Freedom – everyone and everything declared – was under assault. According to the three-day schedule, it was under attack by socialists, unions, the taxman, pro-choice liberals, global-warming hoaxers, fascists, feminists, and so-called Obamacare. In no uncertain terms, freedom needed saving.
For this, the Founding Fathers were invoked – many, many times.
Waxing about the epic choice between “greatness or decline,” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) managed to conflate Republican bloggers in Minnesota with Revolutionary War hero Joseph Warren and ill-fated World War II chaplains all in one speech. “It sounds like to me that someone [Obama] is choosing decline. The Founders … did not choose decline. They chose us, they chose greatness.”
Aside from the outlandishness and hyperbole threading through such obvious political point-scoring sermons (unfortunately, there were too many to mention here), the new and intensified focus on principles of limited government and the Constitution should have been a welcome development at CPAC. And in many ways it was. For someone who has been covering the annual conservative confab for the last decade, it was refreshing to see conservatives shedding the final vestiges of the old Bush-era excuses for bloat and hubris like so much blubber. While it might seem like a matter of political convenience, especially for those “movement” types and shrewd political aspirants who swagger and shape-shift their way through these things every year, there were plenty of young, earnest students who seemed genuinely dug-in on this front, perhaps even for the right reasons.
(Plus, if there is going to be iconography, let it be of the Founding Fathers rather than that of modern right-wing deities. Thankfully, gone were the omnipresent memorabilia of Bush in his ranch hat and flight suit. Even President Reagan, and surprisingly, Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter, were on minimum display in the exhibit hall this go-around.)
But then there comes the Big Problem. The Big Problem is not so much about what was said at CPAC, but what wasn’t. No one wanted to talk about the war or foreign policy – unless of course, the discussion involved attacking Iran, supporting Israel if itattacked Iran, or waterboarding Gitmo detainees and foiled underpants bombers. That last one was a real crowd-pleaser among the college kids.
Apparently, the idea of “limited government” does not extend to reining in the current trillion-dollar wars overseas and a defense industry that is so swollen, incestuous, and walled off from “the people” that it is immune to circumspection.