Politics & Policy

CPAC Journal, Part II

Editor’s Note: CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, took place last week, at a Greater D.C. resort. Jay Nordlinger’s journal began yesterday. For the first installment, go here.

Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, is doing a Q&A on the stage with Laura Ingraham, the radio star (and TV star). Let me say something general about Christie: He may not be a true-blue conservative, according to many conservatives. He may not be a down-the-line conservative. But he certainly has a conservative persona: a conservative style, a conservative attitude, a conservative way of speaking, of mixing it up.

Do you know what I mean by that?

His conservative persona may cancel out any departures from orthodoxy he may indulge in.

Laura asks him a question about immigration. It goes something like this: “How come some people are talking about populating Detroit with immigrants when so many of our own people are looking for work?”

I grew up near Detroit. Listen, I’ve never seen anyone jumping up to populate Detroit, or start a business there, or work there. And if Hmong or whoever want to do it — do you know what I mean?

Forgive a lack of sophistication. I’m just talking glibly here, kind of rushing through.

Christie is now something of a long shot for the GOP nomination, I would say. But he notes his record of winning, even when he has not been expected to win. And he says, “If I decide to run, I’ll run hard, and I’ll take my chances on me. I’ve done pretty well so far.”

(Again, a paraphrase, as with most of the quotations in this journal.)

‐Carly Fiorina takes the stage. They say she’ll run for president, or may. This is a surprise to me. A former CEO, she ran for a U.S. Senate seat in California. Lost. She has never won or held a political office. President?

Anyway …

She gives some of her personal history in her speech. She says that, at Stanford, she majored in medieval history and philosophy. This did not make her especially employable. She was “all dressed up with nowhere to go,” as she says. But “my degree has come in handy lately, what with President Obama talking about the Crusades.”

I will quote more of Carly — paraphrase her, actually: “I was unemployable, so I went to law school. I hated it, and quit after a single semester.” She then worked as a secretary in a real-estate office. Eventually, she became the CEO of the world’s largest technology company (HP).

Only in America, she says. “I know that it is only in this country that a woman can go from secretary to CEO.” That’s not true. But it’s one of our national myths, or conceits. And we probably do this kind of thing — rags to riches, Horatio Alger — better than anybody.

Usually, I don’t like the insertion of personal tragedies into political speeches — illness and death and all that. I find it cheap or unseemly or treacly. But I find myself moved by what Fiorina says, along these lines. And she links her personal experiences to politics broadly.

She says, at one point, “Everyone needs a helping hand, but no one wants to be trapped in the web of dependence that has been woven over decades in our nation.”

As I listen to Carly Fiorina, giving a terrific speech, I think, “How the hell did she lose that Senate race? How could a majority, even in ‘progressive’ California, fail to find this lady appealing?”

In a discussion of foreign policy, she is very hawkish — even interventionist, I would say. And the crowd goes nuts with approval. I have understood this conference, CPAC, to be rather Paulish. You would not know it, however, from the crowd’s response to Carly (or to other speakers).

Also, she is strongly, strongly pro-Israel. And the crowd, again, is wildly approving — which leads me to a point I have been making lately, especially in light of Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to Congress.

If you had been told, 30 or 40 years ago, that one of the two major parties in America would become strongly pro-Israel, while the other one was not so strong; if you had been told that either the Left or the Right would fervently embrace Israel — you would not have bet on the Republican party and the Right, believe me.

An amazing development.

Fiorina takes a shot at Hillary Clinton, specifically Clinton’s record as secretary of state. “Like Hillary, I have traveled throughout the world. And I know that flying is an activity, not an accomplishment.”

A man behind me says, “She’s good.” His companion says, “Yeah, she should run for president.”

She ends with a nicely alliterative sentence, very well read. I think the sentence concludes with “our beloved, our beautiful, our blessed United States of America.”

One of the guys behind me says, “I could see voting for her.”

This was a first-rate speech, ladies and gentlemen. I have heard many of them (probably too many). This was unusually interesting, and attention-holding, and well crafted, and well delivered.

There is a brief Q&A. Someone asks Carly about the possibility of facing off against Hillary Clinton — woman versus woman. Carly says (approximately), “If she had to deal with me on a debate stage, at the very least she would have a hitch in her swing.”

Marvelous expression. Golf?

(Let me note: The “hitch” statement may have been in the speech, rather than the Q&A. My notes are a little unclear on this point. Fortunately, Impromptusites will forgive me. About the rest of the world, I can’t say.)

‐I will not say much about Ted Cruz’s speech. Readers know — longtime and regular readers do — that he is a dear friend of mine. Suffice it to say that Ted’s speech was enthusiastically received.

And I’m going to record part of an exchange he then had with Sean Hannity.

Hannity asks, “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say ‘Barack Obama’?” Ted says, “Lawless imperator.” “How about ‘Bill Clinton’?” says Hannity. “Youth outreach,” says Ted.

A Lewinsky allusion, I gather!

‐Nigel Farage may be the only foreign speaker in the lineup — I’m not sure. He is the leader of UKIP, the U.K. Independence Party. He is wearing a purple tie — for purple is the color of UKIP.

In Britain, political parties have colors. The Conservatives are blue, of course — as Nature intended. Labour is red — again, as Nature intended. And the Greens …

At this very moment, I believe, UKIP’s own conference is taking place back home. The party conference. But Farage is here. He must have found it advantageous somehow to hop the pond and address CPAC.

He is his usual self: ebullient, fluent, and distinctive. Also funny.

“My wife is German,” he says. He goes on to make a point about the European Union: “I know what it’s like to live in a German-dominated household.” He tells us that his wife wishes he would drop that line from his speeches. But who could resist?

I think of Bess Truman. Her husband, the president, liked to refer to her as “the Boss.” She hated that. She once complained to the press, “If I’m the boss, how come I can’t get him to stop calling me ‘the Boss’?”

To Farage’s speech, there is a tiny bit of dissent in the crowd. He has some Buchananite passages. He says, for example, that Anglo-American wars have “stoked the fires of Islamism.” A woman in the audience says, “Not true.” She repeats those words, as Farage continues (in the same vein). But most everyone else listens politely, if not entirely approvingly.

If I have heard Farage correctly, he has said that there is more murder on the streets of Britain because of those wars, and other military action. I’m not sure I agree with this. I think that the Islamists want a fight, plain and simple, and that they want conquest, if they can get it. As for us, we can choose to fight back or not.

But we can have this argument another time.

Near the end of his speech, Farage demands that we stand up for “liberal democracy.” I appreciate that he uses this phrase. And he stresses the word “liberal.”

We don’t hear the phrase much on our shores, especially from conservative politicians: because the word “liberal” here means “left-wing,” essentially. I’m glad that Nigel Farage brandishes “liberal democracy.”

By the way, the young man who introduced him made much of the fact that Farage drinks and smokes. Those are important credentials, to many on the right. I find this a little strange. At the same time, I understand and even approve, because what people are saying is, “He’s not politically correct, and he pokes metropolitan elites in the eye.”

(That’s a phrase from Britain: “metropolitan elites.” We don’t use it here, to my knowledge.)

It’s true that our elites turned against smoking, years ago. (Smoking cigarettes, I mean. They’re cool with pot.) But drinking is as popular as ever — with everyone — from what I can see (and hear and smell).

‐This is somewhat ironic — or is the word “poetic”? Newt Gingrich began his career as an antagonist to Tip O’Neill. Now he looks rather like Tip, with a Falstaffian physique and a shock of white hair. (Not the bulbous nose, however. And not the left-wing political views.)

At CPAC’s podium, Newt is Newt: interesting, articulate, insightful, unusual, bold. When he is on, no one is better. No one.

But he is also — you know: grandiose, self-promotional, self-congratulatory, etc. Newt is Newt, as I said before. And I have enjoyed him and valued him for years.

One of the things he talks about, here at CPAC, is the relationship between our universities, and some think tanks, and dictatorships. The dictatorships give money — many millions — and the universities and think tanks give them a pass. Or a boost.

I have written about this problem for years, and it is a nasty one.

Let me pause for a language note: When pronouncing “Qatar,” Newt says “Gutter” (not “Kuh-tahr”). Longtime readers may remember a piece I wrote about place-names and pronunciation: “‘Gutter’ Politics.” I’m afraid I can’t find it, intact, on the Net.

Newt takes a question about Cuba — about what Obama has done. He says, “We should start trading with Cuba a week after the party saying goodbye to the Castro brothers.” He then makes a stirring, and highly informed, statement about U.S.-Cuba relations, in light of Obama’s action. That action is “one more betrayal of human rights by this administration,” he says.

True, true.

Thank you, Newt, and thanks to all readers, too. Will return tomorrow.

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