Sounds like a pretty ho-hum morning at CPAC.
First up, Ted Cruz repeated the electoral catechism of the conservative movement: nobody loses by moving right, ever!
“There are a lot of D.C. consultants who say there’s a choice for Republicans to make: We can either choose to keep our head down, to not rock the boat, to not stand for anything, or we can stand for principle,” he said. “They say if you stand for principle you lose elections. The way to do it — the smart way, the Washington way — is don’t stand against Obamacare, don’t stand against the debt ceiling, don’t stand against nothing. I want to tell you something — that is a false dichotomy….”
Cruz said that in three of the past four election cycles, Republicans followed the consultants’ advice and ended up losing as a result.
“In ‘06, ‘08 and ‘12, we put our head down, stood for nothing — and we got walloped,” he said.
But 2010, when Republicans won a “historic tidal wave of an election,” was different, Cruz continued: That year, the GOP took strong positions against Obamacare and “bankrupting the country,” and voters rewarded them with big electoral gains across the board.
That is, of course, the most cartoonish of interpretations of the various elections he’s talking about. But as I said, it’s part of the catechism.
But the big media manget of the morning was Chris Christie’s long-awaited speech and–surprise, surprise–he touted his anti-union, antichoice record while pounding Elitist Liberals and the news media. Says veteran conservative-watcher Dave Weigel at Slate:
Christie did nothing that would upset his audience. No foreign policy talk apart from deriding the president for “letting other countries walk all over us.” No mention of his Medicaid expansion, which he’s defended many times, but a generic plea for Republicans to say “what we’re for.”
Give ‘em red meat, and when you can’t do that, give ‘em bland starchy side dishes.
But the moment that probably seemed banal to CPAC attendees but is still a bit jarring to us liberals was this one: http://youtu.be/p–9UehRbLo
So Mitch McConnell gives retiring senator Tom Coburn an antique rifle as an award for “distinguished service.” Not missing a beat, Mitch’s Democratic opponent back home, Alison Lundergan Grimes (or more likely, one of her smart-ass social media tyros) immediately tweeted:
Someone tell @Team_Mitch that’s not the way to hold a gun. KY women do it better.
That may well be true. But for those of us who don’t regularly handle shooting irons, it was a reminder of how thoroughly this sort of imagery is now used by Republicans. Back in 1996, when Pat Buchanan had just beaten Bob Dole in the New Hampshire presidential primary, he told supporters:
Do not wait for orders from headquarters, mount up everybody and ride to the sound of the guns.
And then, campaigning in Arizona, Buchanan had himself photographed a number of times brandishing a rifle, much as McConnell did today.
He was pretty much hooted out of the presidential contest and off the national stage as a crazy person.
Today, he wouldn’t much stand out at CPAC.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, March 6, 2014
“Conservatism Is Too Big For Its Own Good”: The Right No Longer Understands The Difference Between The Movement And The Party
There’s a moment every year at the Conservative Political Action Conference when some eminence from the 1970s talks about the good old days at CPAC, hearkening back to the time when Ronald Reagan would show up and speak to a a small room of only about 500 activists. Things have changed. Now there are about 500 journalists who get registered to report on CPAC, which has bloated to some 10,000 participants in the fat years.
Maybe conservatism is just too big for its own good.
The conservative movement has grown large because it aspired to be something greater than a part of the Republican coalition. It wanted to become the entirety of the GOP. Instead of splitting into different interest groups, the conservative movement devises ad-hoc philosophies to integrate single-issue advocates into a larger coalition. You’re not just for low taxes or against abortion, you’re a conservative!
In this sense, the conservative movement has become a kind of parallel institution that drains resources, attention, talent, and energy from the GOP’s own electoral and governing efforts. Conservative Inc. is an enterprise with enough resources and power to be an attractive alternative to America’s official institutions of electoral power.
If you are a Republican politician and don’t have the wherewithal to become president of the United States, perhaps you have enough talent to become president of Conservatism. It’s an unofficial position, but has plenty of benefits. You won’t have the psychic pleasures of representing the electoral will of the American public, but you also won’t be burdened by any real responsibilities either.
Naturally, the idea of being a player without responsibility provides more attractions for charlatans, rabble-rousers, and opportunists.
Shades of this phenomena began in the 1990s presidential primaries. Whereas Pat Buchanan picked a principled fight with his party over issues like trade and foreign policy, candidates like Alan Keyes ran less for president than for publicity: mailing lists filled out, speaking fees increased, and radio shows picked up on more networks.
By the 2012 Republican primaries, it was obvious that there were in fact two competitions happening on the same debate stages. Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and even Newt Gingrich were not running for president in the same way that Mitt Romney and Rick Perry were.
This seems not to happen in the Democratic primaries. Sure, 2004 saw Howard Dean emerge as the leader of “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.” But there is no parallel universe called Liberalism where he and Mike Gravel could become well-paid industries unto themselves as think leaders, book hawkers, and distinguished dinner guests. Dean became chairman of the Democratic National Committee, a political job with actual responsibilities and geared toward winning elections, not just flame wars.
The composition of the Democratic coalition seems stronger precisely because it is more splintered and more issue driven. No one is afraid that Planned Parenthood or the teachers’ unions are going to impose a broad-ranging ideological revolution on the nation. The public assumes that they will simply lobby for their particular, limited interests and that the party to which they belong will have a moderating effect on them.
But the conservative movement really is large enough to exert a destabilizing gravitational force on the entire political culture. Its opponents fear that its size and strength make the GOP immoderate. And they may be right.
In any GOP presidential primary, the candidates who are running to be unofficial head of the conservative movement can do a great deal of damage to the GOP’s eventual nominee. They can pressure the eventual candidate to over-commit to the right in the primary race, essentially handing them more baggage to carry in the general election. Or they can cripple the eventual primary winner by highlighting the nominee’s deviations from the movement, dispiriting the GOP’s base of voters.
When the attendees of CPAC gather in Washington early next month and conduct their presidential straw poll with the self importance of a warning shot, it might profit them to consider whether they intend to elect a new president of their ideological ghetto or one for their nation.
By: Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Week, February 26, 2014
The more Russian President Vladimir Putin cracked down on gay rights, the more U.S. conservatives discovered a fondness for the Russian autocrat. Indeed, support for Putin among social conservatives and leaders of the religious right movement only seems to be growing.
But in recent weeks, the right’s embrace of Putin seems to have expanded well beyond social conservatives and anti-gay activists. Eric Boehlert reported on Friday on Republican media figures backing Putin with growing enthusiasm as U.S. tensions with Syria escalate.
Note that late last month, just hours before Obama addressed the nation regarding Syria, Matt Drudge bizarrely tweeted that “Putin is the leader of the free world.”
More recently, the Putin admiration society has been on full display all across the right-wing media landscape. On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh also seemed to side with Putin…. Limbaugh appeared to be impressed by the fact Russia had compiled a 100-page report blaming Syrian rebels for the chemical weapons attack, not Russia’s longtime ally, President Bashar al-Assad. Limbaugh told his listeners: “Now, I don’t know about you, but what does it feel like to have to agree with a former KGB agent?”
RedState published a piece late last week arguing, “We’ve reached a sad state of affairs when the Russian president has more credibility than [sic] the American president but that is where we are.” Pat Buchanan defended Putin after the Russian leader prosecuted a rock band that played songs Putin didn’t like.
The Washington Times‘ Ralph Peters told Fox viewers last week, “I don’t like Putin, but I respect that guy. He is tough. He delivers what he says he’ll deliver. He knows his people. He presents himself as a real He-Man.”
How far has the right’s wild-eyed contempt for President Obama gone? Far enough that conservatives can barely contain their increasingly creepy crush on the former KGB official with an authoritarian streak.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 9, 2013
We can’t be surprised by the right-wing ignorance about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the politics of the 1963 March on Washington. Today’s conservative leaders are the political descendants of the forces who fought the civil rights movement as a radical, most likely Communist plot. When the movement turned out to be wholesome and all-American, when a quarter of a million marchers descended on the capital without riots or violence 50 years ago, well, then, it had to be co-opted, it had to prove that America was living up to its highest principles, that those noble people were satisfied with what the system gave them — a Civil Rights bill and a Voting Rights bill — and they went home, and marched no more. Dr. King’s assassination five years later made it easier for them to do that.
There are so many ignorant right-wing reactions to this anniversary to talk about, but the award for the most vicious and stupid has to go to radio host Laura Ingraham, who insists that those of us who are commemorating the 50th anniversary of the march this week are trying “to co-opt the legacy of Martin Luther King into a modern-day liberal agenda.”
Actually, Ingraham is so wrong, she’s sort of right. Liberals did co-opt King’s radical, anti-corporate and antiwar agenda long ago. The King we commemorate today is a friendly shadow of his challenging, radical, visionary self. (Read Harold Meyerson on “The Socialists Who Made the March on Washington,” for a necessary corrective.)
But that’s not what the ignorant and vicious Ingraham was saying. She’s pretending King was some kind of conservative hero whose message of colorblindness – and that wasn’t his message at all – has been co-opted by liberal race-baiters and whiners and malcontents, who just won’t accept that Bobby Jindal is right when he talks about the “end of race,” because a first-generation Indian immigrant’s experience of racism is identical to that of people who were enslaved for hundreds of years, and he gets to decide when racism is over. Ingraham’s co-opting comment was just dumb. Typically dumb. What was unusually vicious, even for the often nasty radio host, was that she decided to interrupt an audio clip of the heroic Rep. John Lewis, the youngest person to speak at the march 50 years ago, speaking on Saturday, with the sound of a crackling gunshot.
A gunshot. After the assassinations of Medgar Evers, John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Dr. King, after the gunning down of so many civil rights workers over the years, Ingraham thought it was funny, or clever, or provocative, to “symbolically” cut off Lewis’ speech with the sound of a gun. The civil rights hero, who had his skull fractured on the first 1965 Selma march, falls silent in mid-sentence, as though he’d been hit by a sniper while addressing the crowd. (Listen to it on Media Matters; it’s more disturbing than you can imagine just reading about it.)
Lewis is in mid-speech, talking about the unfinished business of civil rights in America. “We must say to the Congress: fix the Voting Rights Act. We must say to the Congress: Pass comprehensive immigration reform. It doesn’t make sense that millions of our people …”
And then a shot rings out. Ingraham picks up what Lewis was saying. “OK. ‘It doesn’t make sense that millions of our people … are living in the shadows.’ They’re not only not living in the shadows, they’re appearing at the State of the Union speech. They’re actually visiting with the president in the White House. I think we have to drop that ‘living in the shadows’ thing. They might be standing on the street corner, but they’re not living in the shadows.”
Ingraham’s entitled to her opinion on immigration reform – she’s implacably against it, with her nativist buddy Pat Buchanan, who also appeared on the show – but I have to wonder why she chose to silence Lewis, symbolically at least, with a gunshot. It’s no coincidence she’s also an NRA mouthpiece whipping up fear that the government is coming for our guns. All of the white-grievance mongers are getting angrier, and their brew of pro-gun paranoia and white racial resentment is toxic. Ingraham should be ashamed of herself, but she’s just another rodeo clown, and she has no shame.
By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, August 27, 2013
Best I can tell, the furor over Jack Hunter, a long-time South Carolina-based neo-Confederate who co-authored a book with Rand Paul and then joined his Senate staff, is more or less “blowing over.” But Hunter himself may be keeping it alive by protesting his innocence and trying to cover his tracks. Even Will Folks, the famously provocative South Carolina conservative blogger (and Paulite fellow traveler) who regards the original Washington Free Beacon piece about Hunter as a neocon “hit job” on his boss, thinks he’s jumped the shark:
“The role of a radio host is different from that of a political operative,” Hunter said in a statement responding to the story. “In radio, sometimes you’re encouraged to be provocative and inflammatory. I’ve been guilty of both, and am embarrassed by some of the comments I made precisely because they do not represent me today. I was embarrassed by some of them even then.”
That certainly seems to be at odds with what Hunter said eight years ago when The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier filed a report on his controversial commentary. Back then he was totally unapologetic about his racially tinged comments – saying he “stood by every word.”
An even stronger pushback to the Hunter apologia came from his one-time editor at the Charleston City Paper, Chris Haire:
Long before last’s week Washington Free Beacon story kicked up a two-day media storm, Jack Hunter knew that the Republican establishment was working to out him as a neo-Confederate and a racist, a move he believed could hurt the one-time City Paper columnist’s boss, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. He’d even sent me an e-mail asking me to remove dozens of posts, ones that he said no longer reflected his current worldview.
While I told him that I would have removed one or two posts — it’s not uncommon for writers to hastily pen a column they later regret — I found the breadth of the request to be excessive, and to be honest, quite cowardly. Doing so, I told Jack, was a repudiation of the very persona he had created as a writer and radio personality. It was a denial of the very views that had made him a local media celebrity and a rising star in the so-called liberty movement, and as such, a slap in the face to all those who had ever supported him. It was best, I said, that if those points of views no longer applied to him, Jack should pen a column detailing how he had changed his mind, but he declined. And frankly, that told me all I needed to know about Jack’s conversion. It was solely for appearances only.
After reading Jack’s statement about last Wednesday’s controversy du jour — the one that let the rest of the U.S. know that a neo-Confederate secessionist was part of Sen. Paul’s inner circle — I still haven’t changed my mind. In his statement, Jack — much like Rand himself — tends to treat the damaging information as something akin to a youthful indiscretion, a one-time accident, or as something that was nothing more than an over-the-top personality that he had created while he was a member of the 96 Wave crew and had long-since abandoned. Rubbish. The Jack Hunter of the Charleston City Paper years was every bit as radical as the Jack Hunter of [local radio] 96 Wave.
Then Haire kinda gets mad:
Over the course of editing Jack for years, it was clear to me that when he spoke of Southerners, Southern values, and the Southern way of life, it was as if the South to him was solely populated by white people, and everyone else was an intruder or at best a historical inconvenience. Jack Hunter may have never railed against miscegenation, championed segregation, uttered a racial slur, or participated in a lynching, but it was my opinion then and it is my opinion now that Jack is the most common kind of racist, the one that doesn’t realize that he is one. In fact, like many on the right — from Pat Buchanan to Newt Gingrich to Rick Perry to Rush Limbaugh — Jack traffics in race-baiting rhetoric and repeatedly aligns himself with racists but then refuses to own up to the meaning and purpose of his actions….
And the same applies to Rand Paul.
This is why if Jack Hunter really cares about Rand Paul he’ll quit his staff and find himself a new career. The more he talks and the more his very recent history is discussed, the more it raises questions about Paul–not just for associating with the likes of Hunter, but for the parallels between Hunter’s views and his own, if not on race, then on many elements of public policy and history that touches on race.
As for Paul, he should probably spend less time lecturing African-Americans on why they should be conservatives and a lot more time convincing conservatives to listen to his arguments about the invidious racial effects of the War on Drugs. Then we’d have a lot less reason to suspect that Rand Paul is a friend of Southern Avengers everywhere.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 19, 2013