Conservative Political Action Conference
Day One of CPAC 2013
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As novice to the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) media pool, I was excited to attend. As we approached the venue in Maryland, the Gaylord hotel, the multitude of buses were discharging throngs of young people dressed in their best, happy and excited to be there. Security was tight everywhere and nobody could sneak in without a pass.
I was pleasantly surprised that the majority of attendees were young people under the age of 30. The theme was a perfect fit: “America’s Future: The Next Generation of Conservatives.”
In the Potomac Ballroom, the American Conservative Union chairman, Al Cardenas, introduced the first speaker of note, the Virginia Attorney General, the Honorable Ken Cuccinelli. Running for Governor of Virginia, Cuccinelli emphasized his pride of our American exceptionalism, of the sacrifices made by many Americans who have built the greatest nation in the “history of the world,” a nation in which “hard work is rewarded and success is a good thing.” We are a nation that “defends our freedoms and our God-given rights.” Our history must be shared aggressively and articulately with our fellow Americans because we have a duty to preserve our Constitutional Republic.
The Honorable Allen West, former U.S. Representative and 22-year Army veteran, LTC Allen West took the podium under thunderous applause. He recognized all the veterans in the house, the defenders of our freedom. As conservatives, we must not change our message to fit the times, it is “malarkey,” he said. “A bended knee never was and shall never be a conservative tradition.”
The power that binds poor and rich alike is the power of compassion, freedom, and the opportunity of poor and rich alike to grow. Nobody believes that America, with its opportunity to succeed for all, was built by rich men “dipping their hands in the pockets of the poor.” We believe in humility, independence, “the magnificence of freedom,” compassion, integrity, and “are bound together under God.” We have a Constitution that was written “to control and regulate the government, not the people.”
We should not ask what “freebies” our country can give to us but what we can do for our country. LTC West uses California as an example of depression, from which citizens flee to escape confiscatory taxation that enslaves them to the state. We were told that “Compassion comes not from generosity but from compliance.” “We are tired of these insufferable lessons from progressivism – compassion comes from a choice, not the liberal definition of choice.”
“We are tired of liberals dividing this country into little groups,” setting them up at odds with the majority, and “accusing conservatives of hate.” Conservatives give more to charity than liberals although their paychecks may be smaller. Conservatives volunteer their time to churches, hospitals, organizations, and other groups, while liberals whine about their “fair share.”
“I am a conservative because I believe in peace, real peace, and not peace of mind. I am a conservative because I believe and understand that real peace comes from the Marine Corps not the Peace Corps.”
We are a nation of builders that needs future conservative leaders to pick up the torch of freedom and carry it with pride. “Freedom comes from God, not the White House.” “We will persevere” but we must understand what our duties and responsibilities are to our country. Endless entitlements cannot continue if our country is to survive economically. We want America to shine and be the shining city on the hill. “Deeds not words will paint this country grand.”
LTC West speech was interrupted by thunderous applause and ended in a standing ovation.
Between movie screenings, book signings, media interviews, special invitation receptions, and smaller groups breakout sessions, a panel of experts composed of Dr. Whit Ayers, Dan Garza, Helen Krieble, Jenny Korn, the Honorable Raul Labrador, and the moderator Helen Aguirre Ferre, discussed immigration issues based on the theme, “Respecting Families and the Rule of Law: A Lasting Immigration Policy.”
Smaller group discussions included military voting, challenges and solutions, business in America, small business: the economic engine of America, expanding the conservative movement with the Hispanic community, saving America from Congress with a federal balanced budget amendment.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, Honorable John Hannah, Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute, Honorable Buck McKeon, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Honorable Otto Reich, Otto Reich Associates, LLC, and moderator Cliff May, President of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies discussed “Iran and the Islamist Threat to America and the West: What is – What Should Be – Our Strategy.”
Sen. Ron Johnson, Honorable Roger Noriega, Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Joel Pollak, Editor-in-Chief, Breitbart.com, John Solomon, Editor, Washington Guardian, and moderator Honorable Ernest Istook, Distinguished Fellow, the Heritage Foundation, discussed “Benghazi and Its Aftermath: U.S. Middle East and Southwest Asia Policy.”
Moderator Alexander Skouras, former Washington State Director of Ron Paul 2012 led a panel discussion of Derk Jan Eppink, member of European Parliament, His Excellency Vytautas Landsbergis, member of the European Parliament, Iain Murray, Vice President of Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Honorable Mike Pompeo, U.S. Representative, Honorable Tom Price, U.S. Representative on “Lessons They Have Learned and We Haven’t: The Europeanization of America.”
Tom Fitton, President of Judicial Watch led a discussion on “Are We Back on the Road to Serfdom.”
Interesting discussion panel by Brian Brown, President of the National Organization for Marriage, Ben Shapiro, Editor-at-Large of Breitbart News Network, Hans von Spakovsky, Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and moderator Cleta Mitchell, Partner at Foley and Lardner on the topic “Stop THIS: Threats, Harassment, Intimidation, Slander & Bullying from the Obama Administration.”
Dr. Michael Farris, Chancellor of Patrick Henry College presided over an interesting discussion on the topic of “The United Nations vs. the United States: The End Run Around the American Way of Life.”
Senator Marco Rubio took the stage early in the afternoon. He energized the packed room of young attendees. His speech recounted the events of three years ago when he had as much chance of winning the Senate seat as a “papal conclave.” He talked about the global economy which impacts our hard working people. He criticized the banking crisis, the bubble that burst and left people who paid their mortgages on time holding the bag.
Sen. Rubio described how Washington creates every week some man-made crisis that keeps the population in turmoil. Who is fighting for free enterprise and the hard-working middle class? They are what made this country great. Few countries in the world have the large middle class that we do. Limited government and constitutional principles should be our guiding light.
“Just because I believe that states should have the right to define traditional marriage, does not make me a bigot.” Rubio believes that “life, all life, all human life is worthy of protection at every stage of its development.” Closed-minded people “love to preach about the certainty of science in regards to our climate, but ignore the absolute fact that science has proven that life begins at conception.”
Sen. Rubio continued that the government has the responsibility to create jobs, a real growth energy policy, a monetary policy that does not distort our economy, a tax structure that does not take from producers and give to takers, and to solve our $16 trillion national debt which hurts job creation.
Government should allow “citizens to help themselves” and every parent should have the option to send their children to the school of their choice. Career education is important, not everyone should go to a four-year liberal arts college.
The breakdown of the American family should not be underestimated. Government should not be surrogate parent to every child born out-of-wedlock. Communities, churches, and voluntary organization can help save our families.
“The cost of living is real” and so is the next bubble to burst, college loan debt. That is why we need a healthcare reform. But not a healthcare reform that injects the federal government in a takeover of the world’s highest quality health care industry.” Sen. Rubio wants Americans to be “empowered to purchase healthcare from any company in America that is willing to sell it to them.”
Sen. Rubio talks about a family who struggles economically and why they may believe that their only salvation is the promised Democrat cradle to grave welfare. “They are not free loaders, they are not liberals.” They are a family who needs help to better themselves educationally and professionally in order to be able to better themselves economically without the expectation of government welfare.
The “China dream” is the goal to race to become the champion of the world. China is going to supplant us in this century. Some Americans may be agreeable to our demise from the top because “We are tired of solving the world’s problems.”
The Chinese government uses forced labor, forced abortions, forbids access to the Internet, keeps prisoners without any rights, tortures people, coerces them, forbid them to assemble, and forcibly returns people who flee. If they do this to their own people, what would they do to the rest of the world if they become number one?
In spite of our problems, millions of people around the world are still inspired by America, by its freedom; “they may hate us, but they sure want to be us.” Rubio received a long ovation from the standing room only crowd.
Rand Paul took the podium next and delivered a stellar speech. Since he was allowed only ten minutes to the podium, Senator Paul joked that he prepared 13 hours-worth of material to the delight of the roaring audience. He explained why he filibustered the President’s pick for Defense Secretary – giving $250 million to Egypt in foreign aid, a country whose mobs attacked our Embassy, burn American flags while chanting “death to America,” while closing the oh, so expensive White House tours to school children, the cost of which is less than the cost of one White House dinner honoring the President of Mexico.
He had a message for the President, “No one person gets to decide the law, no one person gets to decide your guilt or innocence.” Referring to the killing of Americans on American soil with drones, Senator Paul asked the question, “Does the President’s power have limits?” Quoting Lincoln, Sen. Paul recounted that respect for civil liberties is supreme. Having good intentions to respect them, or saying that he will respect them, is not enough. “If you want to test a man, give him power.” We want to know, Mr. President, will you or won’t you respect the Constitution?”
Sen. Paul explained that his filibuster was more than just about drones; it was about the Bill of Rights, about the Constitution and about our right to defend it. If our God-given rights are denied, freedom shrinks. “Our Bill of Rights defines us; it is what makes us exceptional.” Our soldiers who have sacrificed to protect our Bill of Rights want to know that their sacrifice was not in vain.
The right to bear arms (the 2nd Amendment), means nothing if Americans are not secure in their homes and papers (the 4th Amendment). We must “jealously guard all our liberties.”
Appealing to the Facebook Generation, Sen. Paul criticized the wasteful solar panel industry loans and crony capitalism, the Wall Street bailouts, and other bailout schemes. “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Sen. Paul offered examples of his proposed five year budget, eliminating the Department of Education and giving money back to the states, cutting corporate income tax in half, a 17 percent flat income tax, and cutting regulations that strangle American businesses. The only stimulus is leaving more money in the hands of those who earned it, using the Constitution as our guide. “We are the party of jobs and opportunity, the ticket to the middle class.” The GOP of old “has grown stale and moss covered.” The new GOP must have a “broad message.”
The Tea Party, citizen action groups, the media, the legacy of Andrew Breitbart, the NRA, the Heartland Institute, Newsmax, two presidential dinners, receptions, and other events concluded the first day’s activities.