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America First Party Purges 'Extremists'
By Stephen Dewey
Talon News
July 28, 2003

WASHINGTON (Talon News) -- The America First Party (AFP) announced last week the postponement of its national convention to the fall, as the Party underwent significant internal disputes between conflicting factions.

The convention was scheduled for this past weekend, July 24-26, in Nashville, Tennessee, but failed to materialize after a portion of the convention's planning committee invited a speaker "who was not acceptable to the majority of the party membership."

That speaker was Colonel Bo Gritz, who reportedly grabbed a controlling stake in the AFP's leadership in the months prior to the conference change, leading to the resignation of the AFP's national chair, vice chair and treasurer.

Gritz is a former Green Beret and was decorated 62 times for his combat service in Vietnam, which he claims is a record. Gritz was also a neutral negotiator at Ruby Ridge between the FBI and Randy Weaver.

Other aspects of Gritz likely gave the AFP reason for concern, and could have led to his dismissal as a speaker. Gritz has close ties to militant anti-government and white supremacist groups, and led several commando-style attacks on Vietnam in the 1980s in search of alleged POWs trapped inside the country.

Gritz also maintains a Center for Action with a national newsletter that teaches advanced combat techniques he learned as a Green Beret.

"The America First Party takes seriously its commitment to the Constitution and the Judeo-Christian moral and ethical standards upon which our Nation was founded," the AFP release announcing the conference change reads. "All United States citizens who embrace that Constitution and adopt traditional American values are welcome with open arms into the party."

"The choice of an individual who supports extreme intolerance was not considered representative of our growing party whose goal is the preservation of the Constitutional Republic envisioned by the Founding Fathers," the release continues. "Anyone who supports theories that we hoped had died with Adolph Hitler is not welcome in the America First Party -- and certainly such persons should not -- and will not -- be invited to speak at our convention."

Control of the AFP appears to have switched back and forth as the different factions contested the decision. The AFP sent out a news release in early July confirming that Gritz would be the speaker and that he was "an approved speaker by the Convention Committee."

The same press release can be found on Gritz's own site, indicating that he or one of his affiliates composed it. The release was not in the traditional AFP format, which could indicate that control of the party's national infrastructure changed hands briefly.

Less than two weeks later, a second press release was sent out indicating that the convention had been rescheduled for a to-be-determined date in the fall and that the dispute was related to the speaking lineup for the convention. This release was in the traditional AFP format, and announced the resignation of a few insurgent members possibly connected to Gritz.

One day prior to the second release, the AFP sent out an unrelated release regarding defense contracts, indicating the leadership's attempt to put the Party back on course.

The AFP sees itself as the most viable conservative alternative to the Republican Party, and traces its roots to the Buchanan Brigade.

The Brigade supported Buchanan in his efforts to secure the GOP nomination in 1992 and 1996, both of which were unsuccessful. Buchanan ran on the Reform Party ticket in 2000, but only received 0.4% of the vote, and told the media that his foray into third party politics may have been a mistake.

Buchanan remains active in politics, however, and the AFP parallels his activism in the political realm. Buchanan's core followers defected from the Reform Party in 2002 to form the AFP, and remain essentially at the helm of the Party.

The AFP is uncompromisingly conservative on every issue, and decries the GOP's newfound neoconservative tendencies. The AFP opposed the Iraq war, but vigorously supported American troops. The AFP's platform is conservative on every issue, and tends toward the isolationist.

Copyright 2003 Talon News -- All rights reserved.

       

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