The Belly of the Beast

The Belly of the Beast

An Account of the JPC's San Francisco Forum on December 9, 2007

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The Tygrrrr Express detoured from Los Angeles into an area where no conservative should be without bodyguards…Northern California. If the 7th night of Hanukkah in LA is anywhere near as fantastic as the 6th night in San Francisco, it will be an amazing festival of lights indeed.

Intellectual heavyweights Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, Mona Charen, and John Podhoretz were all at Temple Emanuel in San Francisco for an absolutely brilliant panel sponsored by the Jewish Policy Center (www.jewishpolicycenter.org).

The JPC is a place for rational, serious thought. Jonathan Schanzer organized the event for the JPC, and to say that the JPC hit a home run out of the ballpark would be an understatement.

Tomorrow I will publish the transcript of the event. Today I just want to focus on the speakers themselves.

John Podhoretz was a columnist for many years at the NY Post. His book, “Bush Country–How Dubya became a great President while driving liberals insane,” is an easy and enjoyable read. Another book of his is “Can she be stopped?”. Yes, Hillary can be derailed, but anyone who underestimates her is foolish. Mr. Podhoretz gives a detailed blueprint on what it will take to defeat her. Mr. Podhoretz is the son of the revered Norman Podhoretz, the father of the Neocon movement. Norman Podhoretz wrote, “The case for bombing Iran.” Norman Podhoretz is currently an advisor to the Giuliani campaign, and John Podhoretz has written admirably about the former Mayor of New York City. John Podhoretz has recently taken over the reigns of Commentary Magazine from his father. Commentary Magazine should be mandatory reading.

Dennis Prager is a well known radio host who often speaks about religious ethics. While he has tough convictions, he is not shy about acknowledging when he is wrong. He also has a delightful sense of humor. He has a deep knowledge of politics, but at heart he is a theological genius. He has an ability to look inward, unafraid to tackle crises facing his (and my) own Jewish community.

Michael Medved is a renowned film critic, and an Orthodox Jew. He has a deep knowledge of biblical texts, and is often a sought after speaker on cultural issues. His book “Right Turns,” is a deeply moving story of how he went from being a 1960s campaign manager for ultra-liberal black Congressman Ron Dellums to a conservative republican. With equal meaning he also discusses his transition from his secular upbringing to the devoutly religious life that he now leads. His radio show is broadcast daily, and he speaks from the heart, which in his case is gigantic. He actually lived for several years in San Francisco, which he still claims was “the best two weeks of his life.”

Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist, and her book, “Useful Idiots,” is what I am currently diving into full throttle. While she takes a clear conservative stance on issues, she is not afraid to criticize other conservatives when they stray from principles. She is proud of her Jewish heritage, and will not allow anti-Semitism to be whitewashed just because it comes from somebody that may support tax cuts. Her work is often found at the Jewish World Review, and it is worth reading.

All of the speakers are on Townhall, as well.

The panel of Mr. Podhoretz, Mr. Prager and Ms. Charen was moderated by Mr. Medved, and while the dialogue was voluminous, there were no wasted words.

I also want to say one other thing about Ms. Charen. She is one of the nicest people I have ever encountered. I drove her and a mutual friend back to their respective hotels after the evening had concluded. She is a patient person, finding humor in the fact that only yours truly could get lost using a GPS tracker. After 16 consecutive right turns, I realized that we were only 196 laps away from completing the Indy 500. While “Right Turns” is Mr. Medved’s wonderful book, and while all the speakers were conservatives, Ms. Charen would have been trapped in San Francisco had we not, at some point, allowed ourselves to turn left.

As for the event itself, the synagogue was packed. There were between 600 and 1000 people, and it was a very right of center crowd. Yes, in the heart of San Francisco, conservatism is thriving.

There were no protesters. Despite rumored threats from the Code Pinkos and the “Paulestinians,” aka supporters of Presidential Gadfly Congressman Ron Paul, the evening was civilized. In a city known for virtually nothing besides protests, there were zero protesters to mar this excellent evening.

So as much as I would like to take credit for entering the Belly of the Beast and descending upon Haight-Ashbury, I was not alone. I would like to thank Mr. Prager, Ms. Charen, Mr. Medved, Mr. Podhoretz, and especially Jonathan Schanzer of the Jewish Policy Center for putting together a fabulous evening.

Conservative principles are being carried everywhere…even to Haight Street in San Francisco.

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