By Irene F. Starkehaus -
A number of dynamic would-be presidential nominees spoke Thursday at the CPAC convention in Maryland. Given the audience, all potential candidates stayed right of center in their messaging as they courted the voters attending the nation's largest annual conservative convention.
The day's list of prominent speakers began with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The style of Christie's discussion was pretty unusual to say the least. He shared the stage with talk show host Laura Ingraham. They then went through what appeared to be an overly rehearsed interview session with the potential presidential candidate answering questions posed by Ingraham. Rather than engaging the audience, the contrived setup came off as something akin to an infomercial. The leitmotif seemed less likely to improve Christie's gravitas with conservative voters and more likely to hurt Laura Ingraham's, I'm sorry to say.
Christie did unabashedly pronounce himself a prolife candidate and offered as an example his success in eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood from the NJ budget. He stated that he is experiencing what he termed "implementation regrets" over the Common Core.
Christie rounded out his infomercial by taking a swipe at Jeb Bush over illegal immigration. The Governor referenced an unfortunate quote by Bush that proclaimed that illegals are exceptionally fertile and can be used to repopulate cities like Detroit that have been decimated by progressive policies. Christie rightly pointed out that cities like Detroit should be offered better opportunities that will decrease dependence on government rather than new breeding stock.
Where at times Chris Christie left the CPAC audience bewildered, Carly Fiorina was a more promising presidential hopeful within the day's lineup. Former CEO of Hewlett Packard, Fiorina detailed her rise from her position as the secretary of a small real estate firm to a corporate executive stating, "I know from experience that America is the only country in the world where a woman can go from secretary to CEO."
Fiorina made the case that the road to economic recovery is named Main Street, USA and that the nation must increase opportunities for small business by eliminating loop holes that only encourage crony capitalism and that favor the powerful by weighing down small business. She affirmed her support for Israel and called out Hillary Clinton over the inaction of the State Department during the Benghazi embassy attack adding "What difference does it make? All the difference in the world. Flying, by the way, is an activity, not an accomplishment."
Additionally, Fiorina established herself as a prolife candidate stating with no equivocation that every life has potential and everyone has the right to fulfill his or her potential.
Senator Ted Cruz also came out swinging against Hillary Clinton chiding that Ms. Clinton might too have been able to attend CPAC if she could have found a foreign nation to foot the bill. Cruz termed himself a Reagan Republican and called on Republicans to reassemble the Reagan Coalition that won the presidency in 1980. He clarified that America can stand for strong economic growth but can also stand for life, and that America can support constitutional rights while fighting against ISIS.
He challenged the audience to know the true conservative candidates and to recognize the "squishy moderates that stand for nothing" when they tell you they oppose Obamacare, debt, executive amnesty, the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, life and marriage. His repeated theme throughout this discussion was that actions speak louder than words. He asked voters to hold candidates accountable adding, "The Republican Party should not be a fraternal order."
In a more organic Q&A session with Sean Hannity than what was seen between Christie and Laura Ingram, Cruz called on Congress to repeal "every blasted word of Obamacare." He also affirmed his desire to abolish the IRS, put more agents at our border and stop the proliferation of alphabet soup agencies in Washington.
Governor Scott Walker was probably the most applauded speaker of the day with no less than seven standing ovations. He called on this generation of Americans to ready themselves for the challenge ahead. "Let this be a time we can look back on and tell future generations what we did to make America great again."
Walker used his time to critique Barack Obama and members of his cabinet (including one potential presidential nominee.) "The president thinks we can grow the economy by growing Washington. People create jobs. The president measures success by how many people are dependent on government, but there's a reason we celebrate the Fourth of July and not the 15th of April."
He then rebuked Hillary Clinton for her failed diplomacy with world leaders. "A reset button to the Russians?" and "We need a leader who will take the fight to ISIS and stand with Israel."
Scott Walker used his remaining time to detail his successes in Wisconsin explaining how his administration worked to defund Planned Parenthood, end tenure, pass Concealed Carry and pass legislation that requires Wisconsin voters to present a photo ID at the polls. At one point during his speech, a protester tried to shout Walker down over his successes with passing Right to Work legislation in Wisconsin, but Walker successfully defended his position and the protester was removed.
Governor Bobby Jindal was another potential Republican candidate that had people jumping to their feet in applause. Jindal called on voters to hold representatives accountable and called on candidates to govern the way they campaign.
He advocated for a complete repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act. "We must repeal Obamacare. All of it."
He also promoted a complete repeal of Common Core standards, so that we might teach the next generation to be critical, independent thinkers. He warned that we must stop Common Core before it might be modified for subjects like US History where students will then never be allowed to learn of American Exceptionalism.
Jindal was the most direct in his criticism of President Obama over his mishandling of the War on Terror. "We must win the war against radical Islam. President Obama has shown himself incapable of acting as Commander in Chief. He won't even name the opponent we face. Instead he warns us of Medieval Crusades."
The last speaker of the night was Sarah Palin. Even though Palin is considered a presidential candidate by CPAC attendees, she was held to a very narrow discussion but offered a dynamic and heartfelt plea asking for increased support of American veterans.
Palin stated, "Bureaucracy is killing our vets." She called for a voucher system that would allow vets to go outside the VA for medical treatment rather than have them in a holding pattern within the VA system.
Palin then proposed that trained veterans be allowed to test out of certification requirements in their chosen trades once they returned to civilian life. This rather than being required to repeat training in the jobs which the military had already trained them.
She closed her discussion by explaining that the best thing that voters can do for veterans is elect an honorable Commander in Chief who will seek a victory against America's enemies. She bluntly stated that the rise of ISIS is a direct result of Barack Obama's failed policies and that he should stop blaming Christians for Islamic terror.
Friday's lineup at CPAC continues to showcase potential presidential candidates. Marco Rubio, Rick Perry, Rand Paul, Donald Trump and Jeb Bush will be on hand to make their cases before the conservative audiences. Check out #CPAC2015, @illinoisreview and @Starkehaus on Twitter for up-to-date info.