAC) a couple weeks ago. Keene became agitated, peppering Ziegler with profanity and even threatening violence during the interview. You can read more about Keene’s bizarre behavior in a post by Tommy Report, which includes video of Keene’s encounter with Ziegler.

The notion that ultimate Washington insider David Keene considers himself a voice of the grassroots is delusional. I doubt more than a handful of those hard-working volunteers on the ground in NY-23 are even aware of the long time Washington lobbyist. One individual they are most certainly aware of is Governor Palin. Keene’s pronouncement that Tim Pawlenty is a “big winner” in the race while ignoring the enormous impact of Governor Palin’s endorsement is patently absurd.

Pawlenty may never have endorsed Hoffman in the first place if not for Governor Palin’s adroit move. By his own admission, Pawlenty wasn’t even paying attention to the race. Keene’s implication that grassroots conservatives, upon hearing Pawlenty’s belated endorsement, suddenly came running, wallets in hand, to support Doug Hoffman is beyond silly. If Keene’s candidate, Mitt Romney, who voted “present” in the NY-23 race, was to endorse Hoffman on Wednesday morning, would Keene declare him a big winner too?

I feel compelled to make one last point. I wouldn’t blame Governor Palin one bit if she skips Keene’s increasingly irrelevant CPAC conference in 2010. Why should she legitimize it, and David Keene, with her presence? He is exactly the kind of self-dealing insider that Governor Palin has fought against her entire career.

Support Doug Hoffman here.

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