The big snowstorm didn't deter Utah Eagle Forum devotees from braving many still-slick streets to reach a downtown Salt Lake City hotel early Saturday for the group's annual meeting, which offered a refresher course on threats to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness at the international, national, state and local levels.
By 8:45 a.m., when first-term Republican Sen. Mike Lee was beginning his speech on the dangers of international treaties that limit U.S. sovereignty, about 250 "Eagles" had filled most every available seat in the Radisson ballroom.
Many took detailed notes as he and a procession of other fervent speakers addressed numerous issues of critical concern in conservative circles, including Obamacare, defending the right to bear arms, federalism and states' rights, public lands policies, abortion and the hidden agenda of the sustainable development movement.
After laying out his reasons for opposing treaties regarding the rights of persons with disabilities and the laws of the sea, Lee spent much of his time warning President Barack Obama not to raise the debt ceiling by executive order. Going around Congress in that manner, he said, would be "an act of despotism. We can't allow this to happen," no matter whether the president is Democrat or Republican.
Lee also vowed to fight for Utah's sovereign right to develop the natural resources on public lands within its borders, contending the state could become another North Dakota if its oil and natural gas deposits could be exploited more fully. With the economic benefits that would unfold, he predicted, "Duchesne County would become the envy of the world."
Rep. Jason Chaffetz said he will continue to press for information about what went wrong Sept. 11 in Benghazi, Libya, when a terrorist attack killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others, including one-time Utahn Glen Doherty. The Utah Republican, who traveled to Libya in October to see the bloodied consulate firsthand, said he expects answers will emerge as more whistle-blowers come forward with details about what happened before, during and after the deadly attacks.
Within Utah, Eagle Forum leader Gayle Ruzicka vowed to be vigilant at yet another legislative session, "mostly working against bad legislation."
One of her targeted bills is a proposal by state Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, to provide state funding for some preschool programs. Ruzicka said the state does not need to fund preschool.
Ruzicka also said she will keep a watchful eye out for any revived talk of a constitutional convention or passing an anti-discrimination bill at the state level.
She also is encouraging support for a bill by Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, that would prohibit women from having abortions based on the gender of a fetus.
Dayton said the practice is common in some countries and that her "Gender Selection Abortion Prohibition" bill would get Utah out in front of the fight against "gendericide. That's a nefarious sounding word," she said.
But she acknowledged the bill may be premature, requiring additional data about the numbers of abortions in Utah and when they were performed.
Swallow: Ruzicka is celestial
Utah Attorney General John Swallow praised the work on Capitol Hill by Utah Eagle Forum leader Gayle Ruzicka, predicting at the group's convention Saturday that "when she passes, she'll be going straight to the Celestial Kingdom." That is the highest level of heaven Mormons can reach.