Courage and Conviction Award Winner Laura Ingraham at Restoration Weekend

A conservative warrior explains why she's hopeful about the future.

Editor's note: Below is the video and transcript of the speech given by Laura Ingraham at the David Horowitz Freedom Center's 2012 Restoration Weekend, which took place Nov. 15th-18th at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida. Ingraham was the recipient of the Freedom Center's 2012 Courage and Conviction Award.

Laura Ingraham: Thank you.  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you very much.

Gay, one of my dearest friends; Stanley, who've hosted me and my family -- and that's quite a thing at age seven and a half, four and a half and two and a half -- here in Palm Beach.  And David Horowitz is truly one of the greatest -- just greatest voices in our culture and in our politics.

And I'm so glad that we were able to pass the torch on when my then-employer, MSNBC, wasn't too thrilled about my hosting this conservative gathering.  And, you know, I had to make a living.  And so, like -- David, you [handle] this?  He said -- be happy to do it.  And it's been a great, great career for not only you but a great development of this weekend.  And it's just an absolute thrill.  Thank you very much for inviting me.


I know it's late.  And so many wonderful speakers over the last few days, many of them friends of mine.  I feel like it's an old family gathering here.

But I have to say, I know a lot of you have been busy here tonight, so I have to start with some bad news.  And I know you guys haven't probably checked your Blackberries -- I'm sorry I have to tell you this -- but Meghan McCain says she might leave the GOP.



Yes.  That tweet crossed.  I know it's very heartbreaking for a lot of you.

But I came here tonight, David, not just to be part of this weekend, but to gather up all the free stuff that I guess you're giving us, because Mitt Romney says it's all free stuff that -- the reason we lost.  We have swag bags -- on your way out you can get them -- Bobblehead dolls of John Roberts in the bag.


There's also a Michelle Obama book, just came out -- "How to See Europe on $2.5 Million a Day."


And it's your money.

I'm also really happy here because Bill O'Reilly can't interrupt me.  And I know Charles said Juan can't interrupt him.  But no, O'Reilly's been great to me.

And by the way, tomorrow morning -- this is a little housekeeping detail -- do not be surprised if on your way out of The Breakers, Karl Rove insists that the weekend is not over.


Was a bit of an uncomfortable moment that night at Fox when I was there.

I have a -- it's too late, so I'm not going to give the speech that I was going to give, because it's just -- I think it's too late.  But I will -- no.

Group: No!

Laura Ingraham: It's too late, you guys are too tired.

Unidentified Audience Member: No!

Unidentified Audience Member: No, we're not!

Unidentified Audience Member: Go for it.

Laura Ingraham: Well, let me just say this -- this weekend was called the Dark Ages Weekend when I started it.  Because I became a conservative in the tradition of The Dartmouth Review, at Dartmouth College, which was sort of the first bastion against what we didn't call political correctness; we just called it college life in New Hampshire.  And Dark Ages was kind of a statement, right?  We were not the Renaissance Weekend; we were something different.  We were kind of a bunch of rebels.

And I remember at the time -- I don't know if Newt is here, but I've teased him about it since, so I can say it now -- is that Newt, who was just elected Speaker, as Gay said, said he would not come to the weekend if the name were not changed.  And anyone who knows me in this room -- do you think I changed the name that year?  I did not change the name.

And in fact, Robert Bork, Judge Bork, got up and gave a speech which was, to this day, I think, one of my favorite speeches I've ever heard, which was called "A Defense of the Dark Ages."


Only as Robert Bork could do it.  And he made the point that the Dark Ages have been, under conventional wisdom, have been discounted as a period of little thinking and illiteracy.  And in fact, the Dark Ages -- all of you who know your Greek history -- ushered in a time of great innovation, including the Greek alphabet, the first Olympics in 776 B.C.  And those insignificant works, "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" were written during the Dark Ages.  So he got up and gave this great feverino on the Dark Ages.  And by the end, everyone's on their feet.  Fred Thompson -- Jeb Bush was here, I believe.

And tonight, I say we in the conservative movement should be so lucky to have Dark Ages thinking; to actually inform the way we move forward with a bold and courageous vision.  I do not -- Charles Krauthammer's one of my favorite people out there.  But I must say that I don't attribute Barack Obama's win to luck.  I think that's -- for me, that's not what happened.  I think we had a candidate -- and I endorsed Mitt Romney in 2008.  And like Charles, I think he's a wonderful person and has an incredible family, and I think he's a very smart man, and very successful man, obviously.  But I think when you're up against a Chicago gangland warrior, you can't show up in your croquet whites.


Doesn't work.  Never will.

And I believe that there were a lot of really smart people who made a lot of money off this campaign.  And I think this should be the end of the political consultancy class.


We spent $900 million to lose this election.  We spent $900 million to lose Senate seats that were imminently winnable.  We spent $900 million to lose an election that will impact my children's life adversely and, I believe, all of ours in this room adversely.  Not just money, but it's something a lot deeper -- our heritage.

And I will say tonight that if we walk out of this room thinking that it was a storm, or it was Chris Christie, or it was one bad debate or two bad debates; I think we will have disappointed ourselves, really.  I think this was another example of people who think that they can run and win elections as generic candidates.

There were a lot of polls a year ago that said any generic Republican could beat Barack Obama.  And I think from that point forward, with a few primary debate interruptions, Mitt Romney believed that he could win this election as a generic Republican.  And I don't think anyone who ran as a generic vanilla type Republican was going to beat this Chicago operation.  Just wasn't going to happen.

And I will say tonight that -- and I might make some people angry in this room, but it never stopped me before -- but I think if we're going to be honest about where we are in this country, then we better come to terms with what happened between 2005 and 2008.

In 2008, we turned -- in 2006, we lost several Senate seats, we lost the House of Representatives.  By 2008, we had lost the House, the Senate; and turned over the presidency to the most left-wing person to ever take 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  When George W. Bush -- whom I supported and who I campaigned for -- when he left the White House, he had a 29-percentage point approval rating.  I don't think we can write that off as some fluke of history.

I think we as conservatives better understand that we have a foreign policy problem, and we have an economic problem.  For some reason, we conservatives -- we should never lose the foreign policy argument, and we lost it this time.

Unidentified Audience Member: Right.

Laura Ingraham: We didn't argue it, and we lost it.  We cannot let that happen again.


I am someone who -- I think -- I'm pretty sure I did the first national radio broadcast out of Iraq -- a big supporter of the war in Iraq, big supporter of the war on terror.  But I think we better come to terms with what we did right and what we did wrong.  And until we do that, I think we're going to continue to be chased by the ghost of George W. Bush.

And again, I know there's a lot of people in this room who probably gave him a lot of money.  And you're thinking -- Laura, you're piling on Bush like Barack Obama is.  I am not.  I am telling you that the conservative movement better decide what it is, not what it was -- what it is today, and where it's connecting with the American people.


I'm not going to spend the few minutes I want to share with you to berate Barack Obama.  I wrote a book about him, called "The Obama Diaries."  I saw this razzle-dazzle act coming for years.  I knew how he'd win this election, I knew how he'd run it.  And you didn't need to spend $900 million to figure it out.

I think until we understand that we have an enormous credibility problem on spending and an enormous credibility problem on how we deploy our military -- and when we use our military, when we don't; what we want to achieve with our military, who our real allies are, who we should support -- then I think we're going to continue to have a real disconnect with the people who are naturally conservative and want to be with us.

And I believe part of this problem is what David Horowitz has been trying to get at for so many years.  We put all our faith in politicians and largely forgot academic institutions and the culture.  And because we did that, we allowed a vacuum to exist that the Left happily jumped into.  And this has been going on for decades, no doubt.  But it's reached a fever pitch today.

And now the new normal is something that we consider -- really, when we think about it -- the abnormal.  But the new normal is what our kids see every day on television, or what you see on the magazine rack, or what you see in reality television.  And so, it's not really surprising today, when we see someone who has a sex tape gets a reality show, or someone who looks kind of like a celebrity general seems to be betraying his own honor, his sense of honor.  Because it's all like that.

And I think until we come to terms with how we got to this place, our culture is what gives us our politics.  Right?  Our politicians come out of the culture.  Right?  We are our culture.  I think we as conservatives think, if we only get the right politician.  Well, the culture has existed around us.  It's been bubbling up underneath our feet, as we want America to be the way it was.  Our culture has evaporated under our very feet.  Because we let other people do the culture.  The culture was the stuff the Left did.

Well, they were really smart, weren't they?  They have primetime television, they have the entire music industry, with a few country singers thrown in.  But you know, for the most part, they had the entire entertainment complex on their side, and we had pretty much Kid Rock and Wayne Newton, and that's about it.  I mean, a few others.  I mean, Gary Sinise, a few others.

Unidentified Audience Member: Robert Davi.

Laura Ingraham: Yeah, Robert Davi.  But I mean, we had our people.  But it's hard to compete with the entire media and entertainment complex if we're not in that game.

I believe, in the end, we have to think of those who were in greater despair than a lot of people are today.  I'm a conservative.  A lot of people -- I'm optimistic.  I am optimistic, but I'm a conservative.  So you also are pessimistic, right?  But you have to remember the people who were in greatest despair.  We heard deeply moving stories about Holocaust victims and people struggling in concentration camps, and stuff we can't even imagine sitting here in this beautiful surrounding.  But we don't have to go back that far to think about people who believed it was over politically and culturally.

And a lot of you, I'm sure, like with me, are fans of Malcolm Muggeridge.  And I went back this afternoon, as my children were, thankfully, ensconced in the entertainment center downstairs, and I read a speech that Malcolm had given in 1979.  This is before Reagan was elected, before Thatcher, and before John Paul II.  And he wrote that nothing can happen to us in circumstances that is not part of God's purpose.  Therefore we have nothing to fear.  It's kind of odd to think about that -- we have nothing to fear, we have nothing to really worry about.

On that basis of truth, he said, there can be no black despair, no throwing in of our hand.  We can watch the institutions of our social structures of our time.  We can watch them collapse, and we will.  And we can reckon with that that seems like an irresistibly growing power of materialism and materialist societies.  But it will not be the end of the story.

And then he quoted St. Augustine.  And he said he found it amusing that St. Augustine said this as he received the news in Carthage that Rome had been sacked.  Well, St. Augustine said, if that happened, it's a great catastrophe.  But we must never forget that earthly cities that men build will also be destroyed.  Because it is the city of God, that men did not build, that will endure.

And he devoted, at that point, the next 17 years -- St. Augustine -- to working out the relationship between the earthly city -- cities that we live in, and cities that he lived in, of course -- and the city of God.  The earthly city we're here in for a very short period of time.  We're all going to be gone.  Hard to believe, but we're all going to be gone in a short period of time, blink of an eye.  In the city of God, we'll all be citizens there forever, eternally.

With that sense of certainty, when we think about it tonight, should come a great sense of joy and a great sense of comfort.  Everything else is fantasy.  Whether the fantasy of power that we see in authoritarian regimes that seek to crush the individual, or the fantasy -- as he wrote so famously -- of the great liberal death wish, in terms of affluence and self-indulgence.  That is going to be our -- you know, liberals think that's our greatest moment, when we can do whatever we want with disregard to anyone else out there, as long as it feels good.  Because our necessity of life, the thing that we really live and breathe -- we have to; otherwise none of this makes much sense -- is knowing God.

St. Teresa of Avila, one of my favorite saints, said -- if we don't understand our mortal existence, then life is little more than a night in a second-class hotel.


And we're not in a second-class hotel tonight.  We are extremely blessed to be here.  And I think I'm among so many wonderful people, beautiful people, inside and out.  As I say to my daughter, it doesn't matter what you look like, doesn't matter how big you are, how tall you are, what color your skin is, where you come from; it matters what's in your heart.

And I think at time of great internal crisis -- we feel internally crisis in this country -- a lot of us are going back to not necessarily what's next, but what is.  And for us, what is is -- look around you -- your friends, people you just met, people you've known for a long time, your family, God, our neighbors, our country.  And I think there will be a political reawakening that accompanies only a cultural and faith reawakening to stem this steady but sure erosion of liberty, which is happening.

I believe with God all things are possible.  I talk about myself -- I think with my own life, that's certainly the case.  And I think that tonight -- you're closing out this conference tomorrow -- do what I do every day.  Do what I know most of you do every day, anyway, but count your blessings.  We don't just have incredible talent in the conservative movement, but we have ultimately what is true on our side -- the truth of freedom, of economic liberty, of the inherent worth of the individual -- and for me, it's the most vulnerable in the womb -- to the elderly, who live alone, without anyone really to help.  As long as we stand for those truths, and we are happy warriors in the process -- don't give in to despair, as easy as that is -- then I believe we won't need luck to win an election.  We'll have brains and a moral certitude that has certainly carried everyone from Margaret Thatcher to FDR to John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan to the public square, with great success.

I want to thank all of you for being here tonight.  You could be anywhere this weekend.  I want to thank David Horowitz -- we love you.  Thanks so much, David.  Thank you, everybody.


Thank you, goodnight.

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