Scenes from CPAC: Anti-NSA, pro-pot cowboys and birther cabbies

We’ve been fans of alicublog writer Roy Edroso for years. Is there anyone who understands the angst of conservatives better than Roy? He’s our man on the ground at CPAC — ED

I asked Howard "Cowboy" Wooldridge, co founder of LEAP, or Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, about the "Rocky Mountain High" conference the day before on drug laws, in which a roomful of professed conservatives seemed eager to free the weed.

"That's indicative of the entire mentality here at CPAC," said Wooldridge, a former Michigan law enforcement officer who now lives in Fort Worth and lobbies for less restrictive drug laws. "We believe in less government intrusion in our lives, and more personal freedom. And allowing an adult citizen to choose between alcohol, a very terrifically bad drug -- ask any cop -- and marijuana, a dangerous drug but much less dangerous than alcohol. That's what CPAC is all about."

He may be onto something. Just after I spoke to Wooldridge, there was another CPAC panel on prison reform, where Rick Perry was saying "mandatory minimums, that's a really bad idea," and former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik said that when he was sent to prison, his fellow inmates "would tell me they got 10, 15 years, 30 years for a first-time non-violent drug offense," and he was now very much against minimums, which are primarily given to drug crimes. It wasn't the most fired-up panel at CPAC, but it existed.

And just before that, at a panel on the NSA, CPAC attendees not only applauded Edward Snowden and the two panelists who sympathized with him (lawyer Bruce Fein and TurningPoint USA Executive Director Charlie Kirk), but openly booed former Republican Governor of Virginia Jim Gilmore for opposing him. One guy even yelled "you lie" at the Governor, which is a big conservative insult. ("Do we have to get Dick Cheney up here to talk about the axis of evil?" asked the moderator, and no one seemed to get the joke.)

Wooldridge is against the NSA too. "I'm willing to be blown up at a marathon if that's the price I have to pay to keep the government from keeping every text message I send."

Did Wooldridge think his fellow attendees believe the same things? "Yes," he said, "And I can contrast it. In '06 and '07 when I was here, it was the exact opposite: people did not like me, they called me bad names, they were totally against the idea of changing any of the drug laws."

So what changed? "Ron Paul," Wooldridge said. "As a force, Paul has energized young people to relearn and understand the Constitution and what liberty and freedom are all about."

Woolridge supports Perry on drug laws -- even though Perry is actually opposed to decriminalizing marijuana. "He talks about the Tenth Amendment all the time," Woolridge explained -- the Tenth being the focus of a movement that wants to strip the federal government of most of the powers it now exercises -- and that will inevitably lead to better drug laws. "It's all about returning to the states the power they had before 1937 with regard to marijuana."

So, if we undo the New Deal, then we can have legal weed? "I think the next crop of Republican presidential candidates will trend more libertarian and more Tenth Amendment," said Wooldridge.


Meet Randy: Reporter, Cabby, Birther

The last seat on the CPAC shuttle to the Gaylord this morning put me next to a Tarantino-looking guy in a trench coat yelling at a video screen. "This is a terrible ad!" he cried to people who were either not listening or never had been. I asked what the fuss was about. The ad turned out to be for retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, or rather for some group financing publicity for a Ben Carson presidential run. "He's not even in it," said the trench-coated guy disgustedly. (There were a couple of photos of Carson stuck in the thing, but no personal appearance.)


It turned out Randy Foreman was going to CPAC as Washington correspondent for, a web-based outlet which Foreman says has "hundreds of correspondents" besides himself supplying fresh content every day. Unfortunately this doesn't pay very well, so Foreman makes ends meet by driving a cab.

"There's not much I haven't seen in this town!" said Foreman effusively. This naturally intrigued me, but when I asked for elucidation he said, "I mean I've learned about more neighborhoods than I even knew existed here." Though disappointing, this opened an opportunity for us to discuss the lay of the land, and Foreman does indeed know Bladensburg from Benning Road, as a cabby should.

Foreman says he's a conservative-libertarian, and is refreshingly frank about belonging to a less popular subset of the movement. "I'm a birther," he said "I'm a big birther. I don't believe in Obama's birth certificate."

So you don't think he's a citizen? "I believe he's a citizen through his marriage to Michelle," said Foreman. "But that's not the same as being a natural citizen. I assume you had two parents who were citizens, right? So if you were born in Tanzania, you wouldn't be a -- you wouldn't be from Tanzania, you would be a natural citizen of the United States." Foreman didn't lean on hard analysis to make his case, finally shrugging, "the thing is, you have to be who you say you are."

And who could argue with that?