There was no shortage of conservative superstars at the George R. Brown Convention Center on Friday, as the Nation Rifle Association kicked off its 146th Annual Meeting with a special forum featuring Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Jeanine Pirro.
For anyone hoping to hear some quaint stories about hunting with grandpa or buying the first gun . . . this is not the event for you.
The NRA's outspoken CEO Wayne LaPierre kicked off the afternoon with an angry attack on President Obama, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and the news media — themes that recurred throughout every speech during the three-and-a-half hour forum.
" NRA members have stared those anti-gun elitists straight in the eye," LaPierre said.
"People like you all over this country have been standing up for freedom and standing up to the media for decades. And for decades the media and the political elites have lied about us, demonized us and attempted to marginalize our Second Amendment freedom . . . But NRA members have stared those anti-gun elitists straight in the eye," LaPierre said.
After LaPierre's heated talk, Rick Perry brought a much-needed gentler tone to the event . . . although the noisy 30-second intro video of the governor shooting a semi-automatic assault rifle certainly got the crowd's attention.
While he very briefly mentioned his fond memories of hunting as a child, Perry mainly stuck to a safe blend of Lone Star and Second Amendment boosterism.
Sen. Ted Cruz was up next, stepping up to the podium amidst massive applause and cheers of "Cruuuuuz, Cruuuuz" — a chant that sounds like booing at first, not unlike the "Bruuuuuce" cheers you'd hear at a Springsteen concert.
Like LaPierre, Cruz opted for more fiery rhetoric that was aimed largely at Obama's recent failed efforts to enact stricter gun control laws. Cruz is among a group of senators recently targeted by the Michael Bloomberg-led group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which reports that he received more than $79,000 in contributions from the Washington gun lobby.
The former vice presidential candidate unveiled a new catc hphrase — "We're letting freedom destroy itself."
No one had as much contempt for the President than Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum — who scorned Obama for saying in 2004 that small-town Pennsylvanians "cling to guns or religion" after years of empty federal promises. Santorum followed with a rather odd tirade about the Europe and the French Revolution.
"Their rights in France didn't come from a Creator. No, this was a secular, godless, anti-clerical revolution," he said, noting that Europeans today don't go to church. "Churches are empty there, owned and operated by the government."
After another 90 minutes of speeches — including a video message from Paul Ryan, an angry talk by Fox News pundit Jeanine Pirro and a visit from Bobby Jindal — the event closed with the one-and-only Sarah Palin, who came equipped with her usual attacks on the "lamestream media" and Washington careerists.
The former vice presidential candidate unveiled a new (albeit, vague) catchphrase, "We're letting freedom destroy itself," which she used multiple times to slam everything from the New York Times to do-nothing politicians to Hollywood films.
Palin has lost none of her powers to rally the conservative troops, garnering waves of applause during her 10-minute speech and ending with a standing ovation.