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Tis the season to be jolly… and reflect on the year that has come and gone, with whispers and bangs and magic and reality.  Here is my year and a few reflections on the State of our Union.

I am an American. An optimist. An unrepentant Republican. I don’t consider myself a “Conservative” because I’m not a devout part of the ‘movement’ crowd.  Where we agree, I am pleased to do so. Where we don’t, I ask them to remember that Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan were latecomers.  My favorite president is John Quincy Adams, not because his presidency was sterling – but because he was the better man.  In a narrow vote in 1824, the US House of Representatives exercised their conscience and prevented America from being led by a bigot – if only for four years.  So, if I had my druthers… the spirit, if not the letter, of the Free Soil folks and Whig ideas would still be around.   Of course, I am also a fan of Britain’s Charles Fox and Edmund Burke some 50 years earlier for their courage.  Burke is the sort of conservative I admire.

What can I say, I’m an idealist.  I’m a Republican.  I don’t always agree with party leadership, and very often – I criticize them.  Politics is imperfect, it is a science and an art.  I am its student. Always have been. From my first train ride to DC from Atlanta as a young honor student, it held – and holds – a special place in my heart.  Flaws and complications are de rigeur, in DC and in life.  My greatest honor is to respect the process. Have faith in the outcome. And do good works, try to guide a few folks in the next generation with a firm but encouraging hand. I don’t think that self-identifying as a Republican, or as a conservative, is automatic admission to the cool-kids corner.  I believe being a patriot is about hard work, a lifetime of learning, and a brutal honesty – especially when we make mistakes.

I don’t care how Big the Tent Is.  I care what performers – pols & policies – are featured in the three ring circus.  Politics, like life, is a feast for the senses.

The problem with DC isn’t the conservatives.  They are a lively and necessary part of the fabric. They provide a great counterweight to the radical beliefs of the hardcore, anti-war, anti-man, feminists who replaced the radicals of Andrew Jackson’s day.  I could never be a Democrat because I have never admired their origins.  Thomas Jefferson belongs to no one, anymore than Washington, Franklin, or Madison did.  The belonged only to America.  They are our Fathers.

Much is made of “donor influence.”  Ask a donor who his friends are, he’ll tell you the name of folks he donated too.  Ask that same politician who his friends are – and he’ll tell you his wife, his Chief of Staff, Campaign Manager, Senior Adviser, Scheduler or Finance Chief , maybe an old buddy who acts as the driver.  Not the donor.  When folks say, ‘follow the money’ – it’s infinitely more wise to look at expenditure reports than it is to look at donor names.  The people that matter are the guys Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner & the like believe are worthy of $10,000 or $20,000 per month.

I am blessed to know good guys, bad guys, and not-quite-right guys (and gals) who teach political lessons all the time.  In the early 1990′s, I was an inexperienced but ambitious arrival to our Nation’s Capitol.  I still believe in America and our innate capacity to learn, improve and triumph over all obstacles, adversaries and economic or terror related nightmares.  I do not believe that Tea Parties or Code Pinkers make that happen.  Americans make America better.  As individuals.

When Americans embrace the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and live within their own means — our nation thrives.  We will learn tough lessons because of President Obama and the Democrat-led Congress guided by Speaker Pelosi.   When President Obama is ousted after only one-term, a lot of folks will again be as optimistic as I am for this nation.

All the hyperbole in the world, all the hand-wringing and mean spirited attacks are nothing to me.  I don’t listen to Rush.  I rarely catch Glenn Beck.  I listen to Sean Hannity far less frequently because I preferred him in his WGST days, ahhh the “Hanni-pie” of Atlanta.  I never listen to Ed Schulz, as tempting as it is to hear someone bloviate at 400 decibels.  Rachel Maddow holds zero appeal after she, and Ana Marie Cox, said every revolting variant of ‘Tea-Bag’ they could conjure up.  I don’t sit at home, chew on tin-foil and weep with ecstasy over Keith Olbermann either.  What I find far more satisfying, what helps adjust my political compass is reading. Reading everything I can get my hands on.

The Federal Register.  Legislation.  Political diaries from the UK, France, Jerusalem, and other counties we count as ally or adversary.  The Hotline and Politico.  The New York Times, The Washington Post and numerous other old-fashion newspapers are critical.  Maybe it’s because my father was a journalist and Editor extraordinaire – but newspaper reporting is the good stuff.  I read polls for myself, and not just the toplines – but the in-depth stuff too.  Sure, all of this is more time consuming, especially when you read a real-time feed of news wires as I do.  I read all the boring reports from Brookings, the CFR, Pew and other think-tanks like the Heritage Foundation and CATO.  I spend a lot of time reading through campaign receipts & payables available to anyone curious on the Federal Election Commission’s website.  Likewise, for Gubernatorial or other state races, I check out campaign finance records in each state.  (Some states are better than others. Virginia’s VPAP is unbeatable.)

The payoff is no one gave me my opinion.  I arrived, right or wrong, at conclusions myself.  I feel blessed to have individual freedom, and I believe I owe Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and all the other Founding Fathers, not to mention 230+ years of men & women in uniform, more than a drive-by interest in what makes America great, what makes her unique, and what makes her safe.

American culture has degraded of late.  Fame is made from eating bugs, acting whorish, selling out personal failings and trading on the human condition in the most exploitative of ways.   Last summer I learned my lessons the hard way.  After more than a year of writing for AOL’s “Hot Seat” – first as a part of the Political Machine, then for the reconstituted Politics Daily, I was summarily dismissed for speaking out in defense of women who were subjected to cyber-rape, and calling out AOL for firing one of the brightest, most intellectually honest men on the Left – Tommy Christopher.

That story unfolded first with Playboy Writer Guy Cimbalo Shares Top 10 Republican Women He’d like to Rape, followed by Playboy, Rape & Grim Fairy Tales.   It was ironic.  Only days before this debauchery on parade, I wrote Beautiful, Successful and Hated.  It seemed a necessary article, timed to defend a more wholesome and classical approach to women, men, our children and life.  I remain astonished how so many Leftists commented in the negative.  They practically cried out for degradation and misogyny, praising fame for fame’s sake, abortion on demand as an expression of anti-man hatred.  (See Cintra, Sarah and Katy Perry for my unabridged take.)

Of course, there are exceptions.  Maegan Carberry is one of the brightest and most intellectually astute writers of the Progressive Left.  Jane Hamsher’s rage-filled persona is tired, no longer charming because of shock value.  Her act is old and not well reasoned.  Carberry‘s grace, respectful manner and insight into all things Gen Y reminds me… I am SO Gen X.  She makes me listen – effortlessly.  Tommy Christopher rocks my world.  There are times when he’s so fair, so reasonable – I have to pinch myself.  He is ideologically consistent.  Both are real journalists and activists, wrapped into a charismatic and compelling package.

If only their more debauch, incendiary colleagues would listen – there would be much more in the “Hope” department besides leftover Obama ’08 t-shirts.

All that said, I remain optimistic about America.  Our country needs real leadership right now. Cogent, smart and fearless voices to rouse the sleeping giants who, for so long, guarded our moral compass.  Instead of using abortion as a platform to raise ‘conservative’ cash for ‘conservative’ principles, how about teaching this beautiful generation of kids to respect themselves. To pursue personal excellence.  To serve this nation, and our common future.

The same lesson applies to Planned Parenthood, even more so.  Why are you raising millions of dollars to tell us how precious the life of the mother is?  We know the mother is precious.  Her child is precious too.  Life – no matter what you call it – began at conception.  No impersonal pronoun will change that truth.

Which brings me to adult responsibilities… to defeat the negative influences abundant in our culture, we must turn away from inherently destructive people and causes.  The internet gives us the world at out fingertips.  Not since the Library at Alexandria has so much knowledge been available to man.  From it’s ashes, we have a modern society with many of the same complex issues.

But we also have more control over our daily lives. Over our impulses.  Over our government and our leaders.  From South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa – and Tiger Woods, it should be abundantly obvious to us all that there is no privacy unless we afford it to our neighbors and leaders on the same terms we beg for ourselves.

Do unto others. As an American woman, I am so blessed.  I was married very young to a great American hero who loved our nation.  In Arlington National Cemetery, he is surrounded by many friends and brothers in arms.  His shadows are in our daughter’s features, in her manner but mostly in her kindness.  His nickname was Headquarters, he was just so squared away.  She could run circles around him today.  I am dizzied by her every day.  Because we are American, we are free to enjoy these little, and some not so little, freedoms.  Knowledge, scholarly pursuits, moral clarity and personal excellence.  It is truly a joy.

Over the years, I have often written about Veterans, Special Forces, Clandestine Operators, presidents and leadership.  I am so lucky to have served, to be the daughter and granddaughter of men who served.  To be the Gold Star Wife to one man, and now the Blue Star bride of another gives me an immeasurable sense of peace, gratitude and wonder.   Life is good, and I pray for the grace to appreciate and enjoy each step. Those relationships are sacred and ours alone.  Just as your loves, your family, your friends are sacred to you.  Remember this – and the fight for America’s future becomes much easier and within your grasp.

America is my country. No matter who occupies and operates the levers of power, I know America will transcend her struggles to inspire more heroes, more thinkers and stewards of all freedom.  We light the beacon of freedom by denying our internal detractors the satisfaction of seeing us sweat while we do the heavy lifting. Again.

Onward.

—Media Lizzy