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Oh, CPAC. What Are We Going to Do With You?



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From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Oh, CPAC. What Are We Going to Do With You?

CPAC just wouldn’t be CPAC without some opening controversies, now would it?

Here’s the scoreboard:

Atheists: Previously invited, now disinvited. This was the somewhat surprising news Tuesday morning

American Atheists, an outspoken organization that advocates for atheists nationwide, will have a booth at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference.

The atheist institution, which is well known for its controversial billboards and media campaigns, informed CNN of its inclusion on Monday night, and a representative from CPAC confirmed that the group will have a booth at the annual national gathering of conservative leaders and activists in March. American Atheists hopes to use the forum to tap into the conservative movement and bring conservative atheists “out of the closet.”

And by Tuesday afternoon, CPAC had made the decision that the atheist group wouldn’t have a booth after all. Meghan Snyder, a spokeswoman for CPAC, said in a statement to CNN that “American Atheists misrepresented itself about their willingness to engage in positive dialogue and work together to promote limited government.”

The rescinding of the invitation did not mitigate the anger of Brent Bozell, who declared, “no conservative should have anything to do with this conference.”

GOProud: Technically invited but disallowed from having a booth, an agreement that some former board members find to be a sad joke:

One of the founders of GOProud, a gay Republican organization, has resigned from the board after accusing the group’s new leadership of allowing themselves to be used as “stooges” by antigay conservatives.

Chris Barron, who helped create GOProud in 2009, condemned the current directors for touting an agreement that only allowed for limited GOProud participation at the American Conservative Union’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

In 2010 and 2011, GOProud, which bills itself as a conservative alternative to Log Cabin Republicans, served as a CPAC sponsor. But amid a strong pushback from conservatives who complained about the participation of the gay organization, the relationship splintered and GOProud was not invited back in 2012 and 2013.

The National Journal reported Wednesday that a compromise was reached to permit GOProud to attend this year’s Maryland conference March 6-8, though it would not be a sponsor or have a booth as it had in past years.

In an interview Thursday, Barron mocked the agreement, saying nothing had been achieved since GOProud members were allowed in 2012 and 2013 to attend the event though the organization had no official involvement.

“It’s completely and totally disingenuous to pawn off an unconditional surrender as a ‘compromise’” said Barron, who complained that he was not consulted about the decision as a board member.

Chris Christie: Attending. I don’t mind the invite, but this year’s invitation sure does conflict with the explanation for the lack of an invite last year:

New Jersey governor Chris Christie was not invited to address the Conservative Political Action Conference because of his position on gun control, according to a source familiar with CPAC’s internal deliberations who requested anonymity to speak freely.

Christie has a “limited future” in the national Republican party given his position on gun control, the source tells National Review Online. As a result, the CPAC insider says, the focus of this year’s conference, “the future of conservatism,” made Christie a bad fit.

Christie, the source adds, is simply not a conservative in the eyes of organizers.

So what’s changed since last year? Is Christie now better on Second Amendment issues? Is his future in the national Republican party brighter now?

Last year I wrote that the organizers of CPAC should sit down and try to get a clearer sense of what the purpose of the conference is. “Begin with the end in mind,” as Stephen Covey wrote. What headline does the American Conservative Union want coming out of three days of events? When attendees go home, they should say, “I’m really glad I went because [blank].” Now fill in the blank.

Is it meant to showcase the rising stars of the conservative movement? Or is part of the experience bringing out the “old favorites” like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich?

Is it meant to hash out policies, or is it more of a showcase for the most rousing, rah-rah speakers? After news broke that Donald Trump would be speaking, someone I respect declared that his appearance is “fun and entertaining. If anything, we’d be better off with more of that at CPAC and less debates on tax law.” I don’t know if it’s possible for me to disagree more strongly, but then again, I’m not in charge of persuading people to buy tickets to attend this shin-dig.

Kevin Eder: “Obviously, the real purpose of CPAC is to generate outraged headlines and tweets about CPAC.”


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