Bryan Preston, Ian Schwartz, Erick Stakelbeck, and I will be covering the 34th annual Conservative Political Action Conference for Hot Air. I’ll also liveblog events and photoblog here at mm.com throughout the 3-day conference. If you’re planning to attend, we’ll have a booth in the exhibitor hall that opens at 10am later today. In addition to covering speeches, debates, and other action from the floor, I’ll have a book signing on Friday at 11am and Bryan will be participating in a blogging panel on Saturday at 11am. (Onsite registration is still available. More info here.) The list of credentialed CPAC bloggers is here.
I was disappointed to learn from Patrick Ruffini tonight that Rudy Giuliani will not be doing blog interviews when he comes to CPAC on Friday–and apparently won’t be doing MSM ones, either (why am I not buying that last part?).
If I were a smarter politician trying to convince grass-roots conservatives that I really do want their votes, I might, I dunno, make some time to talk with them–and not just at them.
Alas, Giuliani has chosen not to get his hands dirty. By contrast, Newt Gingrich’s communications director e-mailed tonight that Gingrich is making himself available to bloggers on Friday morning (he doesn’t speak until Saturday).
In other CPAC news this morning, Mitt Romney is going all out to win the conference straw poll. The NYTimes reports:
The straw poll at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference beginning here Thursday has never played a pivotal role in a Republican presidential primary. But the Mitt Romney campaign nonetheless is paying for three vans, scores of registration fees and at least a half-dozen hotel rooms to pack collegiate supporters into the event.
The turnout drive — 10 months before the first primary — is the latest sign of both the early start and bulging budgets of the 2008 presidential campaign. But the conference may be especially important to Mr. Romney, who is trying to reassure social conservatives that his views have shifted to the right from some of the liberal positions he took as the governor of Massachusetts.
Kevin Madden, a spokesman for the Romney campaign, said the conference volunteers were part of a long-term effort to build grass-roots support.
“These volunteers are the folks who are going to be on the front lines of our campaign across the country,” Mr. Madden said. “The investment that we are making here is going to offer a greater result as this campaign continues to grow.”
Mr. Madden said the Romney campaign planned to have at least 225 student volunteers at the event, with 90 percent of them living close enough to eliminate the need for housing or transportation. Last year the event drew more than 4,000 activists. But only about 600 people, mostly students, participated in the poll. Every Republican presidential candidate so far except Senator John McCain will speak at the event.
Unfortunately, the Romney strategy has been used before–and didn’t turn out so well:
Organizers of the annual conservative conference said that another concerted effort to get student supporters to the event was organized in early 2000 by Gary Bauer, a Christian conservative candidate for the Republican nomination. Mr. Bauer said in an interview that he had organized the effort to help prove he was a viable candidate and considered his strong showing a success. But he dropped out early in the primaries nonetheless.
Vice President Cheney is scheduled to speak tonight.
President Bush has never attended CPAC.
President Reagan spoke at the event 12 times.
The American Conservative Union has an archive of Reagan’s CPAC speeches here.
A taste of what we all miss so dearly–from Reagan’s March 20, 1981 speech titled, “Our Time Is Now. Our Moment Has Arrived:”
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There are so many people and institutions who come to mind for their role in the success we celebrate tonight. Intellectual leaders like Russell Kirk, Friedrich Hayek, Henry Hazlitt, Milton Friedman, James Burnham, Ludwig von Mises—they shaped so much of our thoughts.
It’s especially hard to believe that it was only a decade ago, on a cold April day on a small hill in upstate New York, that another of these great thinkers, Frank Meyer, was buried. He’d made the awful journey that so many others had: He pulled himself from the clutches of “The God That Failed,” and then in his writing fashioned a vigorous new synthesis of traditional and libertarian thought—a synthesis that is today recognized by many as modern conservatism.
It was Frank Meyer who reminded us that the robust individualism of the American experience was part of the deeper current of Western learning and culture. He pointed out that a respect for law, an appreciation for tradition, and regard for the social consensus that gives stability to our public and private institutions, these civilized ideas must still motivate us even as we seek a new economic prosperity based on reducing government interference in the marketplace.
Our goals complement each other. We’re not cutting the budget simply for the sake of sounder financial management. This is only a first step toward returning power to the States and communities, only a first step toward reordering the relationship between citizen and government. We can make government again responsive to people not only by cutting its size and scope and thereby ensuring that its legitimate functions are performed efficiently and justly.
Because ours is a consistent philosophy of government, we can be very clear: We do not have a social agenda, separate, separate economic agenda, and a separate foreign agenda. We have one agenda. Just as surely as we seek to put our financial house in order and rebuild our nation’s defenses, so too we seek to protect the unborn, to end the manipulation of schoolchildren by utopian planners, and permit the acknowledgement of a Supreme Being in our classrooms just as we allow such acknowledgements in other public institutions.
Now, obviously we’re not going to be able to accomplish all this at once. The American people are patient. I think they realize that the wrongs done over several decades cannot be corrected instantly. You know, I had the pleasure in appearing before a Senate committee once while I was still Governor, and I was challenged because there was a Republican President in the White House who’d been there for several months—why we hadn’t then corrected everything that had been done. And the only way I could think to answer him is I told him about a ranch many years ago that Nancy and I acquired. It had a barn with eight stalls in it in which they had kept cattle, and we wanted to keep horses. And I was in there day after day with a pick and a shovel, lowering the level of those stalls, which had accumulated over the years. [Laughter] And I told this Senator who’d asked that question that I discovered that you did not undo in weeks or months what it had taken some 15 years to accumulate.
I also believe that we conservatives, if we mean to continue governing, must realize that it will not always be so easy to place the blame on the past for our national difficulties. You know, one day the great baseball manager Frankie Frisch sent a rookie out to play center field. The rookie promptly dropped the first fly ball that was hit to him. On the next play he let a grounder go between his feet and then threw the ball to the wrong base. Frankie stormed out of the dugout, took his glove away from him and said, “I’ll show you how to play this position.” And the next batter slammed a line drive right over second base. Frankie came in on it, missed it completely, fell down when he tried to chase it, threw down his glove, and yelled at the rookie, “You’ve got center field so screwed up nobody can play it.” [Laughter]
The point is we must lead a nation, and that means more than criticizing the past. Indeed, as T. S. Eliot once said, “Only by acceptance of the past will you alter its meaning.”
Now, during our political efforts, we were the subject of much indifference and often times intolerance, and that’s why I hope our political victory will be remembered as a generous one and our time in power will be recalled for the tolerance we showed for those with whom we disagree.
But beyond this, beyond this we have to offer America and the world a larger vision. We must remove government’s smothering hand from where it does harm; we must seek to revitalize the proper functions of government. But we do these things to set loose again the energy and the ingenuity of the American people. We do these things to reinvigorate those social and economic institutions which serve as a buffer and a bridge between the individual and the state—and which remain the real source of our progress as a people.
And we must hold out this exciting prospect of an orderly, compassionate, pluralistic society—an archipelago of prospering communities and divergent institutions—a place where a free and energetic people can work out their own destiny under God.
I know that some will think about the perilous world we live in and the dangerous decade before us and ask what practical effect this conservative vision can have today. When Prime Minister Thatcher was here recently, we both remarked on the sudden, overwhelming changes that had come recently to politics in both our countries.
At our last official function, I told the Prime Minister that everywhere we look in the world the cult of the state is dying. And I held out hope that it wouldn’t be long before those of our adversaries who preach the supremacy of the state were remembered only for their role in a sad, rather bizarre chapter in human history. The largest planned economy in the world has to buy food elsewhere or its people would starve.
We’ve heard in our century far too much of the sounds of anguish from those who live under totalitarian rule. We’ve seen too many monuments made not out of marble or stone but out of barbed wire and terror. But from these terrible places have come survivors, witnesses to the triumph of the human spirit over the mystique of state power, prisoners whose spiritual values made them the rulers of their guards.
With their survival, they brought us “the secret of the camps,” a lesson for our time and for any age:
Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid.
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