My day at CPAC in pictures and text (part 2)

When I last left you at CPAC, I was ready to return upstairs to see Sarah Palin (and ran into Dan Bongino in the process.)

But I wanted to digress beforehand and explain a little bit about my vantage point for the event.

When I walked in early on and finally found the media check-in, they gave me this.

CPAC badge

Obviously that gave me floor access, but for most of my time there (except when I walked up to take pictures) I was back in this area.

By the way, the woman sitting in front of me in the multi-colored shirt was my friend Jackie Wellfonder, who was covering CPAC for Viral Read. Nice work for her!

We were segregated into the area – which had some perks, like free coffee and pop – with the one problem being the obstructed view. But we had a good place to work and power to plug in our laptops.

The only complaint I would have was the internet access. It was provided by the TEA Party News Network, which I appreciate. But it was overwhelmed, with the best analogy I could give being that of sending a Yugo to run a NASCAR race.

I would have liked to do more Tweeting from the event, but it simply wasn’t possible.

Since I knew Sarah Palin was slated to speak at noon, I was upstairs a little early. I came back just in time to see a former Democrat speak.

Artur Davis is a former Congressman (and onetime Obama supporter) who has come around to the conservative side. Davis pointed out that the 43 million conservative voters in America are the country’s largest voting bloc. “This is our America too and we are not going anywhere!,” he exclaimed.

At last, Sarah Palin was introduced.

No, that’s not Sarah nor is that a mistakenly-placed picture. “As all of you know, I’m not remotely cool enough to be Sarah Palin,” opened Senator Ted Cruz. “She drives the media batcrap crazy.”

But he stepped out to proclaim that Sarah Palin was among the biggest reasons he was in the Senate. “She picks winners,” said Cruz, citing as examples Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Tim Scott, Pat Toomey, and Nikki Haley in 2010, along with Deb Fischer, Jeff Flake, and Cruz last year.

“I would not be in the Senate today if it weren’t for Governor Sarah Palin,” concluded Cruz. “She is principled, she is courageous, and she is a mama grizzly.”

Palin’s speech has been reviewed as one chock full of one-limers and quips, and it was.

However, she made time for chastising the Senate for not passing a budget. She also pointed out that leaders take risks while campaigners make promises and made the case that “we’ll never win a contest of identity politics.” Sarah also warned us to not let the media intimidate us and had the prescience to quip “the last thing we need is Washington, D.C. vetting our candidates.” She advised the inside-the-Beltway crowd to “get over yourself.”

But Sarah Palin’s seminal moment was the Super Big Gulp. I think the Southland Corporation owes SarahPAC a pretty hefty contribution for the free advertising they received from this one gesture – somewhere around National Harbor a 7-11 should be advertising that they sold Sarah’s Big Gulp. I wondered why the lights were dimmed before Sarah’s performance – the three roadies were delivering her prop.

(The picture is actually a photo of the monitor in front of me at the time.) But my burning question: was it Coke or Pepsi?

After Sarah finished, I decided to do a little more exploring. Going upstairs I saw the screening room for a number of movies sponsored by Citizens United.

There were also breakout sessions going on, like this one wrapping up from TEA Party Patriots.

But the real reason I went there was that a flyer had advised me of a Breitbart News-sponsored event dubbed “The Uninvited.”

I got a picture of Steve King which turned out this time, as he introduced the event by speaking about Andrew Breitbart, a man whose “integrity was essential.” Breitbart’s CEO Larry Silov added that “we mjust be willing to discuss issues.”

This was an event was intended to address some items which weren’t featured prominently enough on the main CPAC stage: global jihad, persecution of Christians, gutting the military, and immigration were cited. Among the “uninvited” speakers was Pamela Geller, who was also featured at Turning the Tides. They had a packed house.

I didn’t stay for the event, which is the thing about CPAC: it’s way more than one person can see. (The same goes for several of the films screened there as well as the breakout sessions, which occur at the same time as speakers and panels downstairs.) The Uninvited event is covered well on Breitbart’s site, though.

Instead, I had a meeting of sorts to attend. Some of you who have seen my Facebook page have already seen this shot.

Allen West and I

When I had stopped by the PJ Media booth earlier, I was told Lt. Col. West would be there at 1:30 and I arrived just in time to be behind Jackie Wellfonder in line. So I took advantage.

By this time, I decided to head back up so I could see Mia Love, a rising star in the conservative movement. But because they were running somewhat behind, I caught some of the stories of the “Conservatives Under 40” featured as a panel.

Next up was a panel headed by former Senate candidate and Hewlitt-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who believed “this is the century of brain power and innovation.” She was joined by Texas Comptroller Susan Combs, who cited the “U-Haul test” and quipped “California is Washington, D.C. is waiting,” and New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce, who asserted that our business is what separates us from South Sudan – they have no “kinetic energy.” The panel eventually suggested that perhaps a million small-business march on Washington may be needed to build awareness of their issues.

Brent Bozell spoke next, pleading his case that we need to stop listening to professional politicians and consultants who are most responsible for our “trainwreck.” He also ticked off a list of things which “aren’t conservative” like the new Ryan budget, House leadership, Jeb Bush, Bob McDonnell (who can “forget his national aspirations”, according to Bozell), and Karl Rove. The mention of Rove drew a chorus of boos from the audience.

We would work with these guys, said Brent, but it would have to be on our terms: “our days of playing second fiddle to moderates are over,” concluded Bozell.

We finally got to listen to Mia Love, who was introduced by comedian Stephen Crowder as a woman “liberals check under their bed for.” Somehow I had a lot of good pictures of her, this was the best.

“The pundits of doom and gloom would have you believe all is lost,” said Mia. But her upbeat message was of great cause of confidence: we can restore our confidence in this country and stand out as examples of what is good and right.

Next up was the final panel of the day. a confab called the CPAC All-Star panel.

I’ll admit that I spent the better part of my time this panel was speaking in writing the first portion of Part 1 of this series, but my ears perked up when Larry O’Connor of Breitbart News mentioned Andy Harris’s evisceration of CDC director Tom Frieden over the effects of the sequester.

After the All-Star Panel concluded its work, Dinesh d’Souza spoke on the upcoming film “America,” which as he stated, highlights the idea of the self-made man. This “couldn’t be more different than Obama’s idea,” which to d’Souza seemed to be one that the free market is a form of theft.

The film will ponder the question “what if America didn’t exist?”

RNC Chair Reince Priebus noted that the “House Republican budget is right for America” while the Democratic budget never balances. He also believed we need to introduce the government to the Tenth Amendment.

“Conservatives have to hold the government accountable,” Priebus concluded. “I applaud the new generation of liberty-minded Republicans.”

NRA head David Keene embraced Priebus after being introduced to speak, saying “he is a guy who gets it.” He also recounted a long history of conservative vs. establishment Republican battles dating back over a half-century and reminded us that 50% of voters under 30 voted for Ron Paul – but party leaders don’t really want voters in their clique, Keene said.

Political movements have two choices, said Keene: they can grow, or they can die. It was interesting to hear a member of the old guard speak to a crowd mainly comprised of those two generations younger, as we shall soon see.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers was another warmup act, one who cautioned us that “for too long we’ve been talking like bookkeepers rather than leaders.” She added, “we need to be the party of the 100 percent.”

After giving out the video of the year award to the University of Georgia College Republicans and the Blogger of the Year award to Katie Pavlich, who accepted the award and told us bloggers “we have the world in front of us to conquer, so let’s do it,” we finally got to one of the last featured speakers.

Ann Coulter was her usual snarky self, particularly snapping at onetime Coulter favorite Chris Christie: “Even CPAC had to cut back on its speakers this year, by about 300 pounds.” Later, when answering an audience question about whether Christie should have been invited to CPAC, Coulter said “I’m now a single-issue voter (on immigration), so Christie is off my list.”

She also made the point of tax hikes, rhetorically asking the question sure to come from the media: Are you saying that you wouldn’t even take $1 in tax increases for every $10 in spending cuts? “See, the problem is, we’re the Indians and the Democrats are Andrew Jackson,” replied Coulter. “We’ve been through this before.”

But she got serious during her remarks, telling the audience “the reason we don’t have the Senate is because Republicans keep screwing up. I can think of about ten Senate seats in the last three election cycles that we’ve pissed away through narcissism, greed, or stupidity.”

“Passion is great, but scoring is all that counts,” said Coulter. “On the basis of this one boneheaded statement by Todd Akin out in Missouri, Democrats finally had their talking point: the Republican were waging a ‘war on women.'”

But, countered Ann, “your average Democrat actually believes things much crazier than Todd Akin – but the Democrats don’t let their candidates open their mouths and say stupid stuff.”

Philosophy is not the Republicans’ problem, though. “Conservatism is about the only thing Republicans have going for them.”

She was also harsh on the pro-amnesty wing of the Republican Party, saying “if amnesty goes through, America becomes California and no Republican will win another national election.” Instead, Republicans shouldn’t be desperate and adopt amnesty because Democrats want it. “People always announce their complete triumph a moment before their crushing defeat,” concluded Ann. “Our job, Republicans, is to insure Democrats have that crushing defeat.”

After Coulter finished, the CPAC straw poll results were announced. What blew me away was the percentage of under-25 people who participated, although it should have been apparent in the crowd. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio paced the field. Coming in a distant third was the top 2012 candidate on the ballot, Rick Santorum. (My vote was among the ‘other’ category, since I preferred Indiana governor Mike Pence.)

Finally, we reached the penultimate speaker, newly elected Senator from Texas Ted Cruz.

In his remarks, it’s noteworthy that Cruz spoke in front of the podium, which to me suggests either he memorized his remarks or spoke completely off the cuff, or both.

He opened up by commenting on being called a ‘wacko bird’ by John McCain: “If standing for liberty makes me a ‘wacko bird’ then count me as a proud ‘wacko bird.'”

Cruz revealed one of the biggest surprises he received upon entering the Senate was their defeatist attitude, as he countered that “for the last three weeks, conservatives have been winning.”

On the Rand Paul filibuster, Ted pointed out that the filibuster drew more support as the night went on. “Each of you engaged,” said Cruz. It was something not seen in a long time – “standing on principle.” Ted also revealed the filibuster was the very first time he had spoken on the Senate floor.

Cruz also believed we were winning on sequestration, based on the lack of reaction to Barack Obama’s “scare America tour.” The sequester was a “small step” in reining in the debt.

As part of that, another victory in Cruz’s book was the vote on an amendment her offered to repeal funding for Obamacare. “Now I’ll confess: a couple weeks ago when I said initially I was going to offer that amendment, more than a few of my colleagues were not thrilled. And yet we saw every single Republican in the Senate vote unanimously to defund Obamacare,” said Cruz. On the other hand, all the Democrats voted to keep Obamacare, “even if it pushes us into a recession,” as Cruz charged.

But the key to continue winning is twofold, to defend the Constitution and champion growth and opportunity. “Defend the Constitution: liberty is under assault from every direction,” stated Ted. He cited threats to several parts of the Bill of Rights, particularly the Second Amendment and the Fourth Amendment. “We need to repeal the NDAA ,” said Cruz to thunderous applause.

He also mentioned threats to our sovereignty. “We (the state of Texas) stood up to the President of the United States – who happened to be a Republican – and I went before the Supreme Court of the United States and said no President, Republican or Democrat, has the Constitutional authority to give away U.S. sovereignty.” Adding that Republicans stand up to Republican presidents, Cruz continued “where were the Democrats when Rand and the rest of us were standing on the floor on drones?”

On growth and opportunity, Cruz charged “we are in the midst of what I call ‘the Great Stagnation.'” Only twice in the postwar era have we seen less than 1 percent growth – from 1979-83 and over the last four years. “Obama didn’t learn the lesson from Reagan,” said Cruz. Instead, we need to embrace “opportunity conservatism,” a philosophy to ease the means of ascent up the economic ladder. To do this, we need to do a laundry list of things: repeal Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, eliminate corporate welfare, build the Keystone pipeline, rein in the EPA, audit the Fed, stop QE infinity, abolish the Department of Education, champion school choice, stand with Israel, and stop sending foreign aid to nations that hate us.

Speaking to the audience, Cruz told us it was up to us to spread the message. “There are no longer gatekeepers that can decide what the American people hear and what they don’t get to hear.”  He named his site as one means of doing so, but concluded by saying “we’re here because we’re not willing to give up on America.”

Okay, I’m out of pictures, but I’m not quite finished yet.

One goal of mine was to meet fellow bloggers and promote my site. I handed out a few dozen business cards, found a couple promising leads for freelance work, and did what networking I could. But perhaps the best part was getting to meet a few of the bloggers I’d read from afar as well as make a couple new acquaintances, such as Bill Hughes, who, like me, drove down to CPAC for the day from New Jersey and was my next-door neighbor for part of the day at the media table, or Deb from Kansas (bloggers would know her as Nice Deb.) That introduction was made as I was talking with Cynthia Yockey, who I met for the first time after being linked to her for quite awhile.

And I’ll be interested to see how I turned out on DaTechGuy‘s video, since I was among the last to be featured. Maybe next year I’ll get some cannoli. I also got to meet a woman whose link from my site, if I’m not mistaken, was her first: Becca Lower from my native state of Ohio. If I heard correctly, she was a CPAC volunteer, which is really cool and commendable.

Nor can I forget some of my biggest fans, who saw me as I walked in the door: Larry and Rosemarie Helminiak spotted me and said hello, which made me feel a little more at home.

So that’s how my day went. Last year I stated making it to CPAC was one of my goals for 2013, and I accomplished it despite the limitations placed on me by my other jobs and funding. Next year, though, I’d like to experience the whole event, an endeavor which could run into the four-figure range depending chiefly on accommodations. 2 1/2 hours each way is a bitch of a commute, as I found.

I don’t normally ask this, but if you liked my coverage of CPAC and want to see more, the best way to insure that is rattling the tip jar early and often. People want to know how the mainstream media can be countered, well, here’s an opportunity to get the straight story if you care to support it.

My day at CPAC in pictures and text (part 1)

Since I took nearly 100 pictures and 36 made the final cut, I decided to make this a two-part post.

Recently having done a stint at the Turning the Tides Conference, I thought I had a little bit of an idea in what to expect from CPAC. But the entirety of the Gaylord Conference Center and the number of celebrities speaking and milling around tells me that I missed a lot when I missed the first two days of the gathering. Yet the one day I managed to be here was well worth my time in learning from and meeting those who move and shake the conservative world.

Walking into the Potomac ballroom I was blown away by the expanse of the venue. Sure, we have some decently-sized conference rooms for our 300-person gatherings for the Maryland Republican Party, but this room could hold a sporting event. If anything, the stage made the speaker look small.

The first speaker I heard upon my arrival and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and invocation was TEA Party pioneer Jenny Beth Martin, who repeated the case I’ve been pleading since the most recent incarnation of the pro-liberty movement was born: conservatives are for limited government, fiscal responsibility, and a thriving free market. Instead, Martin said, they are “mocked, marginalized, and maligned.”

She also added that we’re headed to bankruptcy, with an Affordable Care Act which is “unaffordable, callous, and cruel.”

“The reality today is grim and heartbreaking,” Martin added.

She concluded by asserting, in a rising voice, that liberty will endure – if we fight for freedom. “Our Constitution is worth fighting for, because freedom is worth fighting for.”

Rep. Steve King of Iowa followed Jenny Beth to the podium and made the case that “Obamacare has got to go…we can’t let up.” It erodes our vitality and is an “unconstitutional taking,” according to King. He also criticized the immigration initiatives because, as King claimed, 2 out of 3 illegal aliens are Democrats “and the Democrats know this.”

King called on us to “restore the pillars of American exceptionalism…we’ve got a country to rebuild together.”

I should point out that I had pictures of these two speakers and they didn’t make the cut. But this guy made the cut.

Wisconsin is a state which has a leader, said emcee Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, and Governor Scott Walker detailed a number of ways he’s indeed led.

Harkening back to recent initiatives, Walker noted welfare reform and tax reform originated in the states. And just as the states created the federal government, the 30 states with GOP governors – most of which also have Republican-led legislatures – can improvise with good, conservative ideas. But Walker made the point that “to be successful, we have to be optimistic, relevant, and courageous.” It’s obviously working in Wisconsin, where 93 percent of the state said it was heading in the right direction. “We’re the ones who care about fixing things,” he added.

Walker was ready with a number of examples of poor policy, like the first-year Milwaukee teacher who was selected as their teacher of the year but furloughed because she was at the bottom of the seniority chain. His union reforms eliminated that problem. The overall idea, continued Walker, was to replace the narrative that a successful government was one which created dependents with one which made the case that government works when it assists people to wean themselves off dependence by making it easier to get a job.

“In America, we celebrate the Fourth of July, not April 15,” shouted Walker. “We believe in the people, not the government!”

And then came Newt – a guy who only needs one name to convey who I’m speaking about.

Gingrich addressed the concept of government needing to be pioneers of the future, and get out of being prisoners of the past. As a movement our contrast with President Obama “couldn’t be more vivid.”

But he saved withering criticism for the “Republican establishment class,” which “couldn’t be more wrong.” Holding up a candle and light bulb, Newt chided Washington as “being prisoners of the past…they’re all trapped in the age of candles.” Both parties in Washington are blind to the future, though.

Interestingly enough, Newt promoted a book by a liberal author, the former mayor of San Francisco and now lieutenant governor of California, Gavin Newsom. But Citizenville was a book “every conservative should read” because it promoted a more active citizenry. Gingrich used the analogy of the Facebook game Farmville, with the idea being earning rewards for public-spirited achievement rather than planting virtual crops.

Newt also took a swipe at the establishment wing of the party, saying that since 1976 “the dominant wing (of the GOP) has learned nothing.” Nor should we be strictly the anti-Obama movement, said Newt.

The powerful morning lineup of featured speakers concluded with Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, the 2012 Presidential hopeful whose campaign flamed out after a great summer of 2011.

She explained about the TEA Party movement “we love people in this country…we want everyone to succeed in this country.” As key parts of that success, Michele believed there were a lot of goals we could accomplish “if we put our minds to it” such as cutting the price of gasoline to $2 a gallon, preserving our Second Amendment rights “for your sister and your mother,” and most ambitiously finding a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease in the next decade. The key wasn’t big government, she argued, but “big innovation.”

Bachamnn also chided the inefficiencies of government, pointing out that for every $10 spent on food stamps only $3 goes to recipients while the other $7 goes to bureaucrats. She also dubbed the Obama presidency as “a life of excess.”

In the hardest-hitting portion of her remarks, Michele savaged Barack Obama for the “shameful incident” of Benghazi. “This is a story of not caring,” Bachmann said. Because (Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, the two ex-Navy SEALs killed at Benghazi) cared, they defied orders and they chose to go to the aid of their brothers…they fought for our country.”

As the attack raged on, “they continued to radio their government begging for help,” charged Bachmann, “and that help never came.” This despite the fact President Obama knew of the attack within its first hour, she continued.

“A war was raging in Benghazi for hours, and all we know is that our President went AWOL,” she continued to a chorus of boos and catcalls for Obama. “No one knows to this day where the President was.”

Of all the Saturday speeches I heard, Bachmann’s was perhaps the most critical of Barack Obama.

After she finished, I decided to skip the next panel and head out to explore a little. I hadn’t really had the chance to walk around as I arrived shortly before the proceedings began. It was a crowded lobby to be sure.

This space also featured the famous “Radio Row” I’d only heard about, although on a Saturday morning it wasn’t as busy.

The TEA Party Patriots were busy doing a radio show, though. (Actually, it may have been just before or just after this video was done. The blond gentleman in the background of my picture is Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit.)

There were a few television broadcasts in various stages of production, such as those of Hot Air.

Also working on content was the TEA Party News Network, who thankfully sponsored the internet access (more on that in part 2.)

Further down Radio Row, another start-up operation was making itself known to the broadcasting world.

Later in the day, it was announced that One America News Network would make its debut July 4 of this year. “We will be the platform for the conservative message,” said OANN’s Graham Ledger. He cautioned, though, that cable systems “will resist putting on a conservative news network.”

Once I made my way down the hall and down a level, I was at the entrance of the exhibit hall. I didn’t count them, but there were probably over 100 groups exhibiting their wares. By the time I was through, the swag bag I received at the entrance was very full (I took the picture when I got home.)

The exhibit hall was fairly expansive as well.

Here was a group I think needs further investigation. Unfortunately, there was no one there to explain the concept to me. From what I gather, it’s a database of conservative companies to support.

Another group I’d love to have seen a representative of was this one. Maybe their volunteer (or intern) had an encounter with some union thugs.

I got to talk with this group, though. They represent an outfit I’ve referenced a lot over the years.

A newer but very nice organization has been referenced on this site since its formation. Unfortunately, in missing Friday I missed a chance to talk with its founder.

Someone else who might be on the 2016 ballot had some unofficial help. These were placed on a side table, but not many were wearing them that I saw.

There was also an area in the exhibit hall for book signings. When I was down there, Newt and Callista Gingrich were signing their tomes with Ellis the Elephant looking on.

Some people simply took the opportunity to relax and take a quick break in the CPAC Lounge. They could watch the action upstairs on the monitors.

Just like them, I’m going to rhetorically relax and take a break, since this seems like a nice dividing point. Part 2 will be up tomorrow morning.