The car was loaded first thing Wednesday morning —well almost loaded, the suitcase was filled with clothes, the computer bag filled with everything needed to transfer my base of operations was already in the trunk, and as soon as I donned the traditional fedora, I was fully packed and ready to go. It was time for the annual trip to Washington DC, for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

I was going not as a participant but as an observer joining approximately eighty other bloggers invited to cover the event. CPAC is more than a gathering of conservative-minded people; it is part educational, part salesmanship, and part celebration.

For the bloggers involved, CPAC is more than just an opportunity to meet key political figures, and report on politics as it happens, but it’s also something like a Star Trek Convention for political citizen journalists. Instead of carrying phasers and putting on pointy ears, we carried laptops and wore fedoras.

From the bloggers vantage point we could see everything in the main auditorium. There were two large screen TVs in our work room and we were just a few steps away from a balcony that allowed us the see the main events very live.

Mainstream Media had the same setup on the other side of the auditorium but their TVs and terrace must have had some sort of filter because from what I read/saw about CPAC from the mainstream press they got so much wrong. These are the biggest things the mainstream media didn’t tell you about CPAC

1) Sarah Palin Did Not “Pull Out” Of Giving The Final Speech At CPAC. The prize speaking spot at CPAC is the final speech. This is the keynote that is supposed to psych conservatives up and get them excited to work for the cause during the next twelve months. Two years ago the final speaker was Rush Limbaugh, last year it was Glenn Beck.

This year CPAC once again tried to arrange for a conservative mega-star to give the final address. The press reported that Sarah Palin had agreed to give the speech but pulled out when it was announced that GOProud a group of gay conservatives were participating in the event. That was a total fabrication.

First and most important was the fact that Sarah Palin never accepted the invite to appear at CPAC. Secondly, Ms. Palin supported the group’s participation in the conference. Palin told CBN:

“Well, I’ve never attended a CPAC conference ever so I was a little taken aback this go around when I couldn’t make it to this one either and then there was a speculation well I either agree or disagree with some of the groups or issues that CPAC is discussing. It really is a matter of time for me. But when it comes to and David, perhaps what it is that you’re suggesting in the question is should the GOP, should conservatives not reach out to others, not participate in events or forums that perhaps arising within those forums are issues that maybe we don’t personally agree with? And I say no. It’s like you being on a panel shoot, with a bunch of the liberal folks whom you have been on and you provide good information and balance, and you allow for healthy debate, which is needed in order for people to gather information and make up their own minds about issues. I look at participation in an event like CPAC or any other event along kind of in that same vein as the more information that people have the better.”

2) NY Times Columnist Maureen Dowd May Be Suffering From Some Sort Of Dementia. The blogger’s “lounge” where we worked was very crowded, and people without the proper credentials were not allowed in the room.

On the second day of the event Liberal NY Times Columnist Maureen Dowd tried to get into the blogger’s lounge, lacking credentials she was not allowed to enter. Ms. Dowd was not happy and indignantly asked the person who blocked her entry, “Do you have any idea who I am?”

What a sad picture, here was a woman who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1999 and only 12 years later she was wandering the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel with no idea who she was. How the mighty have fallen.

3) Ron Paul Supporters Hate Was Under-Reported, Their Presence Was Over Reported. Every year at CPAC Ron Paul’s political action committee buses supporters to the convention (more on that later). While this group does not represent more than 15-20% of the attendees, they are very passionate, very unruly and very bigoted.

The non-Paul part of the convention does not appreciate the presence of the Paul supporters whose major contribution to the proceedings (besides the hate), is to give the mainstream media ammo to use against the “normal part of the conservative movement. To these attendees the Paul supporters are known as by nicknames such as Paulocks, and Ron-ulins.

A last minute addition to the CPAC program was Donald Trump who is toying around with the idea of running for president. For some, the highlight of his talk when he told the crowd the truth about Ron Paul, that he has no chance of being elected president. What Trump forgot to mention was that he too has no chance of being elected president.

The Trump talk woke up the Ron-ulins, not only did they boo Trump, but they started attacking later speakers former VP, Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The press reported that about half the audience attacked Rumsfeld and Cheney when in actuality it was a few dozen nut jobs.

The mainstream press correctly reported some Paulocks were calling Cheney and Rumsfeld war criminals, but left out that they were also screaming “shekels” a reference to the bogus anti-Semitic Ron Paul claim that Israel control’s our foreign policy and got the US into Iraq war.

The mainstream press protects Ron Paul, his crazy positions create a wealth of story ideas, and his continued participation provides the opportunity to label the entire conservative, Republican and/or libertarian movements as right-wing extremist nut jobs.

4) Ron Paul Purchased the Straw-Poll Victory. Driving home from Washington DC, I almost had to pull over because I was laughing so very hard. All over the radio there were high priced pundits debating the meaning of Ron Paul’s victory in the straw poll.

Sadly no one in the mainstream media gave the right answer. The meaning of Ron Paul’s victory was simple; his PAC The Campaign For Liberty was willing to pay for the victory.

It is part of the Texas Congressman’s strategy. He doesn’t have enough supporters to win real primaries or caucuses; usually they get about 2% of the vote, Paul tries to win the unofficial votes to give the appearance of being a front-runner. It’s kind of like a kids parents paying other children to be the kid’s friend.

As they do every CPAC, this year Paul’s Campaign for Liberty reserved blocks of tickets for CPAC and urged supporters to come out and support their guru. Many of these unruly supporters were college students who volunteered (and some say paid) to make sure that Paul winds up with the straw poll win. They even bused in 700 kids for the effort. During the conference, the young Paulocks were all over the place, on the conference floor and even in the bloggers lounge, handing out “Campaign for Liberty” lapel stickers, pitching them as “giving away free liberty,” all with the purpose of winning a meaningless straw poll.

Only 3,742 of the 11,000 conference attendees voted in the Straw Poll. Ron Paul got 30% or approximately 1,123 votes which represents about 10% of the attendees. Considering the volume of students and other supporters they shipped in, Paul “paid for people to be his friends” and received exactly what he paid for.

5) Allen West Became a Superstar at CPAC. While it’s true West was not the convention’s first choice to be the final speaker, along with Palin who couldn’t do it, there was Sean Hannity who refused because his daughter had a big tennis tournament, as well as others, Lt. Colonel Allen West was the ideal choice to put an exclamation point to the convention.

Interestingly, West delivered a traditional “back to basics” conservative speech He spoke on the three pillars of conservatism: effective and efficient constitutional government, peace through strength, and staying true to our American values. It was the way it was delivered, the strong dignity of the man, and his absolute believability that made the speech special. He spoke of moral courage, steadfast defense against enemies.

West fired back at the liberal charges that conservatives were racist by saying, “Perhaps they should see who is standing up as your keynote speaker.” He talked about the unfair attacks that continue today, how during the election he was accused of being the only black member of an all-white motorcycle gang, how a certain MSNBC broadcaster kept naming him the worst person of the world. And, only a month after being elected a political analysis was written that rated him “one of the most vulnerable representatives” for 2012. West answer was greeted with cheers “I’ve got to tell you; standing in front of you I don’t feel so vulnerable, do I.”

When he spoke about foreign policy, West laid out the differences between his positions and that of the present administration. “Peace begins with courageous leaders who are willing to identify and defy our enemies and their objectives,” he said, “Because political correctness has no place in our national security agenda.”

West spoke of the “historic moment” in Egypt with the resignation of longtime President Hosni Mubarak, but he cautioned that we could not repeat the same mistakes of the Iranian revolution, both the one 32 years ago, and the one seventeen months ago when Ahmadinejad stole the last election. Perhaps his biggest ovation was received when he pledged that he would never allow America to abandon Israel.

But the most important point for West was the commitment to values.

“We do not separate faith from the individual. We must never forget that the American motto is in God we trust. We welcome the beliefs of others in America, but when tolerance becomes a one-way street it leads to cultural suicide,” he said.

“We stand on the precedence of greatness for this nation, but if we forget what brought us to where we are, if we forget these pillars there will be no America to pass on to our generations.”

Alan West’s speech during the last night of CPAC made him a political superstar. While the media’s story for the end of CPAC was a skewed version of Ron Paul’s straw poll victory, the real story of the last day of the convention was not the meaningless victory of a man who would never be president, but the rise of a man who one day may very well be the Republican standard-bearer in the presidential race.