My Last Conversation with Andrew Breitbart (Updated)
The last time I saw Andrew Breitbart, he was angry.
We were in Manchester, New Hampshire, and it was the night before the primary. I was one of a zillion bloggers and writers and scribes who had descended on the town to get a few stories and then move on to the next primary or caucus or whatever. So the date was January 9, not that I remembered that. I had to look it up. That part of 2012 kind of runs together for me, but I remember the conversation with Andrew very well.
I had what might be called a long distance friendship with Andrew. We had had a silly run-in when I was working at Hot Air, which was almost entirely my fault, but we resolved that and eventually became friends. That's how Andrew was. I don't think he held personal grudges despite his reputation for relentlessly picking away at liberals. The reason that he picked at Eric "Earache" Boehlert at Media Matters wasn't personal. He picked at Earache because of what he represented, the intolerant, angry and dishonest left that always claims the moral high ground while acting in the lowest and most underhanded manner. Andrew hated that. He loved exposing and ridiculing it.
So I'm at the headquarters hotel in Manchester, having run into Stacy McCain at some point. Stacy and I go to Radio Row and there's Andrew, doing a hit on Fingers Malloy's radio show. Of course, Andrew knew everybody in the room and everybody knew him. You couldn't ignore him if you tried.
As I said, we were long distance friends. We seldom communicated outside of big events, but when we saw each other we made a point to say hello and spend a few minutes catching up.
He finished up on the show and did that Breitbart thing of greeting you loudly and making sure everyone around said hello to everybody else. He told a joke about me, not mean-spirited as I wasn't actually the target, and then we walked down to the hotel's restaurant. It was packed and we couldn't get a table for quite a while. So we stood around outside the door waiting, and Stacy saw someone he knew and wandered inside. As I said at the top of this piece, Andrew was angry. He held a flyer in his hand that advertised a GOProud party. Andrew had championed GOProud in its battle with CPAC. But the flyer he held advertised a party, and *he was afraid that the campy innuendo of the flyer would offend social conservatives. That upset him, because he saw it as fractious to the conservative cause. He knew that while social cons and GOProud would have longstanding disagreements, if they could agree on some basic things, they could be on the same winning team.
Andrew came at his support for GOProud from where and what he was, a libertarian conservative. I come at my social conservative beliefs from where and what I am, a Southern Baptist from Texas. He was a West Coast Hollywood conservative turned off by the aggressive hypocrisy and fundamental dishonesty of liberalism. I come at my conservatism from a totally different direction. Andrew was one of the few people who could be a neither/both kind of guy at the same time.
Andrew showed me the flyer, and I had to admit that it was bad and it was not the kind of thing I would have created, nor was it anything that surprised me overmuch. It was upsetting but not particularly shocking. Social cons get kicked in the teeth by the dominant culture and even by our fellow Republicans all the time. We do our share of kicking too. The flyer kind of rolled off my back. At that point I was still more worried about Romney rolling to the nomination than some flyer. The Perry miracle never came.
But Andrew wouldn't let it go. He kept talking about how dumb it was, how it was the kind of thing we need less of if we're going to defeat the left, how it was an insult.
Some of this was just his personality. "Laid back" was not a term that anyone would associate with him. But he was right to be angry, too, about the unnecessary divisiveness of it all.
Andrew was never, as far as I know, an addition by subtraction guy. He never saw the solution to any of the conservative movement's problems in purges or "If we would only get rid of this group we would win more." He didn't spend a lot of his time going after any particular faction on our side, however he might have disagreed with them. He trained his fire and passion on the other side and tried to win more people to our side.
So why bring all of this up now?
I'm not really sure, to be honest. It's just been on my mind. After an election, whether a party wins or loses, you always have people in this group or that group within the party use the outcome to push their longstanding agendas. This is especially true after a defeat. In the wake of last week's loss, it has proven to be all too tempting for our various factions to slam each other rather than train our fire on the other side. "We have to get rid of the social cons," or "We have to lose the RINOs." They are, essentially, calling to get to four by subtracting two from two.
I don't know whether Obama would have won had Andrew survived. We'll never know that, of course. I'm not sure even Tornado Andrew could have undone the political effects of Hurricane Sandy or fixed the GOP ground game. We certainly lost a lion and a lightning rod when we lost him. But I do know that his reaction to the defeat would not have been to go about purging the movement of any particular faction. He would have come back the next day fighting with all of his might for the whole cause, to rally as many people as he could to it.
*I've edited that sentence to more accurately reflect the flyer and why it bothered Andrew.