WHAT. A. DAY.
As I look back on it all, it is just hard to believe that the whole whirlwind of activity actually took place in the span of about 14 hours.
Here is the overarching lesson of Friday at CPAC for me: There are still a lot of people here and elsewhere who are not on Twitter. If that is the case for you, you are, quite simply, shortchanging yourself and cutting yourself off from such a powerful networking source. (There went Roger Hedgecock by me just now, here in the Omni Shoreham lobby…Rush’s regular fill-in from KOGO in California in the earlier part of this decade.) I met a number of people today with whom I have corresponded on Twitter for several weeks or months. In the case of some of them, we have met at previous political events and renewed acquaintance here at CPAC 2010
Further contact information is exchanged, conversations are initiated, friendships are formed and the groundwork for future alliances is laid. All in the space of a few days because Twitter paved the way. I’ll guarantee this scenario has unfolded 100,000 times over already at CPAC 2010.
One example: As I was walking into the exhibit hall late this afternoon after Ron Paul’s speech, I ran into Tim Carney coming out. Tim has written one of the most important books of the last year, Obamanomics: How Barack Obama Is Bankrupting You and Enriching His Wall Street Friends, Corporate Lobbyists, and Union Bosses. The thesis of the book is that the artificial divide between Republicans and Democrats as, respectively, the party of big business/lobbyist and the party of blue-collar workers’ plight is a fiction. Tim was one of Robert Novak’s last reporters, so he learned at the feet of the master. Because of Twitter, although we had never met, Tim recognized me (and, of course, I knew him) and we chatted for a little while. A nice, unassuming fellow.
During the afternoon session with a dozen or so college students, titled “Two Minute Activists”, I found myself sitting between a Republican candidate for the 30th District Congressional seat in California to my left and Young America’s Foundation VP/Fox News commentator Kate Obenshain on my right; very enjoyable talking with both of them.
There were so many fantastic speeches today; in terms of portent for the future, Mike Pence’s and Tim Pawlenty’s both stand out from the pack. Pawlenty was first. Although he is not a well-known quantity within the conservative movement yet, he is on his way there. He was the first major speaker I had seen yet this CPAC who had a formal speech that was not communicated with the use of a Teleprompter. I spaced it for a few minutes, just wondering whether this will come to be more and more appreciated in our highly scripted age…the ability to speak from one’s heart, as opposed to delivering remarks that, more than likely, were pounded out in a claustrophobic, windowless basement office by a group of junior Poli-Sci major staffers.
Pawlenty was also the first speaker of the whole convention to reference the Almighty, with a statement that “God is in charge.” He very deftly tied together the Christian convictions espoused by many of the Founding Fathers to the need for God’s preservation in our society today. Tim Pawlenty’s speech was very well organized, with a four point outline of specific principles that I wish I could call to mind right now, but can’t, due to extreme fatigue and all that has intervened in the hours since. I know my impressions were that Romney is going to have a fight on his hands, since Tim Pawlenty is almost certainly running for President in 2012. I predicted this eventual skirmish a few months ago and see no reason to doubt my prescience now!
If anything, Mike Pence was even more overt than Pawlenty was, declaring that it is our obligation as conservatives to stand for the unborn and for the Scriptural definition of marriage, as “ordained by God.” These were not the only agenda items that Pawlenty and Pence discussed, but they stand out because up to that point, they had not been mentioned.
Surprise guests seem to be the gift that keeps on giving at CPAC this year. Newly minted Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell dropped in for a surprise visit this afternoon, right after the “Two Minute Activists” wrapped up. McDonnell was awarded a heroes’ welcome and addressed the assembled conservative throng for a few minutes, expressing the collective jubilance of those in the room that Virginia has emerged as a truly and resoundingly red state once again, despite the anomaly of 2008.
Speaking of McDonnell, his attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, was on a panel earlier in the day. This is one impressive guy. He spoke with no notes that I could see, and gave an in-depth explanation on why it is necessary for conservatives not only to cut taxes, but also to close the loop by cutting public spending. He stressed that cutting taxes frees up investment, but only spending cuts starve the government beast that ultimately destroys freedom. Wonkish, but powerful information.
One of the very unexpected joys of the day occurred rather haphazardly and, it seemed, coincidentally (although we understand that coincidence is never what it seems). The young man next to me asked about my Android phone. We got to talking; one thing led to another and I found that not only was he a current Indiana Wesleyan student, but he had about 11 or 12 others with him. This is a first for IWU, with the College Republicans there fielding a delegation to CPAC. I was thrilled to see them and accompanied them to lunch, along with Grace Cushing from the Republican National Committee.
I spent a lot of time at the Media Research Center booth, chatting with the guys there. Kevin Eder, who goes by the Twitter handle @keder, is a prolific Tweeter, as are most of the MRC personnel. It was fun to be able to get to know them all a little better. The work that the MRC does exposing old media bias is unsurpassed and indispensable to the conservative movement. They are yeomen in our ranks.
As I was standing talking to Kevin and his fiancee, Molly Barackman, Kevin suddenly inhaled sharply and said, “Look behind you.” I swiveled and there was RNC Chairman Michael Steele, so close I could have reached out and touched him. He had just walked into the door behind me and was already surrounded by autograph seekers. CPAC is that kind of place.
I closed today out by attending the launch of Students for Prosperity, a new endeavor that the Americans for Prosperity grassroots organization is attempting to implement in college/university campuses across the country. I talked a good bit to their Communications Director, Amy Payne, whom I first got to know last summer during the Patients United bus tour, when it stopped in Kokomo. I also was able to chat with AFP President Tim Phillips for a while; I found out both of us got our start in the political movement because of Ronald Reagan. The reach of one good man has had a ripple effect that continues to this moment.
Much, MUCH more I could have written about today. This will have to do. Bedtime is long past and tomorrow waits. Saturday, traditionally, is the biggest day of all at CPAC.