Friday, April 11, 2014

Takeaways from CPAC

Below is an excerpt from a special address to the members and guests of the Southern California Republican Women And Men by Howard Hyde, March 29, 2014

Once again thank you all for interrupting your Spring Break to come here today...If I have a theme to hold all of my disparate material together, I think it will be simply what Evan Sayet calls Adopt-a-Democrat. One of the most important things we do here is learn how to talk to our liberal brother-in-law, debate our progressive colleague and convert out Democrat friend. If I can impart to you just one insight or argument that you can use to that end, I will have succeeded.

It was our privilege to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference or CPAC this past March 6-8 in National Harbor Maryland. As I wrote in my newsletter message, there was so much going on that there was no way to take all of it in, and if you get briefings from 10 people who attended, you might get the impression that they attended 11 different conferences. Even so, I hope my report does it some justice and that other attendees might concur with me.

Some people were disappointed with the conference, feeling that their greatest concerns received inadequate attention. To some it was a sham cover for establishment Republicans to pretend that they are conservative when they are not; to others there was insufficient emphasis on the sanctity of life and the abomination of abortion. Dan Henninger of the Wall Street Journal cautions us to sober up about a presidential candidate bench that resembles a casino roulette wheel -- spin it enough times are we're bound to land on a lucky number! Israel, the Middle East and radical Islam received comparatively minor attention in my perception now that Putin's Anschluss of Ukraine has upstaged the mullahs and bin Laden's heirs, at least for the time being. As for myself, I was satisfied that Obamacare and its horrors are finally receiving the attention that they deserve. The Obamacare fiasco was at or near the top of almost every prominent speaker's agenda, as it should have been...last year, the year before that and the year before that. If we had had this clarity of understanding and commitment of purpose four years ago, then we would not be suffering this massive slow-motion train wreck today.

Rock Stars and Grownups
You've heard the stories of the rock stars of the conference, like the bookends Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin, and the Straw Poll king Rand Paul. I won't add much to what you've heard other than that standing outside of the main hall during Paul's speech was like being outside of a football stadium during the Super Bowl, and that Sarah Palin really, really, REALLY annoys liberals, who seem unable to offer any substantive rebuttal to what she says but feel free to insult her, and by extension us, in every way imaginable. It is clear that this NOT what the feminists had in mind when they said 'diversity' or 'equal pay for equal work'.

Rick Perry came in 9th in the straw poll, but should not be written off by thoughtful conservatives and Republicans IMHO. Unlike Obama, who never achieved anything of substance in his life before becoming President, Perry has a very distinguished record as a grownup doing the very serious work of administering a large and thriving state, proving that it is possible to prosper even in Obama's America. 30% of the job growth for all 50 United States in the past few years has occurred in just one state: Texas. Texas is the model for how all states and the nation ought to be governed; low taxes, light and reasonable regulation, limited government, a responsible citizenry (are you listening California?). Perry's accomplishments go beyond the headline-grabbing topics of taxes and jobs to less-discussed but equally remarkable areas like prison reform. Texas in recent years has been able to accomplish what liberals have for decades claimed that they could do but have failed at every time: that is, simultaneously reduce both the prison population AND the general crime rate.
And by the way, Perry also got a standing O for his speech in the main hall.

Donald Trump fired a few verbal surface-to-surface missiles in the direction of China in his usual calm and understated style. But there were also other perspectives on China, and it had me wishing that the Southern California Republican Women and Men would one day command the resources to be able to sponsor a panel discussion between Trump, Don Huntsman, former presidential candidate, governor of Utah and United States ambassador to China; Daniel Griswold, fellow at the Cato Institute and author of the pro free-trade and pro let's-all-just-calm-down-a-bit-about-China book titled Mad About Trade; and Kai Chen, our own one-in-a-billion former Chinese national basketball team player who reminds us daily that China is still an authoritarian, communist regime that tolerates no political dissent or free speech in spite of polishing the world image of a civilized, dynamic capitalistic nation. Those four authorities would make for a most enlightening discussion.

Speaking of the Cato Institute, its president John Allison was there along with Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch on a panel titled 'After Obama Day 1: What are the Big Alternative Ideas Conservatives Should Present as Obama's Term Ends? Before he became chief of Cato, for a quarter century John Allison ran a North Carolina bank guided by conservative libertarian principles, grew it from single-digit billions to triple-digit billions and did NOT need a bailout when TARP arrived, but was obliged to take it essentially at gunpoint. His book, The Financial Crisis and the Free-Market Cure is a well-informed and insightful insiders view of the government-led corruption that led to the meltdown of 2008 and the ill-advised remedies like Dodd-Frank that will plague us for years to come. I highly recommend it.

A few of the women of distinction were Chrystal Wright, a.k.a. 'Conservative Black Chick'; Tammy Bruce, radio talk show host who used to be a liberal feminist lesbian, but who is now a staunch independent conservative feminist lesbian; and Phyllis Schlafly, who, for those of you too young to remember her, earned the modest distinction of having almost single-handedly defeated an ill-advised amendment to the United States Constitution at a time when its passage had seemed almost inevitable. She was there, sharp as a tack at the tender age of 89 1/2, and I got a chance to speak with her briefly outside the elevators. I told her that as a liberal growing up in Berkeley the only way I knew about her was from reading Doonesbury cartoons. Her face lit up and she said that when she had made the Doonesbury pages, her kid's respect for her had spiked.
One of the most impressive women there UNDER the age of 89 1/2 to me was Carly Fiorina, who participated in the panel with John Allison and Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch. Very articulate on a broad range of issues, I think she will be a major figure on our side of the aisle for many years. I'm thinking maybe Secretary of Commerce? Or better yet, why not President ...of the Southern California Republican Women and Men in 2016? Just a thought.
Disappointingly absent from the conference were any of the female Republican Governors, like Susanna Martinez of New Mexico, Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma or Jan Brewer of Arizona.