By Irene F. Starkehaus -
For those who have never been to an event like CPAC before, being there is very much like a Chauncey Gardiner experience. Countless people in attendance, including those in the audience, were there to be seen rather than to learn. What a thrill it was to be in a room with so many political masterminds who are the unique solution to everybody's problems. I don't know much about what CPAC was in the past, but in its current format, the event is more like an episode of the Bachelor than a concerted effort to showcase the rising stars and the cultural trends of conservative action. So many instructors. So few pupils.
So little genuine respect or awe for the wonder that is the great American experiment.
The real lesson of CPAC 2015 is that the conservative movement should end its manufacture of personality cults and get serious about the direction of the Republican Party. For all the people parading across the stage…and – wow – there are an ungodly number of people who feel entitled to the American presidency…only a few offered any substantive reason why they actually deserve the privilege.
Entitlement is the name of the game, I guess. What's sadly lacking in the process is the slightest bit of humility before the challenge of this historical imperative.
Start it off with Rand Paul– this was the top contender for the Republican nomination for president according to the CPAC Straw Poll that was taken over the weekend.
Rand Paul, by the way, was the one person in the speaking lineup to be late for his timeslot. He had a very important vote in the Senate and couldn't get to the convention in time. It was all very last minute, you know. Couldn't be helped. As a result, Senator Paul ended up perverting the speaking schedule for the rest of the day as everyone scrambled to meet his needs and whims.
Of course, he did have time to change into his uber-cool blue jeans and get all his peeps lined up with their prohibited placards… no posters were allowed in the speaking hall, but his devotees couldn't be bothered with such semantics…
When he was finished deigning to offer his platitudinous riff on his love of all things Constitution (apparently, he's a real rule follower) Rand Paul left the stage to the sound of thunderous applause. Having gotten the dramatic camera shot they came for, all his peeps filed out with such a clamor that it was literally impossible to hear what Rick Santorum – who had the bad luck of following up after Hurricane Rand – even said.
Rick Santorum doesn't have a chance of winning, you know. Does it really matter what he has to say when Rand Paul is in the house? What difference does it make?
If one were to compare Rand Paul's discourtesy for audience and speakers to environmental impact, he was something akin to Love Canal. The most important thing that one might learn from Paul's bid for the presidency is that being there is better than TV when it comes to understanding who politicians are and who they think they are. In the Starkehaus Straw Poll, Rand Paul wins as candidate with the greatest sense of entitlement and least amount of respect.
Never mind that we've been living through six years of that. Can I have some more please?
As you may have guessed, the second most entitled person of the weekend was Jeb Bush. Now, I will grant you this. He did come off as nervous and ill-prepared, and this had the effect of provoking a degree of snark for the man who was born to be king. Actually, there were reasons that he seemed so poorly focused. Primarily, the lack of attention seemed to stem from the fact that as Bush took to the stage, there was a spontaneous rally just outside the speaking hall attempting to drown out Jeb Bush's entitlement promenade. I wonder who was at the center of the melee outside, by the way.
The problem with Jeb…as it was with King George I and II… is the lack of conviction about deeply held beliefs. If he were to get on stage and say, "Look, I should be president because I was born for it and I will be president because it's my turn," we as conservatives could at least have a measure of respect for the candor. Instead Jeb is doing what his brother did and what his father did before that. He's misrepresenting himself...and mis-underestimating the conservative audience.
He sells a dynastic and therefore parasitic presidency by saying, "I'm not my brother and I'm not my father. I'm like you. I'm a conservative." And oh, he's got three more presidential heirs waiting in the wings to tell you the same thing when he's achieved his ascent to the throne.
Think about it. George the Elder ran on Reagan's coattails and won. Not to be too blunt, but no one wanted a moderate. They wanted more Reagan. Even with his Alzheimer's, Reagan would have made a better leader than George the Elder and everybody knows it.
Once the Elder had the position and power that he wanted, he went squishy-con on us because, in spite of being able to parrot the conservative platform, he was and always has been a progressive, and progressives are always smarter than you and know what is best for you. They are entitled to tell you what you want to hear with the intention of doing the exact opposite because you are too stupid to know what you need.
So George the Elder's lack of candor begot the Clinton presidency and the Clinton presidency marked the decline of constitutional law.
And then we reflexively acquired a George the Younger candidacy. "I'm not my dad. I'm like you. I'm a conservative." Remember? He too ran on Reagan's coattails and won. Reagan has some freaking-long coattails, by the way, and they're made out of some kind of composite fiber graphene-carbon nanotubes or something because everyone was trying to hop on board for a ride at CPAC.
Once Bush the Younger had the position he wanted, he went squishy-con on us, because in spite of his self-deprecating demeanor, he too was entitled to tell you what you wanted to hear with the intention of doing the exact opposite.
So when we hear Jeb saying, "I'm not my dad and I'm not my brother. Oh, it's true that I want amnesty…but I promise I'll build a fence first and it's true that I want more Common Core…but I promise it won't be a federally mandated curriculum." Um. Thanks. No. I'll pass.
And the third place in our Starkehaus Straw Poll for candidate with the greatest sense of entitlement and least amount of respect…although, he'll always be number one in our hearts…Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. He is, of course, a conservative just like you – that is until he gets in front of George Stephanopoulos or Chris Matthews, at which time he'll disavow you faster than you can say, "a rising tide lifts all boats."
Christie, as mentioned in a previous post, didn't even have the courage to speak without his Laura Ingraham security blanket in tow. He's highly scripted infomercial did assure us that he is pro-life, pro-family and ready to take on Hillary Clinton's heavy machinery, but he didn't throw in a free set of steak knives, so I'm inclined to pass on a Christie presidency at this juncture.
This is not to suggest that there was no one speaking over the weekend that showed the respect and depth of knowledge that is required for the making of a good presidency. There were a couple of candidates that were up to the task, and no. None of those speakers was Governor Scott Walker…I'm really sorry. I wanted so badly for it to be so. He did alright. I don't think he's ready.
In no particular order…
John Bolton – true, he's got that Mr. McFeely vibe going on, but like Mr. McFeely, he delivered. He is the single greatest foreign policy mind that this nation has got. He ought to be considered for the presidency for that reason alone. Barring that improbability, he should be Secretary of State. Hands down.
Ted Cruz – In the shadow of the possible Paul, Bush or Christie presidencies, Cruz reminded the CPAC crowd emphatically that actions speak louder than words. He emphasized that the Republican Party should not be a fraternal order. He stated his opposition to Obamacare, debt and executive amnesty. He offered his support for the First Amendment especially in light of net neutrality and the Second Amendment especially in light of net neutrality. He's for life, traditional marriage, Israel and he strongly opposes Common Core. Ted Cruz genuinely articulated the Reagan principles of smaller government and a strong defense.
Bobby Jindal – "We must get rid of Common Core. We must teach the next generation to be critical, independent thinkers." Jindal offered rock solid domestic policies regarding immigration, Obamacare and education, but he also provided one of the strongest foreign policy discussions of the weekend – outside of what John Bolton and Newt Gingrich articulated.
Additionally, Jindal didn't just parrot Reagan conservatism, he embodied it. Of all the candidates, Jindal most exhibited the sense of authentic wonder and joy for American Exceptionalism that conservatives are on the hunt for. He was the best combination of substance, knowledge and respect for the office that the weekend had to offer.
PS - (Notice that I didn't add Donald Trump to that list of big thinkers. Amusing as his discussion was, Trump's only solution for every issue was, "Put me in office and I'll take care of it. FYI – He is a conservative just like you.)