Saturday, February 28, 2009

CPAC 2009 Conference Reveals A Conservative Movement Out Of Ideas

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC 2009), taking place in Washington, D.C., from February 26-28, reveals a movement that's out of ideas, direction and leadership. 

Consider some of the specific issues on the agenda: "New Challenges in the Culture War," "Sarah Palin Unplugged on the Media Video Interview," "Al Franken and ACORN: How Liberals Are Destroying the American Election System," "Will Congress Take Your Guns?," "Health Care: The Train Wreck Ahead," "Will Obama's Tax Policy Kill Entrepreneurship?" (Gee, I wonder what their answer is to that one.)

Whew! Remember the "angry left" that Bush referred to in his speech at the Republican National Convention? These titles don't exactly speak of a right wing brimming with bipartisan goodwill. Two points stand out: first, the culture war, Sarah Palin, ACORN and gun confiscation may be issues that bring out resentment and excitement among the right, but they are not among the current major concerns of the American people. Those concerns were outlined by President Obama in his speech to a joint session of Congress this past Tuesday: the economy, employment, energy, health care and education.

This is not to say that the conference does not address these issues at all. But when addressed, they're framed from a reactive, negative perspective. Titles are important indications of one's approach to an issue–and in this conference, the titles form a clear pattern. Instead of a conservative vision of health care and the economy, we get warnings of train wrecks and the death of entrepreneurship. Presentations with such straightforward, positive themes as "A Conservative Foreign Policy: What is America's Best Interest?" are the exception.

Then there are the presentations themselves. Speaking of foreign policy, listen to one of former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton's laugh lines:



"Pick [an American city] at random," indeed. Bill O'Reilly was the last member of the right to speak about terrorists blowing up a city, San Francisco, offensive to conservative sensibilities. Now it's Obama's home town. Bolton's contention that Obama said Iran is a "tiny threat" is inaccurate; what Obama did say was that Cuba and Iran "...are tiny compared to the Soviet Union," our former adversary.

Now consider Cliff Kincaid, head of Accuracy in Media. While introducing Congressman Mike Pence, Kincaid brought up two issues of immediate concern to the American public, namely that Obama is a communist and that he wasn't born in the United States:



This nonsense about Obama's birthplace has been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked, (h/t Think Progress), unless one believes that Hawaii isn't part of the country. As for his being a "communist," I haven't received notification yet to report to a collective farm.

Speaking of communists, Joseph Stalin would surely approve of the views of major thinker Joe "The Plumber" Wurzelbacher, on hand to state that, were he a Congressman, he'd "be in jail...for slapping some member" and "Back in the day, really, when people would talk about our military in a poor way, somebody would shoot 'em":



Finally, perhaps the most revealing comments came from former Congressman Tom "The Hammer" Delay of Texas, who was asked, "What do conservatives need to do to get back in power?" His answer:



According to Delay, it's all about "organizations that can drive a conservative message," "communications organizations...that can match the left-wing media" and "coordination" to "leverage not only our organizations, but leverage our money." In other words, it's all about public relations and campaign strategy. As important as these are, they're no substitute for ideas that address the overwhelming concerns of Americans–ideas that are scarcely on display at CPAC 2009.

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