Questioning the Chairman

All of us at RedState had a great time at this year’s Gathering. And we’re already looking forward to next year in Atlanta. There was one minor bit of controversy at the Gathering this year and I think I should start today by addressing it.

We invited Reince Priebus, Chairman of the RNC, to the RedState Gathering. Normally at the Gathering, with some exceptions, we ask our speakers to take questions from the crowd. Twice now the Chairman of the RNC has come and taken questions from the crowd.

This year, I insisted on asking the questions in a conversational interview format. After the interview, a number of attendees expressed their anger to me that they could not ask questions. In fact, one was so deeply hostile that after yelling at me, he stormed from the room, yelled at another attendee, then tried yelling at Reince. At the conclusion of the Gathering, he came up to me and apologized and noted his reaction was proof I had done the right thing.

But there was more to it than me knowing people would be angry about Mississippi. First, many of the people told me what they wanted to ask Reince. Unfortunately, neither Reince nor the RNC had anything to do with the points they wanted to make. They no more believed me on that than they’d believe the Chairman. Had he, like me, denied responsibility to their points, they’d have just been more angry.

Secondly, and more importantly, during the Gathering we became aware of an organized effort to embarrass the Chairman and otherwise disrupt the event. In fact, when I undercut the effort, one person affiliated with one of our sponsors began loudly playing ringtones from his phone to disrupt the event. Another tried to block the video camera recording the event with a sign.

Next year we are going to change the way questions are asked because of this. I regret having to cut short questions in any situation. The Gathering, however, is my event and each guest is personally invited by me. No one gets the right to be a jerk to one of my guests.

I am sorry some well meaning people could not get their questions asked. But I am very glad to have pre-empted some trying to make a spectacle of themselves. The Chairman of the RNC is a good man and good chairman and much of what people are throwing at him is outside his control or portfolio.

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