Politics & Policy

CPAC Journal, Part I

‘CPAC”stands for “Conservative Political Action Conference.” Everyone pronounces it “See-pack” (with the accent on the first syllable, of course). The conference is annual. This year’s edition was held last week, over three days, at a resort in Maryland, outside Washington, D.C. Feel like some notes? I have a few.

‐You expect to see some colorful gear at CPAC — or some colorful garb. There is some of that about, but maybe less than I expected (which is a bit disappointing). There is a biker type — a classic biker, out of Hells Angels, or some nicer version of that group.

What is it about bikers and conservatism? That would make a good magazine piece, or maybe a little book. Probably has been done (more than once).

‐Dr. Ben Carson speaks to the throng. He is very good, of course. Says many right and useful things, from my point of view. I guess he is running for president.

But I will say, again, what I’ve often said: I wish he’d run for mayor of Baltimore or something. (He lives in the area.) He could do a lot of good. But guys (and gals) get the presidential bug.

And what can you do?

‐As at almost every major event, there is rock music, blaring. I guess it’s what people want. But what if you took some kind of secret poll? What would they, we, say? And to what degree should minority tastes be honored?

This is a big topic (and I’m doing little notes) …

‐Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, proves a highly interesting speaker. He says he requested to speak very early in the conference — because he’s not running for president, and wanted to address the crowd on what they should look for, in a presidential candidate.

There will be many presidential candidates — or potential ones — speaking at this conference.

“I want to speak to you frankly,” says Lee. (I am paraphrasing, though closely.) “As one conservative not running for president to another conservative not running for president.”

He then says, “Conservatism is not a narrow ideology. Nor is it the exclusive property of conservative activists.”

It isn’t? A lot of people will be disappointed, and irked, to hear that.

Lee says, “The candidate we want is not the guy who yells ‘freedom’ the loudest. He’s not the one who can tell the best Joe Biden jokes.” (Again, I am paraphrasing.) And “if you give a standing ovation to every trite one-liner or platitude or slogan, then shame on you.”

Wow. This is rather a nervy speech.

Lee further says, “We should not donate one dime of money to any candidate who talks a big game about cutting government and never gets around to saying how he would fix broken government.”

Later, he cites an old line about a soldier. It goes something like this: “He fights, not because he hates what’s in front of him. He fights because he loves what’s behind him.” And so it should be with conservatives in politics, says Lee.

Fine with me. But I hate what’s in front of me — i.e., the Left — just a little, I must say (and will try to repent) …

After Lee’s prepared remarks, there is a little Q&A, conducted by a CPAC representative (I think). This will be a pattern at the conference — prepared speeches, followed by brief Q&A’s.

Lee’s questioner says, “What do you most object to about President Obama?” (or something like that). The senator pauses. There is laughter. Then he says, “A poem comes to mind: ‘Let me count the ways.’”

The answer he comes up with is: Obama does not respect the Founders’ vision of government, especially where the separation of powers is concerned. He has seized for himself kingly powers.

How can he get away with it? That’s what I say — what I’m saying now: How in the world can he get away with it?

The 2016 election can’t come soon enough, and I’m glad that the 22nd Amendment, which I have always opposed (as Reagan did), is in place.

(The 22nd Amendment, as you remember, limits the president to two terms.)

‐Another senator takes the stage, Ben Sasse, the Republican from Nebraska. He was elected last November.

He is wonderful, of course — well-nigh perfect. Bright, articulate, well educated, capable, seasoned, straightforward, amiable. It’s no stretch to see him president. But let me pick on him a little.

In 2010, he took over the presidency of a university: Midland, in Fremont, Neb. He was 37 years old. And he gives us a line, which he has undoubtedly given many times before:

“I was 37 years old, I looked 27, and, according to my wife, I acted 17. I was often mistaken for an undergraduate.”

The above appears to contain self-deprecation. But, of course, it is a boast. Who doesn’t want to achieve success young (or ever)? Who doesn’t want to look 27 instead of 37 (usually)? Even to act 17 is a desideratum, believe me (in the guy world).

If ever we get to feeling puffed up about our accomplishments when young, we might remember this: Schubert died at 31. And Keats at 25.

Anyway, Sasse says a number of smart and even inspiring things at CPAC. He says (something like), “There is more American feeling in country music than in the Federal Register.” And he gives a brilliant — I mean, brilliant — response to Obama’s shouts of “You didn’t build that!” It is moving, too. I wish I had a transcript for you.

If you’re weary of politics, you can look to the new Nebraska senator, Sasse.

‐Fremont, Neb., as you don’t need to be told, was named after the first Republican presidential nominee: John C. Frémont. That fussy, Frenchy accent was lost along the way …

‐Mia Love, the new Utah congresswoman, is here. Listening to her, I can imagine that she drives the Left crazy. She is a young(ish) black woman whose parents were Haitian immigrants — and she has no part whatsoever in the grievance culture. She is a grateful, knowledgeable, and patriotic American. Just what she’s not supposed to be.

To the Left — you can trust me on this — this is treason.

Her prepared remarks, I find utterly platitudinous. She is much better — more natural, more compelling — in a Q&A, or back-and-forth.

And she emphasizes her parents’ story. They came to these shores with $10 to their name. They learned the English language. They learned the Constitution. They learned about American history — soon knowing more than most native-born Americans, says Love.

And when they pledged allegiance to the American flag for the first time, they not only knew what they were saying, they meant every word of it.

Great stuff. By the way, Mia Love has Ted Cruz beat. Ted’s dad came from Cuba with $100 sewn into his underwear (by his mother, I believe). Mia Love’s parents came with a tenth that.

Talk about one-upmanship (or downmanship?).

‐I am pleased to hear from Charlie Kirk, “the founder and executive director of Turning Point USA, a national student movement dedicated to educating, empowering, and mobilizing young people behind the principles of fiscal responsibility, free markets, and limited government.”

Sounds good. Is good, I trust.

I hear him say something that makes me smile a bit, inwardly. He says something like, “We welcome a range of people, from libertarians to conservatives to establishment Republicans.”

Does anyone really describe himself as an “establishment Republican”? It seems to me this is merely an epithet from the right, often deployed moronically.

‐Out for a walk, I see the Maryland flag, along with the American. I have always thought that Maryland’s is one of the most interesting, and striking, and beautiful, state flags. We Michiganders have a couple of prancing deer. Actually, I think they’re supposed to be elk or moose or something.

Anyway — thank you, and see you tomorrow!

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