Bob Calhoun, a former professional wrestler who now blogs at Open Salon, spent the weekend at the California Republican convention, where he encountered (among other notable right-wing figures) Andrew Breitbart. He detailed the experience on his Open Salon blog and we're reprinting it here:
"I'd hate to take a bite outta you. You're a cookie full of arsenic."
-- Burt Lancaster as J. J. Hunsecker in "The Sweet Smell of Success"
Following my breakfast with Breitbart, I spent the rest of the morning and a good hunk of the early afternoon in the pressroom at the Hyatt. While most of the reporters were off to cover Carly Fiorina's noisy-assed arrival (she had a throng of supporters from what I could hear), I headed back to the convention center (the Santa Clara Hyatt and the convention center are conjoined but somewhat separate facilities) for something called "The Tea Party Express." Hey, I'm writing hard-hitting soft news here and I'm working on a book about conventions. If there's an event that promises both God-awful live entertainment and people dressed in crazy costumes and it's in a concrete showroom, then that's where I need to be.
As I made my way through the convention center lobby, I heard a voice from behind me yell, "Hey, Salon!" I turned around. It was Andrew Breitbart. He was leaning on one of those small, round bar tables that you usually find in airport lounges. He asked me what I thought of his talk earlier that morning. I told him that he didn't really say anything unexpected or groundbreaking and that if he didn't move so many clicks on the Internet then I'd likely just focus anything I wrote on Southern California congressman Darrell Issa's opening remarks. "Issa had the way more explosive stuff in his speech," I said.
Breitbart's eyes lit up and he asked, "What did Issa say?"
"You were there, man," I answered, "I can't tell you that. You can read it later on today or tomorrow."
"Come on," he said, squirming like a child wanting to know what he's getting for Christmas. "Tell me. Tell me. Tell me." I kept holding out. He offered me his sage advice as a right-wing pundit on if my angle on Issa was any good or not. Now Breitbart was my best pal, you know the kind of best pal who drinks half your whiskey, pees in the other half and then runs off with your girlfriend and your baseball card collection.
After Breitbart wasn't getting a summary of my Issa story, he started airing his grievances against Salon once again. After two minutes, I turned on my recording device and placed it on the table in front of him. Breitbart is as tall as I am. I made a point of looking him right in the eyes the whole time and kept my hands in front of me in a non-threatening manner in the way that UFC legend Royce Gracie once taught me to when you're dealing with a loose cannon. The entire transcript of this interview and more thoughts on it are below.
After the interview, we both headed off to the Tea Party Express event, which had the lame entertainment I had hoped for but no one was dressed up like Paul Revere or Benjamin Franklin. After the singing of the "Star-Spangled Banner," Lloyd Marcus, author of "Confessions of a Black Conservative," got onstage and said, "I have a message for Barack Obama. I'm not an African-American. I'm American!" I was scratching my head at this point. Wasn't it Obama himself who said something almost the same with his whole "there is no red state America; there is no blue state America; there is just the United States of America" line? If you click here, Obama even says, "There's not a black America, and a white America, a Latino America, an Asian America, there is just the United States of America." After that Marcus sang a terrible soul song filled with conservative catchphrases ("Freedom ain't free," etc.) while white Republican ladies shook their shoulder pads. He followed that with a number set to the tune of "New York, New York" about the GOP "taking back America in 2010."
When Breitbart took the microphone, he singled out that I was from his dreaded nemesis Salon.com and called on me to get onstage with him. "I'm not going to be your prop, Andrew," I shouted from the audience as suit-wearing GOP operatives and those Republican ladies waved me onto the stage. I wasn't going to take the bait, at least not anymore than I had already. After failing to get me to join him, Breitbart launched into the same rant about Salon and the mainstream media that I had heard several times already that day, but I wasn't going to leave. I had had enough of this thing by this time, but I didn't want to leave the event until Breitbart had.
Luckily for me, Andrew left the Tea Party Express soon after he was done speaking. "Dissent is patriotic, Bob," he said as he whizzed past me.
"I never said it wasn't, Andrew," I said, hopefully seeing him for the last time.
Here's the almost completely one-sided interview in its entirety and not deceptively edited. When I turned on my recorder, I decided to just let Breitbart speak. As I was transcribing the conversation, I wished that I had gone at him harder. But upon the completion of the transcript, I realized that going at him harder would have produced the same results: absolutely nothing. At times this piece reads as if I had decided to interview that crazy guy on the train that I see every morning as I commute to my day job. You know the type: full of interconnected conspiracies and circular arguments. The tape joins him in the middle of a sentence about the right of Salon.com to pass judgment on James O'Keefe:
AB: …where James O'Keefe is unethical when they endorsed and published Dan Savage infiltrating a campaign office and spending an entire month trying to get people sick with his flu by licking doorknobs and licking phones, because he, this is Gary Bauer. And so because Dan Savage is gay, he decided he would go on a little attack mission, pretend that he was for Gary Bauer's campaign and he spent the entire month licking things, putting snot on everything and savoring a pen that he was putting in every orifice hoping to give it to Gary Bauer so he could sign an autograph. And I'm thinking, "You're going to ask me about journalistic ethics and undercover videos somehow being a new fangled concept in media?" Or, during the Clinton/Lewinsky thing, Gary Kamiya writing a piece in the end that "extraordinary times require extraordinary measures and we're going to take all of the dirt that the Clinton private investigators have been able to cultivate, then the Washington Times (I think he meant Post but he said Times -- Bob) and the New York Times would not air, because there was no political context and they admitted that we're just going to take the stuff they have handed and just put it out there. Politics of personal destruction was the Henry Hyde had an affair 30 years before that. That Bob Barr had a girlfriend allege that he paid for an abortion. It was just bam, bam, bam. And to have Salon lecture me on journalism? Fuck you. That was my…
BC: I'll just do the transcript of that OK? You know, I'll just do a straight transcript.
AB: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I don't care…
BC: No, but one question I had as I was just now listening to what you said earlier today, and you were talking about the HUD videos. Now, why don't you just drop the HUD videos?
AB: I'm not in possession of them.
BC: Oh, you're not in possession of them. Because you made it sound, now this is me listening to it, you made it sound like you were going to use them as a way to get at Salon or Boehlert, Media Matters for attacking you…
AB: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no (interrupting)…
BC: (under Breitbart's repeated no's) Look, look, I don't have a vested interest in HUD.
AB: My point is media jiu-jitsu. It's with the knowledge that they're attacking, I can slink back and ignore that they're attacking me and attacking James, but instead, I, I, I engage, I engage, I engage, I engage because we have now. ACORN was months, and months, and months ago yet they're still talking about ACORN because they've been able to cultivate the best case scenario attack on James O'Keefe which is the pimp costume thing. Okay? As opposed to ignoring it like most people are because it's an inconsequential point, and then in second 15 of the first quote unquote deceptively edited video, you see him walking in like a preppie sort of outfit. He still represents himself as a pimp throughout, doubling down on the girls are gonna' do tricks, they're underage. I mean there's no subtlety in the fact that he's presenting himself as a pimp. So the idea that the title sequence in which they're dressed up differently and that there's music connected to it is beyond inconsequential. But if they want to spend George Soros' money and they want to take all of the investigation that they've done, looking at all of the transcripts, listening to all of audios that we've dropped, which was an extraordinary measure that "60 Minutes" doesn't do or "Dateline" doesn't do when it does an undercover video. "Dateline" and ACORN worked on an undercover video in 2003. They put it out there and they didn't put out full audio or full video. Okay? So we're being to do something that's beyond extraordinary, which is to that all for the entire video. I've offered the full video to be seen for John Poedesta to watch it with me in a very public way. So hey, let's all watch it together. If you're going to be accusing us of being you know bad players, and being untruthful or unethical journalists and all these little snipes and little drive-bys. Let's all be held accountable for what's on those videos. And after we watch those videos, we can have an honest Q&A and we can line it up, the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times. I'm not asking for a single conservative person in the room. Let's all watch every second of the ACORN videos and at the very end, I dare you to make the only questions about what was James O'Keefe. It's called a canard. It's called a straw man. It's called a joke. And so knowing that that was going to be the means by which the leftwing blogosphere was going to jump on this crusade, this meme, this propaganda effort. To destroy James, Hanna and me by finding this minor discrepancy and trying to turn it into a campaign of deception. I was ready for it because the more they were talked about it, the more they attacked, the more they were talking about ACORN, ACORN, ACORN, ACORN, ACORN, ACORN. ACORN's not going away from the public consciousness. At the exact moment that I know that a certain point in time, we're going to say, "Guess what, you're boring me. I'm changing the subject and we're going over to HUD now." And so the continuity between ACORN is going to be obvious to anyone out there who cares how their money is being spent that when videos show the mid level bureaucrats at organizations like HUD that get federal money and that shakedown organizations like Bank of America and Citibank to try and get money that when these companies have a flashlight shined on them and corruption is their vernacular. That they're lexicon is corruption and effortless corruption, and systemic corruption and complicated corruption that to me is a story that now will be a much bigger platform because of a predictable attack by Soros slash Poedesta and its main minion, Eric Boehlert trying to destroy us, politics of personal destruction, was predicted at the outset so we had a plan for it.
BC: Who's in possession of the HUD videos?
AB: James O'Keefe.
BC: James O'Keefe. What about the Brooklyn decision? The Brooklyn DA decision?
AC: Are you talking about the…
BC: No, on the ACORN videos.
AC: I went there on my own expense to testify before the grand jury. I was asked for one and half hours. I was grilled on what my relationship was with O'Keefe and who was funding O'Keefe and who was funding me. They wanted to know for an hour and a half what the relationship was. It was not an investigation into ACORN. It was a peripheral investigation into Hanna, James and me to try and figure out is there some sugar daddy above Breitbart? Is there somebody else out there? When you look at it you find out that DA Hynes is a member of the ACORN working party's family. This is part of the continuity. You guys are journalists. You guys should be curious about these types of connections. When you find out that these people who are supposedly investigating ACORN. Now look at the tape. Look at how after the DA said that there was nothing there and the video was deceptively edited, did they give a single example of a misrepresentation from the Baltimore video that was cut by James O'Keefe compared to the transcripts and the audio that we offered? Did they in fact tell them, "Take the money from your prostitution ring and bury it in the backyard of the house that you're going to be getting with federal assistance?" Did they or did they not do that? Instead they took the Soros/Podesta/ACORN strategy and that is to go after the inquisitor. To sting the stingers is what they call the campaign. The ACORN campaign is called "sting the stingers" and they're going after James, Hannah and me. It's a systemic effort. The continuity and the method and the similar talking points are obvious. Anyone that's paying attention to send a message to all those other people who dare want to uncover public corruption that there is a coordinated fate that will come your way and you're not going to enjoy it. I prepared Hannah and James for this. I predicted every single stage of this thing. I knew that the Harshbarger Report was a ruse. That it was about trying to stop the bleeding and then to take that investigation and make it an investigation into Hannah, James and me. We ended up being followed by members of Harshbarger's staff everywhere that Hannah, James and I went. It became about them. They came out with the these were deceptively edited. The Brooklyn people said they're deceptively edited. Why, how do they account for the fact that we gave full audio and full transcript and those clearly show that there's no deception. What you hear, what you read is ACORN people in every single office except for one in Los Angeles, they are aiding and abetting and in many offices an underage prostitution ring, featuring El Salvadorian sex slaves. And the fact that we are seven months down the line and the only thing the left media can do is try destroy Hannah, James and me is helping to illuminate that to many Americans has been obvious. That the media is not about uncovering corruption, it's about maintaining certain sectors of Democrat and progressive power and that organizations like ACORN and HUD are central to the Democratic Party's control of power and perpetuation of power.
BC: How would respond to liberals who felt that during the Bush years that the media was soft balling Bush or burying this story…
AB: I have the greatest excuse in the world. Call up Arianna Huffington and ask what I was doing with her with the starting of the Huffington Post. I helped create one of the biggest institutions for investigation into the right? Okay? So you'll never hear me complaining about that. You'll never hear me complaining about a Jack Abramoff or a Duke Cunningham. I want these people to go to jail. I want them to be discovered and be publicly humiliated and punished for public corruption. That's the difference between me and the left. The organized left wants to help cover up the corruption and the crimes that they see on tape. If I saw tapes like that that had the NRA trying to aid and abet criminals trying to turn rifles into automatic rifles and if it was caught on tape I'd want those people to go down to.