“If we're going to have a nuclear holocaust, I’m going to the buffet first” – National Review 2008 Post Election Cruise – part 1

(Thanks to Jim Geraghty for the hat tip over at NRO’s Campaign Spot. His summary of the cruise is well worth reading.)

This diary is the first in a series of multimedia diaries that I will be posting over the next few days. I’m hoping that I can get my footage edited and up on YouTube before I need to head to Los Angeles on Monday. So bear with me as I put all of this together. I’m going to start with this overview of the cruise, then in later segments cover in depth the discussions that occurred on specific topics, such as the bailout, Hollywood, and George W. Bush’s legacy.The cruise began last Saturday in Fort Lauderdale Florida. Over 700 of us boarded Holland America’s new ship, the Eurodam, for a cruise of the Caribbean. Our ports of call included Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas, and finally their private island, Half Moon Cay. During the cruise, we had dinner with the speakers on a rotating basis, nightly receptions (including 2 cigar and cognac parties) and daily panel discussions with the speakers. The big draws were Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson, but we also had; Anne Bayefsky, Ken Blackwell, Mona Charen, Shannen Coffin, David Freddoso, Roman Genn, Jim Geraghty, Jonah Goldberg, Victor Davis Hanson, Bernard Lewis, Scott Johnson, Rob Long, Kathryn Jean Lopez, Andrew McCarthy, Bill McGurn, John Miller, Deroy Murdock, Jay Nordlinger, Kate O’Beirne, Darcy Olsen, John O’Sullivan, Ramesh Ponnuru, Father Robert Sirico, Stephen Spruiell, Mark Steyn, Pat Toomey, Ed Whelan, Bing West, and Byron York.

With this lineup, there was no shortage of opportunities to discuss politics and issues with an impressive array of people who we listen to and read almost daily. I’ve put together this quick video to give a flavor of cruise:

As you can see, it was a really fabulous event. In all honesty, I was worried that it would be a shipload of depressed conservatives whining about Obama. But to my surprise, everyone quickly became quite upbeat and positive about the future. Also to my surprise, there was a remarkable unanimity among the speakers and guests regarding the future of conservatism and the Republican Party. Even when there were sharp differences in opinions, such as between Pat Toomey and Mitt Romney on the bailout, there was a very high degree of commonality between the speakers and genuine friendship. It was great to see Fred and Mitt talking and laughing together during breaks in the program.

During the last week, I found out something I didn’t know. Apparently, I look like Mitt Romney. During the first night’s reception I was asked several times if I was David Romney, Mitt’s son. I kind of brushed it off as being the light, but when Jim Geraghty told me I ought to be his stunt double, I realized I was in for a long week. All in all, 47 people told me how much I look like Mitt, and the National Review folks started teasing me about it, with Jonah Goldberg and Roman Genn telling me that they were going to use me as a stand-in for Mitt in caricatures.

I also found out that quite a few people pay attention to RedState. It turns out that Jim Geraghty has read several of my diaries (so you can bet he has read other folks too). Also, when I was talking to Jeri Thompson about Team Sarah, she immediately brought up RedState and Operation Leper, before learning I post here. Once she found out, she told me to thank Erick for Operation Leper and to tell him Hi (Erick, Jeri says Hi, just wanted you to know, don’t let it go to your head, k?). During the cruise I got to talk extensively to several folks like Jay Nordlinger, Mark Steyn, Pat Toomey, Jonah Goldberg, and Rob Long. My wife and I also struck up some nice friendships with Jen, who runs the Shining-city.net blog and her husband Zack, and also Jim Geraghty and his wife.

Some additional observations from the past week:

1) Sarah Palin is a rock star. John O’Sulivan took advantage of his first speaking opportunity to go off topic and tell everyone what a terrific candidate he thinks she is. He was stunned be the thunderous ovation that he got in response, and quite taken aback. I’m going to write a specific diary about the discussion of Sarah, but afterward, the joke among the speakers became “if you want applause, just say Sarah”.

2) Much of the NR conservative base is getting old. My wife and I were among the youngest people on the cruise. Even though we aren’t all that young (we look much younger than we are), the handful of younger cruisers gravitated toward us as did some of the younger National Review folks. National Review needs to really think about how to find a way to get younger conservatives to attend.

3) Racism and homophobia is alive and well in the GOP. I’m really saddened to say so, but several of our fellow cruisers had no problems making blatant, disparaging comments about blacks and gays, because they felt comfortable being at a dinner table with white conservatives. Fortunately, these were very much older guests, so I’m hopeful that I was seeing a vestige of the past. There also seems to be a vocal subset of the SoCon cruisers that felt it was their duty to chastise the younger women that they should be quitting their jobs to raise and home school their children.

4) My instincts about the lessons of the election are pretty good. The diary I wrote immediately after the election stands up very well to the thinking of the conservative speakers. Every point that I made in this diary was raised by someone on a panel, and very few other ideas or thoughts were discussed. An exception was the discussion of the work that Darcy Olsen and the Goldwater Institute is doing in Arizona. There is an untapped opportunity on the state level that we should be taking advantage of. I’ll be specifically writing a diary entry on this topic.

5) The positive attitudes of the NR people do not come across well in writing. I found that in person, the NR folks are very upbeat and generally very much in sync with everything we talk about here. The gloom and loss of focus on conservatism that we tend to see when we read the Corner does not come out when you talk to them face to face.

6) Conservatism has a remarkable strong and consistent message. The spirit of Reagan is alive and well, and is not watered down among the 700+ I spent a week with. Even areas of disagreement had very positive results, where the direction forward was universally based on common beliefs in conservative base principles.

Let me give a quick note about the title of this series. I overheard someone say this in the elevator heading up to the midnight buffet. This was in response to a comment Mark Steyn made about Anne Bayefsky giving an impassioned speech about the Iranian nuclear program, while dressed in a towel. No, I am not kidding.

Stay tuned for more about the cruise.

Part 2 can be found here.

Part 3 can be found here.

Part 4 can be found here.

Part 5 can be found here.

Part 6 can be found here.

Part 7 can be found here.

Part 8 can be found here.

Part 9 can be found here.