We’ve been fans of alicublog writer Roy Edroso for years. Is there anyone who understands the angst of conservatives better than Roy, who rounds up right-leaning thought each week at the Village Voice? Who better, then, to hobnob with Ted Cruz and the gang. We’ll be adding Roy’s dispatches here as they come in. Keep up with events at CPAC live with our video feed below. — ED
Greetings from the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center (“on the Potomac,” the sign out front hastens to add), where the media pool’s wifi is out — which I assume is sabotage against the hated Main Stream Media, but I soldier on. As we await the first big speeches, let me say the atmosphere is — well, peppy is the best word, as there are lots of young people in attendance with smooth unformed faces poking up out of nice suits — as well as guys wearing American flag swim shorts, who say they’re with the “leadership council.” Party in their suite tonight! (I asked if they were going to keep up the star-spangled underwear thing all three days. “See how it goes,” said the Jimmy Kimmel one.
Oops, Ted Cruz is on! Later.
TED CRUZ: WIN YOUNGS WITH THE TWO RONS — REAGAN AND PAUL
Keynote speaker and Tea Party heartthrob Senator Ted Cruz does jokes, which I hadn’t heard about. Talking about Obama’s comment on that “smidgen of corruption,” he did a passable barroom Indigo Montoya impersonation (“You keep using that word…”). He does Jay Leno too — two jokes, both about “if you like your ______, you can keep it,” just like the real Jay Leno.
But seriously, folks: Cruz says Washington and Wall Street are corrupt, so’s crony capitalism, and what the country needs is a dose of “the two Rons,” Reagan and Paul. His speech appeared to be pitched at young conservatives who would apparently conflate and perhaps mistake the two.
Cruz denounced weak-tea Republicans’ “Washington way,” otherwise known as “don’t stand against nothin’! I wanna tell you, that is a False. Dichotomy.” (The crowd applauded False Dichotomy.) Whenever the party gets “walloped,” he said, it was because they took this tack, whereas in 2010 they rode “an historic tidal wave” because they stood for something. “When you don’t stand for principle,” he said, “Democrats celebrate.”
Youth was a big theme. “Are there any young people here tonight?” he out-shouted, drawing a lot of pro-forma hoots, at which soft response Cruz affected to be disappointed, because “if you’re at CPAC you are by definition young people, because you are the future of this country.” That’s the kind of talk that livens up a crowd, let me tell you.
Also, two people who “energized” young people, Cruz told us, were Ronald Reagan and Ron Paul — who, he reminded the crowd, were not “James Dean types” but “septuagenarians” who had a message etc. Cruz kept saying “young people,” that the party wins youngs when “we tell the truth,” that they’re laboring under debts that “their deadbeat parents and grandparents stuffed them with” and look to Republicans for alternatives.
Cruz laid those out: “Defend the Constitution. Defend the First Amendment” against FCC snoops, and “defend the Second” against you know what/who, and the Fifth, etc.
Also, “We need to abolish the IRS.” (There’ll still be taxes, but they’ll be simplified; you can send your form in on a postcard.) People will have the money to pay taxes too — not like now, ha ha — because they’ll be making 40-plus bucks drilling oil like they do in North Dakota, because we’re going to get that going nationwide too.
Also: School choice; repeal Dodd-Frank; audit the Federal Reserve (“debasing our currency, driving up the cost of food and gas… and fueling the abuse of power by petrotyrants like Putin”), a balanced budget, “repeal every single word of Obamacare” (big hand) and “stop the lawlessness,” referring to the President; “when your president is picking and choosing which laws to follow and which laws to ignore, you no longer have a president.”
And finally, “we have to end the corruption,” including “corporate welfare and crony capitalism,” with a “lifetime ban” on Congresscritters serving as lobbyists and a Constitutional Amendment (!) imposing term limits.
He ended by asking the crowd to text the word “growth” to the number 33733, to show something to somebody, or to harvest cell phone numbers. The crowd was too busy clapping to text.
PAUL RYAN AT CPAC: BROWN-PAPER-BAG CONSERVATISM
The 2012 Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan was a bit more conciliatory than Ted Cruz had been, suggesting that the less-ferocious factions of the Republican Party had a role, albeit a supporting one, in the coming Republican revolution.
Ryan laughed off reports of “discord” in the Party. For one thing, Ryan said, “I’m Irish,” ha ha. Also, “I don’t see this great divide in our party. I see a great debate.” Disagreements among Republicans, though “passionate,” are actually “creative tension,” he said. “We should give each other the benefit of the doubt.”
As for the voters, Republicans have to supply a vision and “explain how we’re gonna get there,” Ryan said. And it’s happening: “A conservative agenda is now taking shape,” Ryan said, Marco Rubio, for example, wants to “repair the safety net,” which somehow leads to “the dignity of work.” He also pitched home leave, but in a form in which government “gets out of the way.”
To further explain the power of conciliatory conservatism, Ryan recalled Jack Kemp, and how Bob Dole, the guy on whose ticket Kemp served in 1996, used to joke about how a “busload of supply-siders went over a cliff,” and the punchline was it was tragic because “there were some empty seats.” This did not seem to warm the crowd to Bob Dole but, Ryan explained, Dole himself eventually warmed to supply-siders, and “that’s how we win the battle of ideas” — by bringing around Bob Dole, who lost in a landslide.
Anyway, said Ryan, the other side isn’t winning: “The Left isn’t just out of ideas,” he said, “they’re out of touch.” For example, they think heath care plan portability is great because “people don’t have to work.” Whereas, Ryan said, Republicans want more people working! The choice is clear.
In sum, Democrats offer voters “a full stomach and an empty soul,” said Ryan. He explained with an anecdote about a schoolkid who “didn’t want a free lunch” from the government, “he wanted his own lunch” in a brown paper bag like the less-poor kids, “because he knew a kid with a brown paper bag had someone who cared for him. This is what people on the Left don’t understand…. people don’t just want a life of comfort … they want a life of self-determination.”
Uniting the Right and the Even More Right in this Brown-Paper-Bag Republicanism, said Ryan, “you come together and you win… the center of gravity is shifting… we’re going to show the country that there is a better way…”
IN THE INTERVAL
It’s tea-time in the program — two big names down, and some yakety-yak to keep the seats warm. Senator Tom Coburn and George Will did a chat celebrating the fact that Americans are more mistrustful of their government than ever. (Will, now a Fox News commentator, said the IRS has been “turned into an appendage of the ruling party.)
His fellow senator Mitch McConnell took a few minutes to show Coburn some love. “Liberals absolutely hate it, just hate it, when Tom Coburn steps onto the Senate floor,” he said, and the remaining crowd doesn’t need any better reason to applaud, albeit weakly — neither Coburn nor McConnell is what you call tea-party material.
“He’s never put himself above the cause. If you’re up early enough to see him come to work in the morning,” etc. Also he goes through the metal detector, though he doesn’t have to, because that’s what his
Not that McConnell didn’t try. Obama’s “treating the constitution worse than a placemat at Denny’s,” he said. “It’s about power with these people. They’ll do anything to keep it.” Like a crime syndicate, but with the power of the IRS, which McConnell said the Administration was using “to silence its critics.” Also, the Democrats were “trying to fix Benghazi for Hillary”
McConnell did a “if you like it, you can keep it” joke, but the road is already worn out on that. Thanks, Ted Cruz! (Also McConnell tends to swallow the ends of his lines.)
Former Ambassador/current gadfly John Bolton was, thematically, just what you would expect — “the contrast with Ronald Reagan could not be more clear… can you just imagine Ronald Reagan dealing with Vladimir Putin?” etc. But I was surprised, never having heard Bolton speak, to learn he has a rather prosaic, even folksy voice and manner. For his previous public statements and mustache, I thought he’d sound like Yosemite Sam.
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