Sunday, February 12, 2006

CPAC 2006, The Wrap-up

Well, I'm home now, safe and sound. Not even a foot of snow could stop me, but it very nearly did. I sympathize with those trying to make it to or out of the Northeast. News reports have said that the three major New York airports have been shut down as are airports throughout New England. I can't imagine what they must be going through tonight.

Yesterday was the end of CPAC 2006 after three days of excitement. The lineup of speakers included Pulitzer Prize winning columnist George Will and Texas Governor Rick Perry. The topics discussed ranged from immigration reform to energy reform, drug policy to government spending. Groups representing libertarians and conservatives were on hand to advocate issues like privacy, limited government, and tax reform. Radio Row, Blogger Row, and Internet Row were among the most popular stops for many of the conference attendees. Luncheons offered students and activists free food, free books, and free advice from some of the foremost conservatives in the game today, including Michelle Malkin and Kellyanne Conway.

In the final installment of my CPAC series (Part 1 ... 2 ... 3 ... 4), I will cover the happenings of the final day of CPAC 2006 as well as some interesting tidbits from the night before and night after. Starting on Friday night, a trip to DuPont Circle was preceded by a run-in with former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in front of the hotel. On his way to the Diamond Reception where Ambassador John Bolton was honored at the Ronald Reagan Banquet, Mr. DeLay was gracious enough to take some time for pictures with a few eager fans. Thanks to "The Hammer" for his generosity.

The next morning was an early rise that I will not regret. After arriving at 8am, and following a 30-minute wait in the banquet hall, I was treated to an outstanding address by Indiana Rep. Mike Pence. The man who some believe to be "Reagan reincarnate" delivered what I believe was among the three best speeches of the weekend. The chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the largest House caucus, led off by stressing the continued hypocrisy of so-called "limited government Republicans".

Pence said, "It's quite another thing to continue that course when half the crew and passengers are pointing out that nothing looks familiar ... not to mention the tens of millions of Americans lining the shoreline screaming, 'You're going the wrong way!'"

Don't get him wrong, he knows of the good being done on Capitol Hill. Pence acknowledges that Republican accomplishments include "dismantling and scattering the network of terrorists within our United States ... liberating nations from oppressive, murderous regimes ... cutting taxes ...", attempting to halt the spread of judicial activism with the appointments of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito to the Supreme Court, as well as dozens of outstanding federal court appointees, and finally, "stopping the horror of partial-birth abortions."

Irregardless, the good in all this starts to become overshadowed when the party of limited government and fiscal sanity edges closer to the perilous cliff known as Big Government. More than a slippery slope, the allure of compassionate conservatism is leading to the negation of increased tax revenues through monumental increases in government spending. Rep. Pence shines the spotlight on the aforementioned hypocrisy that looks more like the work of a "Democrat majority" in the following instances:
  • The first new entitlement in 40 years;
  • National testing and a 50 percent increase in the federal department of education;
  • Record deficits, and;
  • An $8 trillion national debt
In a transition to pork barrel spending, Pence reacts to the "more than 15,000 earmarks" by saying, "Our ship is running out of fuel, our crew is running out of patience, and we are running out of time." He does not advocate throwing in the towel; he stresses that "[I]t's time for a major course correction." With an ever-so-optimistic tone, Pence argued that "[W]e will find our way to Morning in America. But first, we must go back to the future--back to doing the hard thing because it's the right thing."

Rep. Pence proceeded with a deeply touching story about an Indiana soldier killed in Iraq in late 2004. He used the story of this man's courage in the face of certain death to argue, "Their [soldiers'] courage is not shaken by the whine of a bullet. Shall Republicans cower at the whine of liberal democrats or special interests?" I couldn't have put it any better, and few can.

Rep. Pence concluded by addressing everyone in the crowd with a simple statement of faith, telling us, "Each of you is armed with unique strengths, talents and skills, but most of all, conviction -- the strength of knowing that our cause is just and our cause is right. And that the American cause is mankind's cause for it is in the hearts of all people to be free."

Following the speech, Rep. Pence was given an early birthday present from the NRA: the Charlton Heston "Courage Under Fire" Award. After the award presentation, Pence joined a group of bloggers and activists for a short discussion and Q&A, which I will discuss on a separate occasion.

The next session I attended was a short panel on judicial activism, featuring Arizona Rep. Trent Franks and former federal judge Charles Pickering. The panel discussed at length the increasing activism of federal judges that choose to interpret a "living Constitution" as opposed to the one written by the Framers (for a great reference and analysis of the Constitution, see The Heritage Guide to the Constitution). In summing up what is needed of conservative activists in the coming years, Judge Pickering paraphrased Winston Churchill's acclaimed commencement speech saying, "We must never never never give up."

After two great panels on campus activism, the final speech of the conference came in the form of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. In what sounded much like a campaign speech, or at the very least pointed to a presidential run in the near future, Gingrich spoke about a return to conservative principles and fighting for the ideals of his Contract With America. The former Speaker received several standing ovations and numerous applauses while condemning the runaway spenders of the current Congress and arguing for several reforms that would bring an end to the massive deficits of the past few years.

In what represented a close to the conference, after many jockeyed for pictures with Newt, the results of a straw poll were released that showed 64% of attendees believing the Democrats would nominate Hillary and around one-fifth believing that our nominee would be Virginia Senator and former VA Governor George Allen.

After the straw poll results, the Draft Pence grassroots movement had a get-together with a couple dozen supporters that I will discuss along with the blogger session attended by Rep. Pence that morning.

Now, as you all should know by now, Saturday night and the following morning were quite the adventure. Beginning Saturday afternoon, a blizzard that had a much larger effect further north hit the Washington D.C. area. By the time I left for Union Station at 9:30 Sunday morning, there was nearly a foot of snow on the ground. I was lucky enough to get a ride to the station from a family on their way to church, but nonetheless I waited over three hours to board a train for Baltimore and a flight home.

The three hours at Union Station were just abyssmal, and they included cancellation of my original train, the call for me to board one train, then another, then to get off, then to reboard, and finally departure. On the way up to the airport, the train was stopped several times due to excess snow coverage of the train tracks, but after over 75 minutes, the train arrived near Baltimore/Washington International Airport, and I was able to make my way to the gate where my 2:45 flight had, by the grace of God, been delayed until 4:00, allowing me to make the flight I would have normally missed (since I arrived at BWI at 2:40 and got to the gate nearly twenty minutes later).

After a part was replaced on our plane, I was able to make it to O'Hare Airport without incident or delay and arrived back at school at 8:45 this evening. The trip, even with a cancelled flight (to BWI), a cancelled train, a rainstorm (morning) and blizzard (night), a flight change (from 12:45 to 2:45), and a flight delay, was all that I could've hoped for. I look forward to next year's conference, and I strongly encourage anyone with an interest in conservative activism to attend as well.

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