Last Wednesday armed with suitcase, electronics and fedora I headed to the nation’s capital with my twenty-two year old daughter for the annual trip to CPAC 2013, the Conservative Political Action Committee’s annual conference.
There was much controversy leading up to this year’s event based on who was coming to the event, (Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney), who wasn’t invited (Chris Christie and my friend Pamela Geller) the schedule, accommodation for bloggers, internet—you name it– people were upset.
Despite the pre-CPAC controversy this year’s conference was less divisive than years past. CPAC 2013 like a changing of the guard as the reigns of the conservative movement was handed over to a younger group of leaders who seemed to have a better handle on explaining their goals to the American voter.
As in previous years CPAC coverage by the mainstream media gave many attendees the impression stories were file before the conference or perhaps the press went to the wrong building and covered a completely different conference at time there was little relationship between what happened and what was reported.
After double-checking my press credentials and hotel bill to verify that unlike much of the mainstream media I spent three days at the correct conference, so allow me to share some of the key stories of the real CPAC 2013.
1. Kumbaya/Don’t Worry Be Happy:Almost every presentation in the main
ballroom included some form of one or both of the following:
a. The person who disagrees with you only 80% of the time isn’t 20% your enemy (be nice to the Republicans). It is only when Republicans and conservatives join together that elections are won.
b. Don’t be depressed because the last election was lost, pick yourself up and work toward 2014.
Interestingly many of those same speeches bashed the GOP establishment and political consultants.
2. Ron Paul Has Left the Building: According to the media, there was a divide between traditional conservatives and libertarians—they were wrong. In prior years, former Congressman Ron Paul shipped in hundreds of college students who would shout-out speakers who dared to disagree with positions held by Congressman Paul. Their purpose was to vote for Paul in the CPAC presidential straw poll. Like the Congressman many of these students (derisively called Paulistinians by the rest of the attendees) had racist and anti-Semitic positions. Now retired, Paul was not invited nor was there busloads of Ronulinsin attendance. While there were differences in opinion discussed, because of the absence of Ron Paul and his gang, those disagreements lacked the contentiousness of prior conferences.
3. The Young Guns: Many of the “old guard” spoke (Newt Gingrich, Eric Cantor, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and others) had speaking roles at the conference; there was an atmosphere of change. Conservative/Republican Leadership seemed to have been turned over to a new group of leaders, people like Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Scott Walker. Those names along with that of Sarah Palin drew the bigger crowds and the most positive reactions.
4. Don’t Chris Christie Me Bro! There was a big controversy in the media when it was announced that Chris Christie was not invited to the Conservative Conference. In the end this hurt the New Jersey Governor among conservatives more than it helped. Fairly or unfairly, Christie was seen as being forced upon conservatives by establishment Republicans and the Media.
5. The Blogger Breakthrough: 2013 will be seen as the year the “blogisphere” was recognized as a valuable part of the conservative movement. This year there wasn’t one press area for the MSM and another for the new media, there was simply one media area for all (something more than one member of the establishment media grumbled about). Many of the panels and most of the conference emcees came from the blogging world.
Senator Rand Paul created a video to announce the Republican National Senate Committee sponsorship of Blog Bash, Ted Cruz attended the event, Republican National Congressional Committee Chairman Rep. Greg Walden held a briefing just for bloggers and even Rick Santorum who only had time for the MSM last year (when he was running for president) also had a bloggers only briefing, as did possible 2016 Candidate Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
Much of the change could be attributed to the fine work of National Bloggers Club President Ali Akbar.
6. Andrew Breitbart was there:Yes Andrew passed away very shortly after CPAC last year, but his presence was felt. Awards were named after him, members of the progressive group Media Matters for America (which once called me and anti-Semite) was there to trash him, and a movie about him called Hating Breitbart was screened and won a movie of the year award.
Andrew was usually one of the early morning speakers on the final day of the conference and his absence was especially noticeable that morning.
7. Nobody Cares about the Straw Poll Except for the MSM: A word about the CPAC Straw Poll—nobody really cares about it except for the mainstream media. This year the ACU/Washington Times straw poll announced just before Ted Cruz gave his keynote speech was done via computer to protect against the Ron Paul ballot stuffing of previous years. However, less than 50% of the attendees voted (mostly the much younger demographics). The straw poll is a fun little thing that is not representative of CPAC attendees and/or the future candidate field. The MSM makes it a major story—it isn’t.
8. How Many Black People are in there? The only “racist” incident at CPAC. Sometimes it’s hard to cover a story when you become the story. Leaving the press area to explore, I found a tall African-American fellow/With a Camera Crew berating a young woman. At first I believed she was as CPAC Staffer, after meeting her two days later I now know she is a twenty year old law student (and judging by her intelligence probably a very good one).
HOW MANY BLACK PEOPLE ARE HERE, he was shouting at her. The poor young lady was backed into an alcove as he continued. You say you are trying to do outreach to minority community–HOW MANY BLACK PEOPLE ARE HERE! Reacting more with anti-bully instincts than reporting ones, I screamed back at the man
“Have you gone inside? There are plenty of black people here.
How Many?, he replied,
The discussion was getting louder.
“I didn’t count them. They are all Americans. That’s all that matters! How many Jews inside?” was my reply, “How many Hispanics and Irishmen are here. Why didn’t you count them?”
I may have put him back on his heels because he responded, “I am a black Jew” (in an email exchange he later told me he was not Jewish after all).
That’s when security came and tried to shepherd the bully and his film crew out. This story ended up part of the anti-CPAC meme spread by the big liberal blogs such as the Daily Kos, citing it as an example of conservative racism (I enjoyed the increased traffic on my site, but those liberals are cheap—they don’t click on ads or hit the tip jar).
The man was not at CPAC to learn about what people were doing there, he came with pre-conceived ideas. He just looked for someone to bully. As with most bullies he picked on someone weaker than he was– a young African-American Conservative Law student (who has promised to write up the story from her perspective).
CPAC (and the conservative movement) has never been about ethnicity or race. Unlike our progressive friends, we tend not to categorize people or issues as belonging to a specific group; rather we see AMERICAN problems that need a solution. When one submits their application for media credentials no picture is required. For the conference guests all that’s needed is filling out a form and paying the money. There are no questions about Race, Religion, or favorite flavor of Ice Cream. It is a conference for ALL Americans who believe in a conservative political ideology. There were speakers of all races, creeds and religions. There was even a Shabbos Dinner, services Saturday morning, and third meal on Saturday afternoon.
These were the key stories the MSA missed or got wrong during CPAC and for that many of the speakers poked fun of them from the conference stage. The more I read their skewed reports, the more I felt they deserved every jab.