The Pottawattamie County GOP held their annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinner last Friday on the campus of Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs. Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, a conservative firebrand and member of the Tea Party caucus in the U.S. House, was the keynote speaker.
Here are my thoughts on the event, as well as some highlights of Gohmert’s speech.
The Setting: The Pott. Co. GOP uses the student center at Iowa Western regularly for these events and it works well. The building is the right size, offers good catering and is easily accommodating for events of this type.
The Food: Chicken and pork, salad, broccoli, rice and two types of bread. Carrot cake was the dessert. Overall, it was delicious. Except for the broccoli, which I view the same way George HW Bush does. Unless it’s with cheese.
The Program: This event offered a little bit of everything. There was some comedy, with emcee Jon Jacobsen doing a solid Ronald Reagan impersonation. He and David Overholtzer, playing the part of Reagan advisor Jim Baker, reprised the old Abbott and Costello “Who’s on first?” routine. It wasn’t exactly comedy gold, but was a cute touch that the crowd enjoyed.
Nebraska Congressman Lee Terry was the other featured speaker, along with Louie Gohmert. Terry used the opportunity to deliver some light-hearted remarks.
State Rep. Mark Brandenburg was also scheduled to speak, but could not attend due to some health issues. Mark is a great guy and I wish him a speedy recovery. Ditto for longtime activist Mary Jones, who also was unable to attend.
The Crowd: There were about 125 people in attendance. It was a mix of local party activists, elected officials and other politicos. Gohmert is known to political junkies, but not so much with casual observers, so he was not going to attract a huge audience.
Notable Guests: Potential U.S. Senate candidate Sam Clovis, State Rep. Mary Ann Hanusa, State Senator Hubert Houser, Iowa Republican National Committeeman Steve Scheffler and Branstad campaign staffer Phil Valenziano, as well as other local candidates and some county GOP officials from around the Third District.
Notable Absences: Everyone from the Republican Party of Iowa and the State Central Committee not named Steve Scheffler.
Louie Gohmert’s Speech: Overall, I enjoyed listening to the Texas congressman. 35 minutes is a long time to keep an audience’s attention, but he did that. Gohmert took a little while to warm up, but once he got going, he delivered the goods.
There were three portions of Congressman Gohmert’s speech that stood out for me. The first came around the 15-minute mark, when he ripped into the Obama administration and the ongoing IRS and Department of Justice scandals.
Key quote: “Regardless of whether this president knows what happened, he put in place an atmosphere that has allowed corruption.”
The second key point came around the 24-minute mark when he talked extensively about the Benghazi tragedy, the Navy SEALs who lost their lives that night and late U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Gohmert absolutely shredded Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the duplicitous nature of her post-attack comments, particularly the reasons behind the attack.
Key quote: “When I’m dead and gone, who knows what will happen, but I hope there will not be some government official that stands over my coffin and lies about the reason I’m dead. She knew when she stood over (Chris Stevens’) coffin and mentioned a video, that the video had nothing to do with his death.”
Finally, due to our First in the Nation status, anytime a prominent out-of-state politician visits Iowa, there is automatically speculation that official is testing the waters for a presidential run. Gohmert dispelled that talk, in amusing fashion, saying the country will never elect a bald man.
Overall: I thought it was a good event and almost everyone I spoke with afterwards agreed. It did drag a bit, ending an hour later than originally planned. They could have shortened some things, like speaker introductions.
I really liked that they honored both a local activist and an elected official. Former president of the Iowa Federation of Republican Women Maureen Olsen received the Distinguished Service Award. State Senator Hubert Houser earned the Distinguished Legislative Service Award. That was a classy touch that I believe other county parties and the state party should strongly consider.
We also took a moment to say a prayer for the people in the Oklahoma City area as more tornadoes were bearing down on those folks. That was another classy touch to the evening.
I do think the event suffered a bit by having little Iowa flavor. The two main speakers were congressmen from other states, and neither has presidential aspirations. I know the organizers tried hard to get Texas Governor Rick Perry as the headliner, but were unable to arrange it. Other big name Iowa officials were also unavailable.
Still, kudos goes to the folks in the Pottawattamie County GOP for a solid event.
Photo by Chad Brown
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