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CAN’T MAKE CPAC?

A certain melancholia can descend upon conservatives who just can’t get to the annual CPAC gathering, when some 10,000 political luminaries, grass- roots patriots, old school Reaganites, rambunctious bloggers and media titans assemble to reinforce and reinvent the conservative movement. CPAC is a traditional ritual. But it’s supercharged this year, ablaze with urgency and a renewed sense of mission.

“We have the opportunity to steer America back in the right direction, and it begins right now, right here, at CPAC 2012. Our urgency is real because our nation is at a crisis point,” says American Conservative Union president Al Cardenas.

But alas, you just can’t make it. Never fear. Mr. Cardenas and company are there for those pining to be a part of things. All main-stage programming will be live streamed at www.cpac.org. The entire agenda for the event is posted as well. In addition, C-SPAN offers extensive coverage of myriad events, as well as archival videos of past meetings.

Don’t miss the big finales. The results of the annual CPAC straw poll — which is sponsored by The Washington Times, incidentally — will be revealed at 4:15 p.m. on Saturday, to be followed by a speech by Sarah Palin and a fond farewell by Mr. Cardenas.

LOGO LOGIC

Rep. Randy J. Forbes, Virginia Republican, and a group of 35 other lawmakers now have some help in their quest to persuade Air Force Secretary Michael Donley to reverse a decision to remove “God” from the logo of the Rapid Capabilities Office. The reference to the Creator was dropped after the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers complained about the logo.

Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, is asking the group’s 2 million supporters to contact Mr. Donley and urge him to reverse the decision, and restore the logo.

“Unfortunately, under Secretary Donley, the Air Force is quickly becoming the military’s leader in trampling religious symbols, emblems and freedoms from the armed services. Last year, the Air Force banned a class on the Christian-based ‘Just War Theory’ because the class used verses from the Bible,” Mr. Wildmon notes.

CANDIDATE TRACKER

Three Republican presidential hopefuls get their CPAC duties behind them quickly. Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich speechify on Friday, then it’s off to other things. Mr. Romney, for example, speaks at 1 p.m., then heads to a town meeting in Portland, Maine, that begins at 5 p.m.

And the big, decisive events? They are getting fewer. The next presidential debate is still scheduled Feb. 22 in Arizona followed by another on March 1 in Georgia, both broadcast on CNN. Rival MSNBC, however, has canceled a March 5 debate scheduled at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

KING PIN

He is plainspoken and ready to rumble. Rep. Peter T. King, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, once again plans a series of hearings to access the safety of, well, the homeland. Hollywood is included on the New York Republican’s agenda.

Indeed, key priorities include radicalization within the Muslim-American community, the “looming Iranian terror threat,” security at the summer Olympics, and the presence of Islamist money in the U.S. Mr. King also says he’ll examine “potential leaks of classified information regarding sensitive counterterrorism operations, from Hollywood to Guantanamo Bay, that could endanger the lives of our intelligence officers and special operators, their families, and the homeland.”

The first full hearing convenes Wednesday, with an appearance of Homeland Security Secretary Janet A. Napolitano.

ON THE RADAR

Attention has already turned to March, when the U.S. Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of certain elements of President Obama ‘s health care bill. Americans for Prosperity is already planning a “Hands Off My Health Care” rally for free-market grass-roots activists outside the Court on March 27. They are old hands at such fare, having already hosted some 300 events to voice concerns about health care reform. This one, they say, is a biggie.

“We must remind the court and all of Washington that the president’s health care takeover is an affront to free-market principles and our Constitution,” says Tim Phillips, president of the organization.

See details here: www.americansforprosperity.com.

MEDIA WRANGLER

CPAC is big, but the Republican National Convention, scheduled for late August in Tampa, is a behemoth, attracting 50,000 people, not to mention 14,000 journalists. And someone has to manage the press and their demands for access, camera positions and state-of-the art workspaces, among many other things. That task now falls to Julie Shugar, newly named director of media operations for the three-day extravaganza.

Interesting to note what kind of credentials lands someone in the ultimate behind-the-scenes role. Ms. Shugar previously served as media director during the 2004 and 2008 Republican National Conventions, was in key roles supporting media operations in 1996 and 2000. Oh, and she was also assistant clerk of the House of Representatives, worked for the Republican National Committee and was a political appointee at the Department of Health and Human Services in the George H. W. Bush administration.

POLL DU JOUR

• $17.6 billion: the amount Americans will spend on Valentine’s Day this year.

• $4.1 billion of that amount is spent on jewelry, $3.5 billion on special evenings out, $1.8 billion on flowers, $1.5 billion on candy, c $1.4 billion on clothing and $1.1 billion on cards.

• $126.03: the amount the average person will spend on friends, family and loved ones.

• $168.74: the amount men will spend on clothing, jewelry, candy and greeting cards.

• $85.76: the amount women will spend on such items.

• $76.12: the amount average Americans spend on their spouse or significant other.

• $4.52: The amount they will spend on their pet.

Source: A National Retail Federation survey of 9,317 U.S. consumers conducted Jan. 4 to 11 and released Feb. 1.

Tip line always open at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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