by nathan oster
If the American flags that lined both sides of the driveway weren’t enough of an indication, the speakers who took their turns at the podium proved it beyond the shadow of a doubt.
Saturday afternoon’s third annual Big Horn Basin Tea Party Picnic held on attorney Rob DiLorenzo’s ranch outside Emblem was an event splashed in patriotism, serving up not only the usual dialogue about property, individual and gun rights but also some of the first public volleys in the race for U.S. Senate and a stirring defense by the state’s embattled superintendent of public instruction.
More than 300 people attended the gathering, which began promptly at noon and lasted into the early evening hours. While the main course was barbecued pork and beef brisket, behind the microphone, that distinction belonged to U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi and his challenger, Liz Cheney, who whet the public appetite for the campaign to come.
The two candidates — Enzi, who has held the Senate seat since 1997, and Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney — are both bidding for the Republican nomination, which will be on the ballot in the 2014 primary election.
Enzi took the stage first, telling attendees that while August is a month away from the affairs of Washington, D.C., it’s hardly a time of rest. Through a series of listening sessions, including one held two days earlier in Greybull, Enzi is “traveling 5,000 miles getting opinions” from constituents about what needs to be done in the nation’s capital.
Enzi offered harsh criticism of President Obama’s signature health-care legislation, referred to by many as “Obamacare.”
“That bill needs to be repealed,” he told the crowd. “If we can’t repeal it, we should de-fund it. If we can’t de-fund it, we should dismantle it.”
Enzi said he offered a president an alternative, which he called “a 10-point plan,” but that Obama never considered it. “He doesn’t listen to the American people; he just campaigns,” said Enzi.
He also questioned why the Obama administration feels it can be exempt from the Obamacare legislation. “In Wyoming, legislators live under every single law that they pass,” he said.
Shifting to spending, Enzi said the federal government has spent too much. “I voted against HARP and I voted against the stimulus, and I know that is what started the Tea Party,” he said. On a related note, he said he’s committed to ridding the federal budget of items in dublication, saying it would “take care a good part of the deficit.”
So, he said, would his “Penny Plan.” The idea is to spend 1 penny less for every federal dollar that is spent. Do it for two years and the federal government could balance its budget. Once it’s done that, it could go for 2 cents and start eating away at the federal deficit.
Enzi said he wants to continue looking into the intelligence failure that led to BenGazi, as well as the NSA’s tapping of phone records and the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups nationwide.
Enzi said he’s proud of the state for not requesting waivers to the national education program. “We need to reign in the waivers that this president does which have no basis in law,” he said. By illegally offering waivers to the national education system, Obama is trying to curry support for key provisions in No Child Left Behind.
Enzi applauded the other members of the Wyoming congressional delegation, U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, who was in attendance, and Sen. John Barrasso, who according to Enzi, was “checking on our troops.”
“We are three separate personalities, and together, we can deal with three different types of people,” he said. “We meet regularly,” which is something that not all state congressional delegations can say.
Enzi ended his comments by saying that Republicans are looking forward to the next election, when they hope to gain control of the U.S. Senate, and touted himself as a true Wyoming conservative who has cast more than 5,000 votes on half of the state’s people..
He said his conservative lifetime voting record is 93 percent, and that it’s 100 percent when it comes to supporting right to life and small business causes. He also cited his “A” rating from the gun owners association.
Cheney on attack
Cheney, a Fox News analyst, took the offensive almost from the start, saying that, “When you look at where we are today, we’re living through a moment that has historical precedent.” Years down the road, the decisions of today will have shaped history.
“Sometimes you don’t realize you’re living through the moment until you get past it, but make no mistake, right now, we are living through a moment of decision.”
Cheney said the time is up for the “go along to get along attitude,” asking attendees, “Are you going to continue supporting business as usual in Washington? Or are you going to stand and fight for our freedoms?”
Enzi gave “a list of what’s wrong in Washington,” she said, “But happening in Washington today isn’t getting the job done. This president’s expansion of the role of the federal government in our lives has gotten worse by the day in the last 4 ½ years.”
Later she added, “Across the board, especially here in Wyoming, we are feeling the pain of this president’s policies.”
In a poke at Enzi, she said you need look no further than Gillette (where Enzi launched his political career) to see the damaging effects of Obama’s “war on coal. We need somebody in Washington who is going to lead on that issue,” she said. “Someone who will stand up and not just cast votes.”
Federal regulations that come down from the EPA and the BLM are choking farmers, ranchers and industry. “It isn’t enough for a sitting senator to list the problems; a sitting senator needs to say, ‘Here are the solutions.’”
More compromise with the Obama administration is not the answer for Republicans. “Everybody agrees on the importance of compromise for the good of a nation,” she said. “But too often, all the compromise is coming from our side. When all the compromise comes from one side, it’s called capitulation. We’re the party of Ronal Reagan. We deserve better.”
Cheney called Obamacare “a disaster for all of us and a disaster for the nation,” adding “We have to make sure it never takes effect.” She said if it does, Enzi should lead the charge to send the money back to the U.S. treasury.
On foreign policy, Cheney said Obama came into office intending to weaken the nation, and that he “doesn’t believe in the sacred nature of our Constitution” and feels like he can “operate outside the Constitution” because he’s got the national media in his corner.
“A lot of folks out there say ‘Conservatives, your time has past.’ They tell us our time has past. They tell us we’re done. Every time I hear someone say that, I tell them, ‘What I believe isn’t a fad or a fashion. What I believe in are the documents that are the foundation of this democracy.’”
Cheney ended her speech by emphasizing the three words of the Constitution that appear larger than all others are “We the people,” adding, “They are the most important words in that document. We are the inheritors of an incredible legacy.
“We can no longer go along to get along. That isn’t going to cut it. We have to stand up and fight.”
Lummis used her time to talk about defense — and in particular, the president’s insistence on reducing the nation’s nuclear arsenal. According to Lummis, all of the nation’s land-based missiles are in Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota. “They can be targeted to any site in the world via pinpoint GPS and land on a person’s head in 20 minutes,” she said. “Now that’s deterrence.”
Obama “wants to take these weapons from warm status and mothball them. Even (Russian President Vladimir) Putin looked at him with an incredulous expression. Even he knows it’s a bad idea. So how come Barack Obama can’t figure it out?”
Tom DeWeese, who was introduced as “the founder of the American Policy Center” and “the world’s foremost expert on personal property rights,” discussed Agenda 21 and the loss of personal property rights.
Wayne Simmons, a Fox News terrorism analyst who once worked for the Central Intelligence Agency, said mosques are springing up on the East Coast and that it’s a bad sign for the nation. Mosques, said Simmons, are where terrorists are recruited and where money is laundered.
Another speaker, Commander Kirk Lippold, was captain of the USS Cole when it was attacked on Oct. 12, 2000 — 11 months before the 9/11 attacks. It was docked in the port of Aden in Yemen for a routine fueling stop when it was rocked by an explosion. Seventeen sailors died and 37 more were wounded. Lippold spoke of that and
The superintendent of public instruction, Hill has been at odds with Gov. Matt Mead since he signed Senate File 104, which stripped her of many of the powers of her office. She is currently challenging the constitutionality of that legislation and vowing to run for governor.
She referenced something Enzi said earlier in the afternoon about he wished Wyoming had never applied for a No Child Left Behind Waiver. “On Feb. 28, after the governor had taken SF 104 and signed it, he directed the Department of Education to apply for the NCLB waive.
“You need to know that.”
Hill said she would never have applied for the waiver and that Mead made a mistake by doing so.
Using a story from her past, she recalled how her family is from Germany, and that one of her ancestors, a journalist, was beheaded for writing about what was happening in Nazi Germany. He believed he was doing the right thing.
“My questions since I was a little girl for all those who didn’t stand up is, ‘Why?’ Now when I think about SF 104, people are not losing their lives. Those who passed SF 104 … in a way … did us a favor. How can having our constitutional rights stripped away be a good th ing? Here’s how: It has brought us togther. It has connected us.
“When we look into each other’s eyes, we cannot harm each other. So when I think about the last week (and approaching the Supreme Court) … I believe those who passed SF 104, if they’d had looked into your eyes, and you into theirs, they could never have passed it.”
DiLorenzo, whose ranch hosted the picnic, said in an interview Tuesday that he’s already begun planning next year’s gathering.
“When we started 4 or 4 ½ years ago, it was just myself, Bob Berry and Robin Berry,” he said. “Our first picnic, we had one large tent … and about 150 people. Then we said, ‘We should get two tents’ and 250 people showed up. This year, we said, ‘We better have three tents.’ And then 350 people showed up.”
DiLorenzo said future picnics will feature fewer politicians and more speakers from “all over the country” talking about topics of interest to Tea Party members.