The Weirdness That Is CPAC: A Liberal’s Look

CPAC weirdness: A liberal's look at the Right's annual gathering. CPAC 2013 booth with fetal models.

Let’s take a look at CPAC, a yearly gathering for America’s conservatives. It’s a scary picture, but as the old adage goes, ‘know thine enemy…’ and laugh. Photo of CPAC 2013 booth with fetal models from Twitter.

CPAC’s guest list is a who’s who of right-wingers.

The Conservative Political Action Committee is meeting this weekend in Washington, D.C., as they do every year. CPAC guests so far have included Ted Cruz (whose speech on Thursday was red and meaty), Mitch McConnell (who waved a gun around trying to look bad-ass), Bobby Jindal, Donald Trump (really? can’t you stop encouraging him?), Paul Ryan (who thinks kids should starve to feel loved) and Mike Lee (Cruz’s sidekick). Still to come are Rick Perry, John Cornyn, Oliver North, Rand Paul, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann and (of course) Sarah Palin. Lo0k for remarks from these brain trust members over the next few days.

Many other right-wing “heroes” will be signing books at CPAC. Dr. Ben Carson will be there as will Christine O’Donnell (remember her? no, she’s definitely not a Witch; we wouldn’t have her). John Bolton is there shilling his book, Surrender Is Not An Option (but being a chickenhawk is!). Yes, the whole hee-haw gang is there with their ghostwritten books so that the RWNJs can spend money on signed stacks of paper that they will never read. Because reading is elitist, dammit!

Here’s Cenk Uygur from Young Turks’ take on Sen. Mitch McConnell’s special CPAC moment.


Panels range from crazy to batshit crazy.

The panels and discussion groups are always the most fun thing at CPAC… at least, for those of us who write about it. Because it is here where the average right-winger gets to make an ass of himself speak out. Who can forget about the guy who defended slavery in a forum on racial tolerance last year? We can tell why that didn’t happen at this year’s minority outreach panel:

John Hudak's Tweet: Big problem for GOP. Most important #CPAC2014 Panel. Topic: minority outreach. View: largely empty room.

John Hudak’s Tweet: Big problem for GOP. Most important #CPAC2014 Panel. Topic: minority outreach. View: largely empty room.

We all know that minorities are very important to the GOP. But their constituents? Not so much. In fact, they never met a minority they didn’t hate (or want to keep from voting).

Some of the panels and discussions look like they would be fun simply for the amount of crazy that will be on display. Here are a few that look interesting:

Does the U.S. Congress Matter Anymore? Executive Orders AND the Hopelessness of EVER Curtailing Federal Spending.

Since Congress can never cut federal spending, should we stop caring about who’s elected to Congress? President Obama is paving the way toward severely altering the balance of powers  – can he be stopped? CAN Congress ever reassert itself? This is moderated by David Keene of The Washington Times. On the panel: Tom Coburn and George Will.

You have to admire the use of the word “hopelessness.” It gives the whole thing a lovely air of depression and self-hatred, exactly what CPAC needs. Gotta love the words they CAPITALIZED, too. Does Congress matter anymore? After all, they don’t really get much done nowadays. And President Obama just ignores them anyway. Except when he’s trying to work with them on repairing the economy. Or immigration. Or healthcare. Or infrastructure. The truth of the matter is that Executive Orders were more predominant during Bush II’s presidency. But don’t bother CPAC people with  the facts. Listen, if Congress doesn’t matter anymore, it’s their own fault for turning both chambers into ground zero for stubborn childishness.

Healthcare After ObamaCare: A Practical Guide for Living When No One Has Insurance and America Runs Out of Doctors.

The new medical realities we all face: Rationing, denial of care, doctor shortages and a loss of religious liberty under Obamacare. Moderated by Amy Frederick of the 60 Plus Association. Panel: Sen. John Barrasso (WY), Alex Smith (College Republicans Chair), Rep. Tom Price (GA) and Ken Blackwell (Prof. at Liberty U. School of Law).

This is the “oh noes, Obamacare!” panel of CPAC. And it runs in two parts! Gotta get all that fear-mongering in there, I guess. Rationing? They must mean like insurance companies used to do before the ACA. Denial of care? Also something prevalent before the ACA. Doctor shortages? An effective fear tactic, but that’s all it is. Loss of religious liberty? Oh, right. That means that employers won’t be able to force their religious morals on their employees when it comes to contraception. No, that’s not a “loss of religious liberty.” That’s drawing a line between employers and employees. What employees decide about their family planning is none of their employers’ business. Suck it up, prudes.

The American Dream vs. The Obama Nightmare: Income Inequality.

Why has President Obama given up on the American Dream in favor of income redistribution? Moderated by Al Cardenas, Chairman of the American Conservative Union. Panel: Evan Sayet (Author, Kinder Garden of Eden), Rich Lowry (National Review) and Steve Scalise (Republican Study Committee on House of Representatives).

In which a quartet of rich people kvetch about how terrible it is that the unwashed masses would dare to want a piece of The American Dream™. After all, they didn’t inherit it from their billionaire daddies, as it should be. Attendees will receive a special CPAC pin reading, “I stand up for the rich (even though I’m poor and always will be).”

What’s the Deal with Global Warming?

An Al Gore fever dream? Real but with caveats? Real but irrelevant? Moderated by Joe Bast of The Heartland Institute (not a scientist). Panel: Steve Milloy (Murray Energy Corp., not a scientist), Marc Morano (Climate Depot, not a scientist), Dr. Marlo Lewis (Enterprise Institute, not a scientist), George Landrith (Frontiers of Freedom, not a scientist) and Shannon Smith (Abundant Power Group, definitely not a scientist).

So we have here a panel of non-scientists, all of whom work for or represent climate change deniers and their companies. So, what is the deal with global warming? Why is it snowing outside if the globe is warming? Why do I get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to spread misinformation about climate change? Where is Australia and why is it hot there? That ruins my talking point about snow! Why do I hate this planet? Why do I hate myself and work to destroy this planet? Eh. Money talks. And at CPAC it’s really, really loud.

Rocky Mountain High: Does Legalized Pot Mean Society’s Going Up In Smoke?

Moderated by Rep. Janak Joshi (CO House of Representatives). Panel: Mary Katharine Ham (Editor,

How many outdated pop culture references can we use in a snappy title for this “panel?” Two people whom one can only listen to if one is too baked to care. I wonder if they had munchies at this one? Note that the actual “panel” consists of one person. Maybe everyone else can read the tea leaves and understand that decriminalization of pot = new revenue stream. At CPAC, money always wins (see rich people panel).

Can Libertarians and Social Conservatives Ever Get Along?

Is there common ground between the two most energetic wings of the movement? Moderated by Tom Minnery (Citizen Link). Panel: Dr. Matt Spalding (Allan P. Kirby Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies & Citizenship), Matt Welch (Reason Magazine), Michael Medved and Alexander McCobin (Students For Liberty).


After Obama, Day 1: What Are the Big Alternative Ideas Conservatives Should Present as Obama’s Term Ends?

Moderated by Matt Schlapp (Cover Strategies). Panel: John Allison (CATO), Lawson Bader (Competitive Enterprise Institute), Scooter Libby (lulz) and Tom Fitton (Judicial Watch).

Do Conservatives even have “big alternative ideas?” Because they haven’t had a very good track record on this. Their “big alternative ideas” have consisted of big stupid ideas like the Iraq war. Or making sure that Obama is a one-term president. Those didn’t work out very well for them. And what the hell is Scooter Libby doing on this panel? Maybe his “big idea” is to out every CIA agent in the agency. While that would qualify as “big” and even an “idea,” I think it would end poorly for them. No, we’ve seen what happens when conservatives have “big alternative ideas.” Those never seem to work for us, either.

Can America Survive Obama’s War on Fossil Fuel?

America’s energy future: North American fossil fuel fortress? Is there a role for the federal government? Can we recover from Obama’s alternative energy frauds? Moderated by Becky Norton Dunlop (The Heritage Foundation). Panel: Tom Pyle (American Energy Alliance), Alex Epstein (Center for Industrial Progress), Charles Gerow (Quantum Communications) and William Perry (author, Sagebrush Rebel).

The feel-good panel of the CPAC weekend, where representatives of Big Oil get to bitch and moan. That they are starting from a false premise doesn’t matter. They want to whine and, by god, they’re going to do it! Attendees will get a coupon for 10 cents off their next fill-up. So generous!

More Guns, Less Crime: How Law Enforcement is Beginning to Embrace a Well-Armed Civilian Population.

The police have discovered that guns in the hands of law-abiding Americans may be the best defense against guns in the hands of criminals. Moderated by Chris Cox (NRA, of course). Panel: Emily Miller (The Washington Times), David Clarke (Sheriff, Milwaukee County, WI) and Sandy Adams (former U.S. Representative, FL).

Because we all know that more guns are the answer to gun violence. Despite a Buzzfeed article full of half-truths, armed citizens have not prevented mass shootings. Out of the 9 examples Buzzfeed gave, Slate notes, only one was a verifiable prevention of a crime by an ordinary citizen. Now, do a Google search on accidental shootings, Heck, do a search here on Addicting Info: three pages dealing with accidental shootings. Can law-abiding citizens prevent crime? Sure. But the ratio of that sort of thing happening when compared to accidental shootings is very lop-sided. But that’s okay by CPAC attendees. Because ‘murica and gunz!

Why Conservatism is Right for Women: How Conservatives Should Talk About Life, Prosperity & National Security.

The real war is the fight against ideological stereotypes. Moderated by Tammy Bruce (The Washington Times). Panel: Kate Obenshain (Author, Divider-in-Chief), Crystal Wright (, Sabrina Schaeffer (Independent Women’s Forum) and State Rep. Marilinda Garcia (NH).

The obligatory “women like us, too” panel tries to explain why conservatism isn’t hostile to women. Those restrictive abortion laws? Not the “real” war. The refusal to make women’s pay equal to men’s? Not the “real” war. The fight to control contraception? Not the “real” war. No, to CPAC attendees the “real” war is the left’s insistence on pointing these things out. That darned “liberal media,” how dare they point out that we really want to have all women turn into Stepford wives!

More wacky CPAC fun!

There are also lots of workshops at CPAC. Most of them deal with working social media to one’s advantage or how to be big man on campus/in the campaign. Oh, and a “tribute” to Firing Line, which is a “debate” between Ann Coulter and Mickey Kaus. I’m sure that William F. Buckley would be begging for earplugs after 5 minutes if he were still alive, As it is, he’ll be spinning in his grave enough to power a small city.

The CPAC entertainment — and I use that term loosely — appears to be supplied by Big Dawg Music. I wasn’t sure exactly what kind of music one gets from people who hold Andrew Brietbart up as a “General.”  Then I watched this video and, after I stopped laughing, decided that it’s the sort of music I don’t like. Well, here… you give it a listen:


Are you okay? Sorry you had to see that. But now we have an answer. And it’s not pretty.

You can take a look at the CPAC schedule here. It makes for a fascinating glimpse at the psyche of those who attend CPAC. It’s a scary picture but one we need to examine. As the old adage goes, Know Thine Enemy. And then laugh.