Speaking at a gala dinner in New York City Monday night, best-selling author and Reagan Education Secretary William J. Bennett told a crowd of conservative luminaries that the tea party movement was an anomaly in the history of grass-roots activism.
Attendees tell Newsmax that, in his welcoming remarks to the
supporters of the Claremont Institute, a California-based think tank, Bennett was speaking of the greatness of America when he used the tea party as an example.
Other grass-roots protest movements around the world have demanded that the government give them more of something, Bennett said.
"The tea party says, 'Give us less,'" he said.
Formed soon after the election of President Barack Obama, the movement is composed of activists who are outraged at the massive increases in federal spending seen in the wake of the financial crisis and recession. Tea party backing this year helped elect Republicans such as Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Rand Paul of Kentucky to the U.S. Senate, but its relationship with the Republican Party remains guarded because of the GOP's own big spending during the George W. Bush years.
In closing remarks, Claremont Review of Books editor Charles R. Kesler seemed to highlight the common ground between the Claremont Institute and the tea party. While other conservative organizations have traced their intellectual history back to Irish parliamentarian Edmund Burke or Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek, Kesler made a point of noting that Claremont "draws upon the timeless principles of the American Founding and applies them to the moral and political problems we face today."
The tea party similarly sees itself as rejuvenating the centuries-old wisdom found in a U.S. Constitution it believes Washington has forgotten.
Beginning with a prayer and the pledge of allegiance, the fundraising gala took place in the pool room of the Four Seasons Hotel in Midtown Manhattan.
Claremont's Henry Salvatori Prize in the American Founding was presented to writer Mark Helprin. Salvatori was a geophysicist who founded an innovative oil exploration company and became an early financial supporter of, and adviser to, Ronald Reagan in the 1960s. Earlier still, Salvatori helped found William F. Buckley's National Review magazine.
In his keynote address to the group, Helprin passionately spoke of how the U.S. is disarming itself into a dangerously vulnerable position in the world.
Helprin detailed to the crowd the manpower, naval fleet, air power and artillery of a massive military force that would rank as the second-most powerful fighting machine in the world, asking them to guess what it was. He then told them, "what I have just described is what the United States unilaterally relinquished between 1986 and 2007."
According to Halpern, the U.S. military has been disarming under both
Democratic and Republican presidents. President Obama's approach,
Halpern said, is that in regard to national priorities "the military must wait for the economy.
My point this evening," Halpern contended, "is that this is not so," sparking applause from those in attendance. The massive economic mobilization of World War II, Halpern argued, proved that defense spending "can be an elixir" that revitalizes the U.S. economy, just as war spending pulled the country out of the Great Depression.
There already is overlap between the tea party movement and
conservatives of a previous generation, most notably FreedomWorks, a
nonprofit citizen group chaired by Dick Armey, who was majority leader in the House under Speakers Newt Gingrich and Dennis Hastert.
An alliance between tea partyers and the Claremont Institute would bring the connection to a more intellectual/scholarly level, and could strengthen the intellectual foundation of the new grassroots movement.
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