On Monday, an event held at the Westin Harbour Island Hotel in Tampa starred Fox News personality Judge Andrew Napolitano. Attendees were given free green t-shirts with backs that read "Obama's Failing Agenda," followed by a list that included the president's signature health care bill and the increasing national debt. It also included the URL for the website failingagenda.com.
An organizer who addressed the crowd after Napolitano left the stage insisted that AFP is not a partisan group.
"We're a non-partisan organization. We don't get involved in social issues. We don't get involved in foreign policy issues," he said (CL was unable to get his name).
The spokesperson said AFP has 15 field offices in Florida, where participants are phone banking and canvassing with independent and swing voters "about the failed policies of this administration."
As a 501(c)(4) non-profit, such organizations can participate in political campaigns and elections, provided it's not their primary activity, and the spokesman emphasized that's not what AFP is about.
"We're not saying to vote for or against a certain candidate. We're talking about the issues that matter in moving this country forward," he said.
The program began with a short "set" by conservative talk-show host Tony Katz. Katz then introduced Napolitano, the Libertarian-oriented former New Jersey Superior Court Judge who authored six books on American history, the Constitution and the meaning of freedom.
He's best known for his time on Fox News where his appearances since 1998 have made him a national star.
In his address to the approximately 150 people, the judge spent most of his time speaking about the founding fathers, the Declaration of Independence, and whether rights come from the government or from God (guess which one he chose).
His speech was sprinkled with put-downs toward his frequent Fox sparring partner, Bill O'Reilly, such as when he proclaimed that the First Amendment doesn't grant rights, but keeps the government from interfering with rights.
"And so it takes off the rights that the government can't interfere with. You're right to think as you wish and say what you think. You're right to develop your personality (pause). I've often told O'Reilly he should be grateful that there's no law against developing a personality," he said, eliciting laughs and cheers from the audience of mostly white seniors, some wearing "9.12" T-shirts (many were wearing the green AFP t-shirts over their clothes).
He later found common cause with his audience when criticizing the federal government, saying there was no way the feds could run health care in the country, listing other federal programs in various financial straits.
"Medicare. Broke. Medicaid. Broke. Social Security. Broke. The Post office. Broke. Amtrak. Broke," he railed.
Judge Napolitano blasted the 2001 U.S. Patriot Act, passed overwhelmingly by Congress in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He asked audience members to speak to their elected Representatives in Washington.
"Ask them if they even know that it permits federal agents to write their own search warrants," he said slowly, before practically yelling "ASK THEM if they know that it makes it a crime to tell anyone — their spouse in your living room, your lawyer in her or his law office, a judge in a federal courtroom, a priest in confession — that you've received a self-written search warrant."
He then exhorted the members in the audience to exercise their freedoms before stripped from them. Unlike many other conservatives, Napolitano never said that would only happen if Barack Obama was re-elected.
"Freedom lies in your heart, but it must do more than just lie there, it must be exercised!" he bellowed. "You must get in the face of authority and challenge it ... In 50 years, 10 years, four years, will there be anything left to talk about? That's the challenge we have. We don't shrink from responsibility. We welcome it!"
Earlier in the day, Napolitano spoke to an audience in Sarasota, making Tampa his second Monday appearance in the region.