Andrew Breitbart standing against the Tea Party Express Bus at the 2010 California Republican Convention in Santa Clara. He actually posed while I snapped this shot.
The last time I saw Andrew Breitbart was Saturday morning. I'd just pulled into the parking garage of the Burlingame Hyatt for the California Republican Convention to see him spinning away in a small sports car, his large frame filling the small, sleek car's cab. I cracked a smile as I headed to the pressroom, glad to see that Breitbart was in attendance. I hoped that he was going out for lunch or something and wasn't heading back to Southern California.
See, I looked forward to sparring with him again like we did at the 2010 Calif. GOP Con in Santa Clara. He pretty much had me that time too. He was a master provocateur who could manipulate Democrats in high office into cutting funding for ACORN or firing Shirley Sherrod. I was just some former pro-wrestler/movie reviewer. I was in over my head, plain and simple, but Breitbart still kept coming after me, eventually calling me out during a Tea Party Express Rally. At least I had the sense not to get on the stage with him. I got some satisfication out of watching Breitbart as he worked so hard to get me up there. In the end, Breitbart only had the power that we gave to him.
Last Saturday, I hung around the hotel for most of the afternoon, but didn't run into Breitbart again. When I left to go home and work on my story about Newt Gingrich and algae, I figured that there would be future GOP shindigs. I'd get my rematch with Breitbart eventually, I thought. Now that doesn’t look like it's going to be the case. Andrew Brietbart is gone, dead at age 43 of natural causes.
It's a huge blow to the conservative/Tea Party movement to be sure, but it's still a bit sad to those of us on the other side who got so much out of squaring off against him at various conservative events or on Twitter. Breitbart was always out there in the Twitterverse. He could turn up at anytime in an attempt to poke holes in your argument or at least vex the hell out of you. I have to admit that I couldn't help but have the feeling that I'd arrived as a liberal media critic the day that Breitbart started hounding me in 140 characters or less. He actually called me the "master of deceit " or something along those lines (actual Twitter search apps are failing me right now). Coming from him, I couldn't help but take that as a compliment.
And so America loses cyber space's Walter Winchell, Hedda Hopper or J. J. Hunsecker (the fictional version of these types played by Burt Lancaster in "Sweet Smell of Success"). We bemoan the outsized influence of such yellow journalists while they're alive, but still miss them when they're gone despite ourselves.
There's a German phrase that puts it best: "Better to have an honest enemy than a false friend." If there's one thing Andrew Breitbart was honest about (and this may be only one thing), it was being your enemy.