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A Gathering of Eagles By: Lowell Ponte
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, November 18, 2004

A GLOW, LIKE DAWN, SEEMED TO COME from the Boca Raton Resort and Club as I approached last Thursday.  Inside, the first friend I recognized was John O’Neill, who co-founded Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, co-authored the bestseller Unfit for Command, and, as political expert Dick Morris here would say two days later, “ate up a month” of John Kerry’s 2004 campaign and almost certainly caused Kerry’s defeat.

O’Neill was one of several heroes at this Restoration Weekend who have literally changed history. Another, Natan Sharansky, helped bring down the Soviet Union and free captive Soviet Jews. Others have been among the founding fathers and freedom fighters of a conservative movement that has rescued our Bill of Rights and renewed the spirit of liberty in America.

The sunrise glow filling this Restoration Weekend came from a gathering of eagles, from some of the great and noble souls who are the saving remnant of humankind.


The Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon called this place Florida, “flowery,” likely because his quest for the fabled Fountain of Youth landed him here during Easter week, which the Spanish call “Pascua florida.”


This Restoration Weekend was set at what had been Ground Zero during the 2000 Democrat effort to steal the election here in Palm Beach County. The Spanish called this place Boca Raton, literally “mouth of the rat,” because to them this inlet seemed a den of cutthroats and pirates.


As Restoration Weekend commenced, Democrats here were being given “intense hypnotherapy” by local psychologist Douglas Schooler for what he called PEST, “post-election selection trauma,” the shock of John Kerry’s crushing defeat.


“I had one friend tell me he’s never been so depressed and angry in his life,” Schooler told the Boca Raton News. “I observed patients threatening to leave the country or staring listlessly into space. They were emotionally paralyzed, shocked and devastated.”


To the elated gathering at Restoration Weekend, the November 2 election produced the opposite effect. As the guiding mind behind The Almanac of American Politics and a senior writer at U.S. News & World Report, Michael Barone shared with his fellow Restoration Weekenders, the ongoing vote count now suggests that Kerry lost to President George W. Bush by a margin not of 51-48 but of 52-48. “America,” Barone told us, “is no longer a 50-50 nation.”


The people have begun to vote for liberty by rejecting liberalism. Barring some unforeseen event, it now appears that the Republican Party will hold the White House and Congress for at least a generation. Without such power, Democrats cannot buy votes, as they had done to retain power in the past. The socialism that has seized control of the Democratic Party is now sliding into the garbage disposal of history. It’s easy to see why the Demons are screaming and suffering from PEST.


Only miles from our gathering place, 9-11 terrorist Mohammed Atta had visited a local South Florida airport and inquired about renting and using a crop-duster. Other 9-11 terrorists rented a post office box in Delray Beach, just north of Boca Raton. Two weeks prior to 9-11, the growing Muslim community in Boca Raton had announced plans to build not just one but two new mosques here from which locals could be called five times daily to bow towards Mecca.


Only weeks before this Restoration Weekend, the liberal Florida Supreme Court (that tried to jigger the vote re-count to make Democratic candidate Al Gore President in 2000) ruled in favor of the City of Boca Raton. The city’s liberal lawmakers had banned “vertical markers” at the municipal cemetery – i.e., had prohibited families from leaving small American flags, crosses or Stars of David at loved ones’ graves – after Politically Correct Democrat mouths complained that their sensitivities were hurt by such displays of American patriotism, Christianity and Judaism. Florida has a new law defending the religious rights of citizens, but the Democrat lawmakers of Boca Raton and the Florida Supreme Court slapped these rights aside. Does any rational person wonder why America is rejecting liberalism?


Boca Raton was, therefore, a place well-chosen to celebrate freedom’s restoration. Friday’s breakfast speaker Senator John Sununu (R.-New Hampshire) reflected the gathering’s optimistic light, as did veteran political consultant Charlie Black.


A note of caution came during 11 A.M.’s panel discussion. Generals Thomas McInerney and Paul Vallely are familiar to news watchers and co-authors of the new book Endgame: The Blueprint for Victory in the War on Terror. They reminded the audience that a handful of terrorists armed with nuclear weapons could drive into big cities and kill as many as 30 million Americans. Another panel that morning discussed steps needed to defend our homeland during the war on terrorism. It featured, among others, Senator Jeff Sessions (R.-Alabama) and Michelle Malkin, author of In Defense of Internment: The Case for Racial Profiling in World War II and the War on Terror.


During lunch, Wayne LaPierre, Chief Executive Officer of the National Rifle Association, discussed how the traditional American impulses of self-reliance and our right to self-defense had been factors in the 2004 election. The fact that longtime gun-control advocate and supporter John Kerry felt compelled to campaign in camouflage while carrying a shotgun and pretending to be a hunter, said LaPierre, shows how far the political balance on this issue has shifted in favor of liberty.


The evening featured something new for Restoration Weekend – an organized book signing. Entire conventions of the American Booksellers Association rarely bring together the sheer star power of the dozen major authors happy to sign an unlimited number of books that Friday night for approximately 250 Restoration Weekenders. One of these stars was Bernard Goldberg, who warned of media liberalism like Dan Rather’s in his bestsellers Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News and Arrogance: Rescuing America from the Media Elite. Another was Fox News analyst, New York Post columnist, co-creator of the anti-Michael Moore documentary Fahrenhype 911, and Clinton political advisor Dick Morris, signing his (and his co-author wife’s) latest book about the Clintons, Because He Could.


Among these famous signers was Michael Barone, the brilliant demographer whose latest book is Hard America, Soft America: Competition vs. Coddling and the Battle for the Nation’s Future. Another such leading light in America was military historian and History Channel superstar Victor Davis Hanson, signing his books such as Mexifornia: A State of Becoming and Ripples of Battle: How Wars of the Past Still Determine How We Fight, How We Live, and How We Think, packed with insights needed to fight terrorism.


Col. Robert “Buzz” Patterson, who carried the “nuclear football” at President Clinton’s side and in the process witnessed things that horrified him, was busy signing copies of his latest revelations Reckless Disregard: How Liberal Democrats Undercut Our Military, Endanger Our Soldiers, and Jeopardize Our Security. Happily signing their latest were Michelle Malkin, famed feminist Phyllis Chesler, and psychologist and author of Final Judgment: The End of Conflict Wayne Davidson. Greeting people alongside them was former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr, who heroically put his career on the line by bringing President Clinton to justice and writes about it in his new book The Meaning of Is: The Squandered Impeachment and Wasted Legacy of William Jefferson Clinton.


This night was a chance to touch history, to shake the hand and cherish the personal signature of John O’Neill, and to make a collector’s item of former Marxist, famed author, and human rights leader David Horowitz’s new bestseller Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left.  

One of the highest moments of Restoration Weekend came next, as the Editor-in-Chief of the Weekly Standard and Fox News contributor Bill Kristol introduced one of our time’s greatest heroes, Natan Sharansky. In the former Soviet Union Sharansky was a mathematician, human rights activist and English interpreter for Andrei Sakharov. The Soviets sentenced him to 13 years in prison after he applied for an exit visa to Israel. Sharansky was imprisoned, then sent to the Gulag in Siberia. But rather than despair, he taught himself Hebrew and found strength in his faith and Jewish heritage. As his wife Avital worked tirelessly for his release, Sharansky became a worldwide symbol of Soviet Jewry.


Sharansky was released in a 1986 East-West prisoner exchange. He moved to Israel, worked successfully to free other Soviet Jews and to help Russian Jews who came to Israel, and in 1995 founded a new political party, Yisrael b’Aliyah, dedicated to helping immigrants. This party promptly won seven seats in Israel’s legislature, the Knesset, and Sharansky has since served in the cabinet. Today he is Israel’s Minister of Housing and Construction.


True to his Jewish faith, Sharansky that Shabbat night spoke without a microphone to a hushed and attentive audience. Giving people freedom and the right to select their own government, he explained, was the best antidote to terrorism. If we refuse to be terrorized, then the terrorists will lose. His own life is an inspiring example of the power of human courage, determination and faith. We live in an age of giants, as Sharansky shows us. He, too, had been autographing his co-authored book The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror.


By the end of Restoration Weekend’s first full day, those taking part could feel their minds, hearts and spirits expanding. Even the comic talent who closed after Sharansky’s speech brought deep thought as well as laughter. Tim Slagle, whose first comedy recording is about to be released, is also a contributing editor of libertarian Liberty Magazine.


Saturday on Restoration Weekend began with a speech by former Central Intelligence Agency director R. James Woolsey, who explained how terrorist-vulnerable America is because of our highly centralized economy and infrastructure systems supplying electricity, fuel, food and other necessities for our way of life.


A panel on media followed. It included Bernard Goldberg along with famed actor Robert Davi. Kevin Bleyer, a producer/writer on CNBC’s “Dennis Miller Show” who wrote for “Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher,” offered wit and wisdom. Other panelists were writer/director Jason Apuzzo and his actress/writer wife Govindini Murty, who with little money but great verve and energy successfully launched the first Hollywood festival of conservative films in 2004. Many of these films, including a documentary about Ann Coulter, another titled “Brainwashing 101” about left-wing indoctrination on college campuses, and “In the Face of Evil” about Ronald Reagan’s 40-year struggle against Communism, were later screened for Restoration Weekenders. 


A Restoration Weekend can be like taking several college courses in only three days. Before noon, participants also had a choice of panels. One was on the direction of conservatism, featuring U.S. Senators Jeff Sessions and legendary baseball pitcher Jim Bunning (R.-Kentucky), the right honorable David Keene of the American Conservative Union, and the influential head of Americans for Tax Reform Grover Norquist. The other panel, about Israel and the terrorist war against America, included Victor Davis Hanson, Ralph Hallow of the Washington Times, Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum, and Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy. Over lunch we heard the wisdom of NRA President Kayne Robinson and Senator Trent Lott (R.-Mississippi).


The evening’s banquet culminated with the Annie Taylor Awards, named for the first woman to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel and survive. The ceremony, introduced by David Horowitz and emceed by Shannon Reeves, President of the Oakland, California NAACP, went swimmingly. The awards, given for courage and pluck against long odds, went to several heroes. The first was John Bryant, who founded Operation HOPE to teach personal economic empowerment in America’s inner cities.


A second Taylor Award went to Carlton Sherwood, the Pulitzer and Peabody Award-winning journalist who produced the 45-minute documentary “Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal,” about former POWs in Vietnam who heard John Kerry’s anti-American statements used by their captors in an effort to torture and break them. The Democratic Party was so terrified of this documentary that it used every kind of vile threat and intimidation to prevent the airing of “Stolen Honor” by Sinclair Broadcasting.


 I was watching these presentations with friend Chris Ruddy, head of NewsMax.com, one of America’s top internet news sources. With typical modesty, Chris never mentioned his key role in raising $1.7 million so that “Stolen Honor” could air repeatedly during the days just before the November election on PAX TV, available in 90 percent of homes in America. Its 10 airings on PAX reached an estimated five million viewers.


The third Taylor Award winner that night was John O’Neill, a 1967 Graduate of the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Commander of Kerry’s own Swift Boat PCF94 in Vietnam, a top-rank graduate of the University of Texas Law School, former law clerk for Justice William Rehnquist (1974-75) and attorney in Houston. Such facts went unmentioned by a liberal media trying to discredit and destroy O’Neill and more than 260 other highly-decorated Vietnam Swift Boat vets who were telling the unappetizing truth about John Kerry.


As John Fund of the Wall Street Journal (who was once more at Restoration Weekend) passionately wrote last Monday, when John O’Neill began his crusade last February he was in intensive care, having just donated a kidney to his wife Anne. But this noble soldier, at risk to his own life and health, toured the country doing hundreds of media interviews amidst the most hateful leftwing flak attacks. With the steadiness of a genuine hero in combat, O’Neill’s integrity cut to pieces the tissue of pro-Kerry lies concocted by the leftwing establishment media. His assault ended Kerry’s hopes of winning.


The heroism shown by O’Neill and his fellow Swift Boat Veterans for Truth had been “the last mission” of Vietnam War veterans, said the final Taylor Award winner Jim Warner, who had been a Marine pilot and prisoner of war in Vietnam and is now Assistant General Council to the National Rifle Association. The good guys won this time, completing their mission “on November 3, at 2:08 p.m. Eastern Time, when John Kerry conceded the presidential race to George W. Bush.”


Sunday at Restoration Weekend began with David Horowitz moderating a panel mostly of students. Brett Mock of Ball State University, Bradley Alexander of the University of Georgia, and Bryan Henderson of Concord College recounted their experiences being bullied and threatened by leftwing professors and administrators. They gave shocking examples of the indoctrination now widespread at what used to be bastions of free speech and free thought. At one campus a saxophone teacher headed “Peace Studies,” whose Orwellian name cloaked a course that made ideological war against American values and punished dissent.


David French, President of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), discussed cases in which his organization assisted such students in fighting the intimidation of totalitarian leftist professors and administrators. This panel made clear how urgently America needs an Academic Bill of Rights of the sort advanced by Students for Academic Freedom (SAF). Fittingly, it was concluded by Peter Kinder, the new Lieutenant Governor of Missouri who has led the fight for the Academic Bill of Rights in that state. He told the audience that the newly elected governor of Missouri, Matt Blunt, “would sign the Academic Bill of Rights in the new year.”


What struck me while listening to these students was that their experiences closely paralleled African-Americans at the dawn of the modern Civil Rights movement. They were being told to shut up, not get uppity, not question authority, and were threatened with loss of their careers (and even their physical safety) if they refused to conform. As I found myself saying at the start of the next and final panel of Restoration Weekend, by helping spearhead the effort to liberate America’s college and university campuses, David Horowitz continues to be one of the great human rights activists of our time. History is written by the winners, and at the moment prospects seem bright that honest and decent people are winning.


The Left today, I said, is suffering its own version of “Irish Alzheimer’s,” a terminal disease in which all one remembers are the grudges. The Left’s idealism is gone, discredited by historic proof that socialism and Marxism do far more to destroy people than to benefit them. All the Left has left, as David Horowitz writes in Unholy Alliance, is nihilism, an impulse to take capitalism down, too. All the left remembers is its longtime hatred of capitalism, individualism and private property. And leftists are now willing to ally themselves with the Islamist Genghis Khans who attacked the World Trade Center, symbol of global capitalism, to destroy their old foe.


Karl Marx, I said, knew that overthrowing the bourgeoisie would be extremely difficult. Marx recognized that, like his favored proletariat, the bourgeoisie was also a revolutionary class – the class that overthrew the kings. We modern capitalists should embrace our revolutionary strength as capitalists and individualists and not be intimidated by Marxists nor Muslim medievalists eager to put the world under the rule of one Islamic Caliph (the professed aim of Osama bin Laden).


One way to defend ourselves from both terror and socialism, I argued as I have in past years at FrontPage Magazine, is sprawl. The left hates sprawl, not for the environmental reasons it claims but because sprawl happens when hard-working city dwellers move out beyond the reach of city tax collectors. Sprawl means that these people can no longer be milked to pay for welfare and meaningless government jobs in Democrat-controlled big cities. A redistribution of productive people can mean an end to the socialist redistribution of their income on which the modern left depends.


Sprawl is also a natural form of self-defense against terrorism, I argued. People packed together by the millions in dense cities are an easy and tempting target. People spread out over hundreds of square miles are a difficult target. And the same logic, as former CIA director Woolsey observed on Restoration Weekend Saturday, applies to our vulnerability from highly-centralized infrastructure. I noted that we already have the technology to decentralize our electrical and other key grids, thereby greatly reducing our vulnerability to technological terrorism. The Internet itself was begun by the military’s Darpanet, a decentralized system intended to be invulnerable to centralized attack.


“We’re all Israelis now,” wrote feminist Phyllis Chesler minutes after the attack on 9-11. She told the audience that we must learn to adapt as Israelis did to this new threat environment, an environment in which she has seen many of her old feminist allies go over to the side of the enemy. Her recent book The New Anti-Semitism: The Current Crisis and What We Must Do About It boldly examines the self-hating, self-destructive impulses now controlling much of the Left in the Western World.


Restoration Weekends also bring together those making America better at several levels of politics. Members of Congress such as Ed Royce (R.-California), John Culberson (R.-Texas) and Jack Quinn (R.-N.Y.) were here. So, too, were many who work out of the spotlight to develop ideas and organize campaigns to advance the cause of liberty.


Restoration Weekends also provide opportunities to make new friends from many walks of life. Actor Robert Davi’s face is familiar to most of us from his roles in such movies as the James Bond thriller “License to Kill” and “The Goonies,” and from television shows ranging from “Stargate: Atlantis” to “St. Elsewhere,” “Hill Street Blues,” “Charlie’s Angels,” and his ground-breaking 1996 series “Profiler.” During a 27-year career, he has played opposite Frank Sinatra and been in projects with Marlon Brando, Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis, Steven Spielberg, California’s Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and many others. But on this weekend we chatted for an hour under Florida stars about his forthcoming role in the movie “Gilgamesh,” the history of the Middle East, his studies with Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg, his views of the universe and his political experiences as a conservative in Hollywood. It was good to make a new friend of Robert Davi, a person of great talent, intelligence and integrity.


The glow from Restoration Weekends never ends. It goes home with all who attend, warming their hearts and lighting their understand for a lifetime. And in the best spirit of our Democratic Republic, everyone is welcome to come. For those who love politics, it is a grand, expansive adventure. I hope to see you at next year’s Restoration Weekend.

Mr. Ponte co-hosts a national radio talk show Monday through Friday 6-8 PM Eastern Time (3-5 PM Pacific Time) on the Genesis Communications Network. Internet Audio worldwide is at GCNlive .com. The show's live call-in number is 1-800-259-9231. A professional speaker, he is a former Roving Editor for Reader's Digest.

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