I am en route back from Washington after spending the last three days at the American Conservative Union’s annual CPAC event. I hadn’t been to CPAC for a number of years, but it was much the same as I remember. Here are a few observations:
1) An event like this makes you feel better about the conservative movement. I have no idea how many attended, but it was a lot, and at least half the crowd was young. The event was held at the Gaylord Convention Center in Maryland, an enormous complex that is part of a development that has sprung up in the last few years.
2) I attended CPAC on behalf of Center of the American Experiment, the think tank/conservative activism center that I run. We had a booth in the Hub, where a wide range of organizations were exhibitors. Facebook had a booth, and Google advertised in the CPAC program–both organizations probably realizing that they need to mend fences with conservatives. Turning Point USA is a growing force in the conservative movement. This was their booth at the Hub:
3) The conference’s highlight was President Trump’s speech on Friday morning. My wife and daughter attended, along with the Center staffer who accompanied me. They all thought Trump was terrific, and were especially struck by how funny and entertaining he was. I didn’t catch Trump’s speech because I was filling in for Laura Ingraham on her radio show. Why? Because she, too, was speaking at CPAC that morning. I did hear significant chunks of the speech because we broadcast it live for a couple of segments, and I could also listen during breaks. The president spent the first half-hour or so talking about his administration’s first-year achievements, which are indeed remarkable.
At one point a single demonstrator stood up and started yelling, just a couple of rows from where my wife and daughter were sitting. He was hustled out by security and immediately was drowned out by “USA!” cheers from the audience. In Laura’s studio in D.C., I could see the cable news networks’ coverage. It was interesting to observe how CNN and MSNBC began to spin the speech and its reception the moment it was over.
On a personal note, broadcasting from Laura’s very modern studio was fun for me, as I got to meet a producer and booker with whom I have long worked remotely.
4) CPAC always makes news, some of it of the fake variety. Thus, there were breathless reports that Mona Charen was booed during a panel on feminism and left the event with security, after she criticized conservatives for tolerating President Trump and Roy Moore. I attended the latter part of that session, and was present when she made those comments. They were booed by some and cheered by others; I confess that any reference she made to the president got by me, and I only caught her observations on Judge Moore. There was, in my view, nothing newsworthy either about Charen’s comments or about their reception by the crowd.
5) The panel on feminism was followed by an all-star panel on the topic “#TrumpedUp: Unmasking the Deep State.” It was moderated by Andy McCarthy and included Byron York, Sara Carter and Chuck Ross. The discussion was excellent, although most was familiar to obsessive followers of the news. McCarthy posed the question, why is it so hard to get to the bottom of the Obama scandals, with both Congress and the Department of Justice ostensibly in Republican hands? The answer, Andy thinks, is that bureaucratic imperatives appear to trump everything else, even with Trump’s appointees.
There is hope, however: the DOJ Inspector General’s report, which will focus on the FBI’s investigation of Hillary’s server fiasco, is due in April or May. Twenty-seven leak investigations are ongoing, and Phase 2 of Devin Nunes’s investigation is under way as well. The House Intelligence Committee has posed questions to former Obama officials, and if they fail to respond they will be subpoenaed. This group includes John Brennan, James Comey and James Clapper. This brought a rousing ovation from the crowd.
Byron York made a great point: those who allegedly lied to the FBI during its Trump/Russia investigation are being criminally charged. On the other hand, people like Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills and Hillary herself obviously lied to the FBI during the illegal server investigation. Those individuals apparently got nothing but the FBI’s thanks for participating.
6) The foreign press always takes an interest in CPAC; it is an opportunity to study that exotic species, the American conservative. I gave a rather lengthy interview to a Swiss television station. I doubted that it would ever see the light of day, as my observations on President Trump, firearms and the conservative movement probably weren’t what they were looking for. But we had dinner with Paul Mirengoff last night, and he told us that his wife, who is French, saw a portion of the interview with me on French television. My daughter also was interviewed by the BBC, and they included a couple of sentence fragments from that interview in the story they did.
The bottom line, for me, is that spending three days in the company of conservatives, including legions of young people, gives hope for the future.