Terry Gross Interviews David Weigel About CPAC And The Tea Party Conference Journalist David Weigel recently attended the Tea Party convention and the Conservative Political Action Conference. Weigel, who covers the Republican Party for The Washington Independent, explains how the conservative message is shifting — and how party officials are dealing with the changes.

CPAC, The Tea Party And The Remaking Of The Right

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

If you want to see where the conservative movement is headed, the last few weeks have given some good indications. The nation's largest annual gathering of conservatives, CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, was held last week in Washington. Glenn Beck was the keynote speaker. CPAC is a project of the American Conservative Union. The first National Tea Party Convention was held earlier this month and featured Sarah Palin as the keynote speaker.

My guest, David Weigel, covered both conferences. He reports on the Republican Party and the remaking of the right for the online magazine The Washington Independent.

David Weigel, welcome back to FRESH AIR.

Mr.�DAVID WEIGEL (Reporter, The Washington Independent): Thank you so much for having me.

GROSS: Looking at CPAC and the Tea Party convention, how would you say the conservative movement today is different than it was during the Bush administration?

Mr.�WEIGEL: If anything, it's more conservative. That's a surprise to a lot of people. It's a surprise to me, frankly, as somebody covering this for a while. Maybe it shouldnt be, though, because the activist base of the party, and I'm including people in D.C. like Grover Norquist and Dick Armey, who have been running think-tanks and projects for years, as well as these Tea Party activists in the states, they wanted the party to move right.

That was always their complaint with George Bush. It was just a surprise that when Republicans lost as badly as they did in 2008, that they won the argument about what the party should stand for.

GROSS: There's many divisions even within the ultraconservative movement, but what are some of the issues that have emerged as what the movement stands for and stands against?

Mr.�WEIGEL: I think the most - the surprising one is actually the 10th Amendment, and this is not something that's new to conservative politics, Republican politics, the idea that states should overrule the federal government, but the prominence that the idea that states can nullify bills they don't like has...

GROSS: Yeah, explain what the 10th Amendment is.

Mr.�WEIGEL: Well, it's that basically all powers not explicitly provided by the Constitution are delegated to the states, and this is - I don't want to say it's usually ignored, but it's not usually - we've got Social Security, we've got Medicare, we've got all sorts of policies by which the federal government involves every American, it helps states pay for these programs, but otherwise, it's a buy-in between the American people and the federal government.

And conservatives have never liked this, but they sort of got on with it. Since Barack Obama became president, especially since he has pushed health care reform, there's just a flowering of this idea that states should be allowed to opt out of anything they don't like, and there are bills moving forward in some states - Virginia, actually, just passed a bill saying if health care is passed, they're not going to participate in it. Is that enforceable? We actually havent had a case like this for a while, and it's something conservatives are defensive about.

I mean, at the Conservative Political Action Conference that happened last week in D.C., there were forums on nullification where speakers said, you know, we realize that the last time anyone heard of this was when South Carolina was raising a ruckus about slavery, but nonetheless, this is something that we think conservatives should be for - and no argument whatsoever.

GROSS: Now, you write that at the CPAC convention, there was far less attention on how the party would govern America than on the need to disavow the past popular embrace of big government. What do you mean?

Mr.�WEIGEL: Well, I mean that something that the conservative base has never been comfortable with, they've never been comfortable with the fact that George Bush was winning elections when he expanded Medicare, when he reformed the education system.

They actually think that's the reason they lost, and the narrative among conservative activists and Tea Party activists is that the Republican Party lost the faith of the American people when it didn't get into power and slash half of the government agencies, cut taxes even further, and abolish, you know, the estate tax and things of that nature.

GROSS: So if the conservative movement is glad that Bush isn't around anymore, and if they think that he embraced big government, why was Dick Cheney such a rock star at CPAC? I mean, if anything, Cheney is the person most responsible for the expansion of the powers of the executive branch.

Mr.�WEIGEL: Well...

GROSS: And Cheney was the person who - was the architect in a - one of the architects of the war in Iraq, which was certainly government getting us into a very long war, a war that many people think was not only fought on false premises but many people believe has been very destructive both to America and Iraq. So why did he get such the rousing welcome that he did, if in many ways he represented the expansion of government's power?

Mr.�WEIGEL: That's an excellent point, it's just that he represents a specific kind of government expansion, the expansion of the national security state and the expansion of America's role in spreading democracy around the world with military action.

Those are very popular with conservatives, and that's a dispute. CPAC was pretty convivial this year, but the dispute that existed there was between more Ron Paul-type activists who think America should pull back from engagement in the world and wiretapping and all these debates that are hot right now, and the more traditional conservatives, who think anything that the president needs to kill terrorists is justifiable.

So that's why he was cheered. Cheney was a surprise guest who was introduced by his daughter, Liz Cheney, who has become a pretty successful pundit, basically making that argument, arguing sometimes against reality that everything Barack Obama does is aiding terrorists and making America less safe. That got huge cheers.

Cheney came in, made the same argument and got more huge cheers, and activists I talked to - I talked to Jimmy LaSalvia, who runs GoProud, which is a gay Republican group that's fairly new - they were distributing "draft Cheney 2012" stickers, and the reason, he told me, is that Cheney's put some daylight between him and Bush as a more aggressive, more ready to defend what conservatives do in governance kind of politician.

Now, part of it was that Cheney supports repealing "don't ask, don't tell," but a lot of it is that they think the only good legacies of the Bush administration were some Supreme Court appointments and his foreign policy. And again, ask a lot of Americans in 2006, 2008, that's why these guys lost.

GROSS: Now the straw poll winner, there was a straw poll on which people were asked to choose their preferred presidential candidate, and the straw poll winner this year was Ron Paul, who isn't even a Republican, he's a Libertarian, and the announcement...

Mr.�WEIGEL: He's a member of the Republican Party, but yes, he ran as a Libertarian presidential candidate and endorsed not the Libertarian candidate because of a dispute that's probably too weedy to get into here, but endorsed Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate and the Constitution Party candidate, in kind of a huff over John McCain in 2008.

GROSS: And the announcement of his victory in the straw poll was booed in the hall, and you write the importance of minimizing Paul's victory actually united conservatives. Tell us about the reaction to his victory and what you think it means.

Mr.�WEIGEL: Well, it manifested at the top of CPAC's leadership and in that room, basically the same way. CPAC is run by the American Conservative Union. It's got a lot of full-time flacks, and they were making sure every reporter in the room noticed that this was not a very representative poll and that the room booed the result.

Now, on the first part of that, this actually was the most-participated-in CPAC presidential straw poll ever, and it's a poll that, when Mitt Romney won it, as he did for three years, was seen as a gold standard of what the movement thought of that - thought of him as a politician.

And in the room, the booing was there - it was really just ironic, because everyone was crowding in the room for that and also for a speech by Glenn Beck. And there was nothing Glenn Beck said that Paul could not have said. It was about - not just how progressivism was, in his words, a cancer that needed to be cut off America...

GROSS: This is Glenn Beck speaking here.

Mr.�WEIGEL: This is Beck speaking, yeah - but a diatribe against Woodrow Wilson, against the League of Nations, against all of the stuff that conservatives, you know, they might have this debate over coffee or over really late-night scotch, but they don't usually have in public, and it's something Paul has always been talking about.

But conservatives were united in trying to diminish this result, because they don't want their image to the American people to be a septuagenarian politician who bangs on about the need to pull - you know, to close down American bases and speaks at meetings of the John Birch Society. I mean, it was accidentally very revealing of how far right the party has gotten.

GROSS: Do you mean that Paul's victory is representative of how far right the party has gotten?

Mr.�WEIGEL: Oh, yeah, this is an unscientific straw poll that was conducted, but they've all been unscientific straw polls, and they usually don't end with this very libertarian - and libertarian is a term that gets tossed around a lot. Paul specifically is one of these guys who thinks we just really need to roll back the federal government to at least what it was like before 1912, before the progressive movement. Actually, I correct myself: before Teddy Roosevelt.

And that's what Glenn Beck talked about. He didn't attack John McCain by name, but he said there's a Republican who says Teddy Roosevelt's his favorite president, and this whole room of conservatives, who call themselves mainstream conservatives, all booed Teddy Roosevelt.

They did that because Teddy Roosevelt introduced the progressive income tax and because he favored some sort of national health care, and they think this is how America first started trampling the Constitution.

This version of history, which again, the John Birch Society has been doling out for a very long time, and Ron Paul has been doling out for a little bit of less time, it's not what Republicans like to tell the country they believe in. But then, 31 percent of people at this conference with a lot of international media around, said yes, we believe in this.

GROSS: Now, another thing that Ron Paul and Glenn Beck have in common is that they both want to end the Federal Reserve, do away with it. Why is that a big issue for them?

Mr.�WEIGEL: It's a really surprising issue. I was speaking to somebody who was covering Ron Paul in 2007, when he - maybe he couldn't get arrested isn't the right word, but he couldn't get a chair at some debates hosted by networks like Fox News. He was considered a crank.

One of the reasons was that he just was banging on about - he would bang on about hard money, about the gold standard and about how the Federal Reserve, which took us away from a dollar that made sense and was tied to something, and put our fate in the hands of this shadowy private corporation and international bankers - not something Republicans have talked about very much, but it's become incredibly mainstream, to the point where they really think if we abolish the Federal Reserve, we're going to - that would force the country to, well, to do a number of things, maybe to default on our debt, maybe to get off of paper money and go back to gold.

I mean, there's a belief that if we let government - I guess they would say make up its own rules about what - how much money they have, how much money they can spend, then everything bad about this country flows from there.

GROSS: So I think I hear you saying that people who were considered to be very fringey like Ron Paul, like Glenn Beck, are now representative of a more almost mainstream part of the conservative movement, that they're more in the mainstream of the movement now and not on the far edges.

Mr.�WEIGEL: They definitely are. After a really tough relationship of the past few years, Ron Paul fans were banned from a lot of top conservative sites. They were - again, he was banned from debates. But I think, and I talked to Paul about this, and he says, well, I have more -he said I have more credibility now. I have credibility on economics. I have been saying for a long time that if we didn't abolish the Federal Reserve, get back to the gold standard and basically roll back most of the American social welfare, we would have an economic crash, and now we have one.

I mean, the irony there is that America before we introduced the Federal Reserve had economic crashes all the time. And before we got off the gold standard, we had more severe crashes than this one. This is a severe crash, but if you go back to the history of boom and bust in the 19th century, when - which all these people are trying to get back, it was so painful that that's one reason conservatives didn't talk about this stuff for a while.

He just happened to ride this wave, and after talking for 40 years about a crash, lived through one, and everyone who was around him, making fun of him, decided to embrace. And when I say everyone, I mean conservatives who didn't really have much of an economic philosophy, apart from cutting taxes all the time will grow the economy all the time.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is David Weigel, and he covers the Republican Party and the remaking of the right for the online magazine The Washington Independent. David, let's take a short break here, and then we'll talk some more, okay?

Mr.�WEIGEL: Thank you.


(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is David Weigel, and he covers the Republican Party and the remaking of the right for the online magazine The Washington Independent.

Now, at the CPAC convention, Glenn Beck gave the keynote. He said progressivism was a cancer that must be cut out of the political system. He said the only job of government is to save us from the bad guys. You said his speech perfectly captured the change under way in the conservative movement. What change did his speech capture?

Mr.�WEIGEL: I think Glenn Beck's speech captured how conservative activists have responded to Barack Obama by seeing a debilitating, fatal threat to everything America stands for. Not some policies that are taking us in the wrong direction that they can repeal, but a - the enactment of a century-old plot to destroy America's institutions and turn us into a European state.

And that might sound hyperbolic, but I don't think any of the phrases I just used were not used from the stage at CPAC.

GROSS: Now, let me just stop you. Do you mean a European state or a Soviet state?

Mr.�WEIGEL: I mean...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr.�WEIGEL: For a lot of these activists, there's not much of a difference. French health care to them is as terrifying as anything in Soviet-era Uzbekistan or in Belarus. I mean, they really see that anything that forces Americans to pay some taxes and all buy into a system that share health, you know, they're responsible for health care or shares pensions or anything like that is the road to serfdom, to use Friedrich Hayek's phrase, part of a grand plot to turn America more European, more socialist.

But they're very comfortable now with arguing that they are a bulwark against a huge conspiracy to destroy all this stuff and that Barack Obama, being a charismatic rock-star figure, snowed Americans into falling for this, but if they listen to us, they'll understand that we are ready to save America's institutions from socialism.

GROSS: Now, you used the expression grand plan and the word conspiracy. The John Birch Society was one of the co-sponsors of the CPAC convention, and that's - the John Birch Society is kind of famous for conspiracy theories and fears of grand plans. Can you talk about what the John Birch Society stands for? The group was basically exiled from the conservative movement by William Buckley years ago, and it seems to have really gotten a seat back at the table now.

Mr.�WEIGEL: It did. There was controversy about this when it was announced that the John Birch Society was going to cosponsor the event. Again, as somebody who's been covering this for a while, I remember that in 2008 and 2007, it was seen as a quasi-smear of Ron Paul to point out that he would appear at Birch events.

But they were back, and the discovery of them being there was that they didn't have a lot to say that other people weren't saying. They have very slick, professional-looking materials, I mean, I dare say better-looking than a lot of the D.C. conservative groups, you know, pamphlets, video, things like that. And they'll talk about how the Law of the Sea Treaty, which is a fairly obscure, maybe less obscure now, international treaty that would govern, you know, mining rights in international waters, is a back door towards America being taken over by the U.N.

Well, that sounds crazy, but John Bolton, who was our U.N. ambassador for a few years under George Bush, made the same argument. Fox News has very little problem putting these opinions on the air.

I mean, that's one thing I noticed walking around CPAC, just like I noticed walking around tea parties or the Tea Party convention, that really conservative media is so available and so permeates - not just what its listeners believe but what Democrats talk about, what other channels talk about - that all these ideas that were once very far right are now just in the ether. They are things that people have to answer and talk about.

I mean, go on YouTube, and you'll find Democratic candidates being asked about President Obama's citizenship or about the U.N. treaties that are quite obscure, about provisions of the health care bill that they argue are going to lead to mass murder of the elderly.

Again, the Birch Society was saying this stuff for 50-odd years, and people were distancing themselves from it. Now, you know, the elephant in the room is that they are seen as an anti-Semitic organization because they - a lot of these - I'll say they're seen as - I mean, I think that's fair - that's the reason a lot of people don't want to work with them. Because of this idea that there's an international conspiracy to destroy America.

I mean, that's something that's often been blamed on the Rothschilds and on the Elders of Zion. But you know, David Frum, the very thoughtful, centrist-leaning conservative thinker, had a bit of a happy hour after CPAC, and he said to me: The thing I respect about Glenn Beck is that he managed to take hard-money crankery away from anti-Semitism.

And he had a laugh about that, but...

GROSS: What an accomplishment.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr.�WEIGEL: It's something new under the sun. But that's definitely true. Like, the Birch Society is now, if you ignore some of their resonance, they're not saying anything different than Glenn Beck is saying. I mean, I'm totally comfortable saying that, apart from maybe the occasional epithet about water fluoridation, there's really nothing new.

GROSS: So I should mention Sarah Palin. Where is she now on the conservative movement? Where does she fit? How much influence does she have? Or maybe influence isn't even the right word. How much faith do people have in her, like?

Mr.�WEIGEL: Well, Tea Party activists and conservatives have a lot of faith in her for different reasons. Tea Party activists respect her because they think she's one of them, and conservatives like the way she's attacked by the media.

They - Palin spent a lot of time, recently, attacking media figures who use what she calls the R-word to describe the developmentally disabled. You know, that's not a political quest that makes sense, but activists who are very oppositional and think that there's a big infrastructure out to get them, really respect her for that. So she's not as much a leader as somebody they identify with.

GROSS: David Weigel will be back in the second half of the show. He reports on the Republican Party and the remaking of the right for the online magazine the Washington Independent. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. Im Terry Gross, back with David Weigel. He covers the Republican Party and the remaking of the right for the online magazine The Washington Independent.

This month, he covered the first National Tea Party Convention and the Conservative Political Action Conference - CPAC - which is the largest annual gathering of conservatives.

David, you were at the CPAC convention, you were at the Tea Party Convention. What is the Tea Party movement now? I mean there are splits within it, but can you make generalizations now about what the Tea Party stands for?

Mr. WEIGEL: They really do say that they're a nonpartisan - wouldnt say bipartisan, but a nonpartisan movement that looks more to American tradition than to either of the parties. And while they are composed very much largely of Republicans - and there's a CNN poll in February that demonstrated this. It's Republicans or Republican-leaning independents. It's 77 percent conservatives, whereas the country is not that conservative. They basically stand for undoing first the end of the Bush years and everything's Barack Obama's done, but then really rolling back all reform of American economics and social democracy, back to the pre-Teddy Roosevelt kind of Gilded Age politics.

GROSS: So at the Tea Party convention, the press was invited and there were almost - what was the proportion, like one press member for every like two or three Tea Partiers who were there?

Mr. WEIGEL: Or three.

GROSS: So one press member for every three Tea Partiers, so that's a huge press representative for the number of people there. Let's see...

Mr. WEIGEL: It was a reversal, because before the convention, people like me applied and couldnt get press credentials. They were only going to give them to five media outlets, all of which were conservative.

GROSS: Exactly. So what was the point of inviting in more media people? What did they want to accomplish, and did they accomplish that?

Mr. WEIGEL: Yeah. They kind of realize that if they were careful not to invite obviously nutty people with signs showing Obama with a Hitler mustache or the kind of things that have caused contretemps whenever theyve appeared on CNN or what have you, then it would be a showcase for the Tea Party movement, I mean despite there being some really extreme stuff there.

You know, Sarah Palin was the Saturday night speaker. The Friday night speaker was Joseph Farah, the editor of WorldNetDaily, who spent a quarter of his speech talking about President Obama's citizenship and how he's never proven that he's really American. You know, they pulled off this pretty amazing trick of showing off the strangest parts of the movement while getting cameras just to cover these normal-looking Middle Americans in T-shirts that they designed themselves, nodding along to talk of freedom and the Constitution.

GROSS: So what youre saying is the visual image represented at the Tea Party convention was normal, average, but the message at a lot of the podiums was really far more extreme.

Mr. WEIGEL: It was, and I think - Democrats have struggled in making this movement problematic for Republicans. They really thought it would be. Theyve tried pretty manfully for a year to convince people that this is an extreme wing of the Republican Party, but according to polls most people think this is a movement of independents that's worried about the national debt, part of that how spending is too high and taxes are too high.

GROSS: So is this a fair statement to make, that a lot of the Tea Partiers not only believe that taxes should be cut but that a lot of the programs that taxes pay for should be extremely cut or maybe even abolished, including Social Security and Medicaid, Medicare?

Mr. WEIGEL: That's absolutely true. And theyll put in some caveats about programs that people have paid into for a long time. But, you know, I talked to Allen West, who's kind of the perfect Tea Party candidate. He's a lieutenant - sorry - retired lieutenant colonel. He left the armed services after firing a weapon close to the head of an Iraqi prisoner and getting disciplined for it.

He ran for Congress in 2008. He talked like this and he lost. But he's running again, and he's raised more money than his opponent - Congressman Ron Klein. And I talked to him at CPAC. He got on the CPAC bill and he said, yes, Social Security's a Ponzi scheme, it's the biggest Ponzi scheme, but I'm not going to get rid of it right away but I, you know, hint-hint, eventually this country's got to get on sound footing by destroying it.

I mean one of the Republicans who is taken most seriously by the Tea Party is Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, and he's explicit about this. He's introduced bills that would take people's Social Security taxes, put them in funds that they can keep for themselves. These are policies that used to be things the Republican base might talk about but wouldnt do, and now you can't be a real Republican, you can't be a real Tea Party activist, if youre not for those things.

GROSS: The Tea Party's criticisms are not only aimed at Democrats, they're aimed at Republicans, because the Tea Partiers think that even Republicans have created big government and have not cut taxes sufficiently.

Do they blame Bush at all for the financial crisis that we're in?

Mr. WEIGEL: The Tea Party version of the financial crisis is not quite an alternate history but an altered history that doesnt really match with what happened. It's not 100 percent wrong. In their version of history -and I mean talk to somebody at a Tea Party, talk to a Republican politician about this, and I'll ask a candidate how they'd describe it and they describe it this way: In the '70s Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act. Government made it a priority to help people who couldnt afford homes get homes.

The government also regulated the financial industry. Those two things, other things, took the banks and the lending industries from engines of capitalism that obeyed their own rules to organizations that had, you know, either were forced to or had a profit function in lots of bogus lending. And then they'll get to the history of what happened and how they divvied up bad mortgages, you know, that people bought into that collapsed our economy. They'll go through that history but they say it's because government intervened. It's not because we didnt regulate these guys.

Barney Frank and Chris Dodd basically are given most of the responsibility for causing the thing. Jimmy Carter is given the rest of the responsibility. And even some people - Republicans who voted for TARP, I think, are comfortable putting it this way.

Paul Ryan, the Republican from Wisconsin, who is, I think, seen and seen accurately as the party's smartest guy on budgets, has explained he voted for TARP because he thought it was a one-time mea culpa that was going to get these guys out of there. It was going to prevent a bigger crash that would lead to huge reform of the system. That was seen as a solution for him. It's not seen as a solution for most of these people. I mean they think it was government's fault in the first place. If government backed off, yes, we would've had an enormous crash but we would've picked up the rubble and built up a system more like the one George Washington and Alexander Hamilton wanted for us.

GROSS: The Tea Party seems to be running a campaign now to get their people in the lowest levels of local politics. What kind of offices are they trying to run for and what is the goal? How big is this movement?

Mr. WEIGEL: Yeah. I think that's possibly the most under-recognized effect of the Tea Party movement. They're running for school board. They're running for city council. They're running for state assembly. I mean they're running in places where if you have a lot of energy and youre willing to knock on doors - and these people are willing to knock on doors - you can - you meet enough of your neighbors, maybe the neighbors in the next town over, that they can entrust you with power for a couple of years.

They're also - local Tea Party groups are setting up questionnaires and hoops for candidates to jump through, to a degree that's almost self-parodying sometimes. I've seen questionnaires for sheriff candidates that ask them detailed questions about the Constitution and whether - and which of their duties they think have been enumerated.

GROSS: The Tea Party movement wants to be something new and different and have some impact on the Republican Party. But one of the chief funders of parts of the Tea Party movement is Dick Armey, through his organization Freedom Works. And Dick Armey is really, you know, a voice of the past. I mean he was one of the - he was a Republican leader during the Clinton administration and goes back before that. Like, when was he in Congress?

Mr. WEIGEL: He was elected in 1984 and he left on his own volition in 2002. I mean he was in no danger of being defeated. He just retired to become, like a lot of former congressmen, a lobbyist with some political interests.

GROSS: Okay. So what are his interests in funding the Tea Party movement?

Mr. WEIGEL: One thing Armey would say is that he doesnt fund the Tea Party movement. He loves to contrast what they see as union thugs and ACORN putting Democratic rallies together with Tea Party people gassing up their cars and driving to Washington for his rallies. There's some dishonesty there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WEIGEL: I mean Freedom Works is always on the scene. It helps set these things up. It's got full-time activists who help get permits. And I mean I've been to a couple of events at Freedom Works' office where theyll have huge, you know, nice buffet spreads and things like that for Tea Party activists and conservative bloggers to meet and strategize. But it's not a ton of money they're spending. He has figured out that the very libertarian beliefs he's had for a long time, which he always thought had some sort of, you know, if not a majority support, some huge support in the country he just couldnt locate, well, that support's been located. So he is happily steering these guys and giving them candidates they can support and giving them policies they can support.

I mean Tea Party activists are not - do not come to these rallies with a set of political goals. They generally believe the things I've been talking about - about the Constitution, about how Obama's trying to wreck it. But for them to come out against a bill or believe that that bill contains a provision that's going to kill their grandmothers, something like that, that is coming from people like Armey, who have these interests - have lobbying interests in some respects, who want that message to get out there. And that's what you see.

I mean I dont - I really dont think that conservative activists at the top like Armey have been puppeteering this movement. I mean they're right, it was - it did spring out of some part of the American map in reaction to Obama's policies. But they are telling it what it should stand for as much as Fox News is informing them what Obama is doing that they should be opposing.

GROSS: Have you been getting access to the people you want to get access to and the meetings and conferences and symposiums, conventions that you want to get into?

Mr. WEIGEL: I basically have. I wouldnt call it hubris yet. But I mean I would call it a little bit maybe - perhaps dancing in the end zone. Ever since Scott Brown was elected in Massachusetts, there's a sense that a Republican victory this year is just inevitable, and so what do you have to hide if youre going to win this thing anyway? What do you have to hide if the Center for American Progress or Media Matters runs nasty videos about you, but then you go and beat them in a Massachusetts election anyway? There's such confidence about where they're heading that they give you a lot of access to these meetings because they want you to see how they're beating the liberals.

GROSS: Okay. Well, David Weigel, thank you so much for talking with us.

Mr. WEIGEL: It was a pleasure. Thank you so much.

GROSS: David Weigel covers the Republican Party and the remaking of the right for the online magazine The Washington Independent. You can find links to his articles on our Web site, freshair.npr.com.

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