Politics & Policy

CPAC Journal, Part III

Marco Rubio takes the stage at CPAC. (Alex Wong/Getty)

Editor’s Note: CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, took place last week, at a Greater D.C. resort. We are publishing Jay Nordlinger’s journal this week. For the first two installments, go here and here.

Lately, I’ve been complaining about the ever-presence of music, in things like videos. Nothing is ever permitted to take place without music. Here at CPAC, a speaker is introduced, and you get blaring rock music. When he concludes, you get blaring rock music. Hell, why not just play it in between? I mean, during the speech?

Which leads me to a video they show, advertising the Leadership Institute. Ted Cruz talks about the institute. And there is guitar music playing over his words. It’s not bad guitar music. My question is merely: Why?

‐I like music. I like it more than the average bear, probably. Maybe that’s why I object — this will be self-flattering — to the misuse and devaluation of music.

‐Laura Ingraham takes the stage. Before I get to what she says, may I comment on how she looks? Sure, this is my column, my journal, and it is personal and unusual. I ain’t goin’ mainstream no-how, trust me.

Today and throughout the conference, she is totally glam — a knockout — in slinky dresses and kick-a** boots. Holy mackerel. Is she a pundit or a Hollywood siren? She could be either.

(Actually, not many pundits look like this. We’re more apt to look like Jack Germond.) (Whom I enjoyed a lot, whatever his politics.)

At the podium, Ingraham goes after Jeb Bush hammer and tong. It is a high-octane populist speech. There is acid in it, too.

She says that Bush is bound to close the gender gap: “What woman doesn’t like a man who gives her a blank check at Tiffany’s? Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”

This is an allusion to the shopping habits of Bush’s wife.

In various ways, Ingraham talks about rule by the elites, in which “the people” get left out. I have felt this way in the past. But I think differently now. I think that America has a robust democracy, by and large. I also think that Americans get the government, and the officeholders, they want (and probably deserve).

Americans make their choices. Often, I disagree with them. That’s life in the big city.

Speaking of cities: At CPAC, and at any conservative gathering, you hear a lot about “Washington.” It’s Washington versus the people, Washington versus America. But you know? In the main, Washington is the people. Is America.

It must be the most representative city in the country, politically. Every point of view is represented in Washington. Americans of all stripes, and from every corner, descend on Washington to fight it out, and hash it out.

Anyway, we can have these poli-sci discussions later . . .

Laura Ingraham introduces me to a new term: “the surveillance culture.” This must allude to the National Security Agency and other bodies charged with keeping Americans safe from harm (bodies that must be policed, to be sure).

It seems to me that the lexicon of right-wing abuse grows daily. Usually, our group blog at National Review, The Corner, keeps me up-to-date. I learn such terms as “Corporate Right” from it.

Laura also says “donor class.” I gave a donation once (to my friend Ted Cruz). Am I part of the donor class? Or do I have to give more? Do you have to be at the Koch or Soros level?

To be continued . . .

‐Marco Rubio is at the plate. He is calm and measured, as usual. And, as usual, he is singing his song to America. “When’s the last time a boat of American refugees turned up on the shore of another country?” he asks.

In the course of his remarks, Marco refers to the “Obama-Clinton foreign policy.” Ted Cruz has just done the same thing, in a conversation with me. These guys are gearing up to run for president, and so is Hillary. So, from the Republicans, it’s not the “Obama-Biden foreign policy,” or simply the “Obama foreign policy,” but “Obama-Clinton.”

And if Biden runs? Or is the nominee? “Obama-Biden”?

If Hillary is the nominee, I’d be tempted to say just that: “Obama-Hillary,” for clarity. When it comes to “Clinton,” I still think Bill, I guess. And there was a Clinton foreign policy (during the 42nd presidency, I mean).

Rubio says that the current president’s foreign policy “treats the ayatollah in Iran with more respect than it does the prime minister of Israel” — which is exactly what I’ve been saying, so, natch, I like it . . .

There’s good news and bad news, says Marco. The bad news is, “we’re on the road to decline.” (Mitt Romney often said “road to Greece” — and not ancient Greece, but contemporary, basketcase Greece.) The good news is, “we’re one election away from triggering another American century.”

Nice line. Hope it’s true.

“Imagine a world in which the American president doesn’t go around bad-mouthing America,” says Rubio. “That’s the U.N.’s job.”

Another nice line.

“America doesn’t owe my anything,” he says. “But I have a debt to America that I’ll never be able to repay.” He continues, “For me, America isn’t just a country. It’s the place that literally changed the destiny of my family.”

Let me give you a language note on Rubio: In a Q&A, he says “anyways,” rather than the standard “anyway.” I thought it was only, or mainly, we midwesterners who said “anyways.” (I grew up in Michigan.) But this Floridian has said it, swear.

About Obama’s executive amnesty for illegal immigrants, Rubio says, “It’s not just a policy issue. It’s a constitutional issue.”

I am reminded of what a liberal, or centrist, colleague told me some weeks ago. I had asked him what he thought of Obama’s action. He said, “I’m pro-amnesty, anti-decree.”

I quite liked that (though I am anti-both).

‐The ballroom at this giant hotel is turned into a church, when the Reverend Phil Robertson mounts his pulpit. He is the star of Duck Dynasty. He has a long, prophet-like beard. And he has brought a prop: a Bible.

He says that there are three words you never hear from a politician: “I love you.” And “if they don’t tell us they love us, I’m going to begin to think maybe they don’t.”

That is an interesting sentiment. But if a politician said, “I love you,” would you find it creepy? It would depend on the circumstances, I suppose.

Robertson says, “I’m a God-loving, Bible-believing, gun-toting capitalist.” That gets a big cheer from the crowd.

He also has an answer to Barack Obama’s charge of “You didn’t build that!” Phil speaks of what he and his wife have built in Louisiana. It’s a powerful testimony.

Soon, he is in full-blown preacher mode, decrying the degradation of America. He says that venereal disease is rampant. He says that there is a “godly, Biblical, medically safe” course, namely “one man, one woman, married for life.”

Amen, Reverend Phil. Couldn’t agree more.

Let me issue a criticism: You know the kind of person who is in love with his own persona? In this appearance, Phil Robertson strikes me as that kind of person. He is enjoyable, to me, but also arrogant as all get-out. He is hectoring and self-righteous.

But, as longtime readers can tell you, I live in a fairly glassy house when it comes to this sort of thing . . .

Here is some praise: Phil has a magnificent voice, which he knows how to use. And he has a superb sense of rhetoric. He is loaded with talent.

And he’s an adornment to the American scene. An American original, for sure. Could the Left get a kick out of him, at some level? It would take the setting aside, however temporary, of stern ideology.

‐Since this is America, home of grievance, I have a right to complain — almost an obligation. I ask room service for some chocolate cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. They say they cannot, or will not, sell me a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I have to buy a pint — for $10.

Does that seem right? If I were really a real American, I’d sue, somehow.

Anyway, see you tomorrow, for our wrap-up.

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