Cheney, Romney Enthrall CPAC Attendees

Friday, 19 Feb 2010 11:39 AM

By Ronald Kessler

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More than 10,000 conservatives at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) generated an air of jubilation as they savored signs of victory and pounced on the Democrats’ serial missteps.

Two surprise guests — Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and former Vice President Dick Cheney — received the greatest applause.

Only Dave Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, whose foundation runs CPAC, and a few others knew that Cheney would make an appearance.

Scheduled speaker Liz Cheney told the audience gathered in the ballroom of the Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, “There is one man in particular we all know who certainly has taught me what it means to have the courage of your convictions . . . For my whole life, he has taught me to stand up for what I believe in and to fight for what’s right. And often, before big speeches like this one, I ask his opinion, I seek his advice. Well, today, instead, I brought him with me.”

To wild applause, Dick Cheney then stepped onto the stage.

“I think Barack Obama is a one-term president,” Cheney said to more roaring applause.

The attendees also stomped and screamed at the appearance of Brown, who introduced former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

According to Keene, Brown had been socializing with Romney the night before, and Romney brought up CPAC. Brown was not familiar with the annual event, and Romney invited him to come along.

“After all the finger-pointing is finished, it has become clear who is responsible for President Obama’s lost year, the 10 percent unemployment year — President Obama and his fellow Democrats. So when it comes to pinning blame, pin the tail on the donkeys,” Romney told the crowd.

Romney defended his party from claims it has become “the party of no.”

“Before we move away from this ‘no’ epithet the Democrats are fond of applying to us, let’s ask the Obama folks why they say no — no to a balanced budget, no to reforming entitlements, no to malpractice reform, no to missile defense in Eastern Europe, no to prosecuting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a military tribunal, and no to tax cuts that create new jobs,” Romney said.

Marco Rubio, who is running for the U.S. Senate from Florida, promised that if Republicans regain power, “We will do whatever it takes, for however long it takes, to defeat radical Islamic terrorism.”

To wild cheers, Rubio said that if any terrorists survive, we “will bring them to justice in front of a military tribunal in Guantanamo — not a civilian courtroom in Manhattan.”

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner promised that if Republicans gain control of the House in November, he will institute changes to make the chamber’s operations more transparent than it has been under either Democrats or Republicans.

As noted in the Newsmax story "Conservatives Pack Largest-Ever CPAC," attendance at CPAC is up 28 percent over last year. As CPAC participants mill about the massive Wardman Park lobby, they are clearly happier and upbeat. They are intense, and if anything, their intensity has increased since last year as they meet and greet and exchange flyers and cards.

It is easy to find someone to agree with, but in restaurants and in any small alcove, they sit in knots and argue the fine points where they disagree. In the halls, there are talking-points sheets to fill in, “Why are you a conservative?” and cardboard Reagans to stand next to for a photo op.

At the entrance to the exhibit hall, a tea party promoter, wearing period dress and toting a musket, talks up his cause while reminding his listeners of the original Boston one.

The event has 96 co-sponsors this year, including Newsmax.com. Every one offers something at its exhibit table, be it a pamphlet or a Hershey’s Kiss, but some freebies are more attention-getting.

The Americans United for Life offers blue Slinkys. The College Republican National Committee proffers Frisbees, Nerds, and Nestles Crunch, and a table banner for anyone who wants one.

Base Connect has brownies and buttons, and the young man behind the table has a special plastic bag full of “Conservative Chick” buttons he carefully doles out to special someones.

Energetic hawkers find you: “Sir, can I interest you in a free book?” A polite young man wearing a sandwich board holds out a flyer and says, “Stop Internet regs, ma’am?”

Clearly for anyone who wants a table here, word play is a requirement: “Tax Bites,” (Americans for Tax Reform), “I am a Luce Lady” (Claire Booth Luce Policy Institute), and “Government Gone Wild.”

Illustrating the “Government Gone Wild” theme, in a takeoff on “Girls Gone Wild,” the Citizens in Charge people have set up a beach scene with beach chairs and buckets, minus the sand and bikinis, to defend the ballot initiative and referendum process. The beach concept has nothing to do with voting, but it could be a candidate for best booth.

Pamela Kessler contributed to this story.

Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.


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