Inside the Beltway: The dawn of CPAC

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One thing’s for sure about the Conservative Political Action Conference, which begins Thursday. It starts bright and early at 8 a.m. sharp, and on a note of traditional patriotism and respectful gravitas, countering critics at Politico who already have declared that “CPAC muddle mirrors GOP mess,” and deemed the event a “carnival.”

Yes, well. Carnivals and muddles do not begin with a daily call to order, an invocation, a presentation of colors, the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance — all before American Conservative Union Chairman Al Cardenas even utters a single welcoming remark.


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The opening decorum repeats through Saturday, bristling with optimism. This is not a gathering for those who pine to prattle about politics over vanilla lattes in midmorning. When the 40th annual CPAC closes at dusk Saturday, some 389 speakers will have said their piece to thousands of concerned conservatives intent on revitalizing their cause with good cheer, sound bearings and, yes, hard work.

And about those early hours. It is interesting to note the heavy hitters who appear before lunch, or even brunch.

Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, Allen B. West, Sen. Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, and Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Steve King of Iowa will be on the main stage Thursday before 10 a.m. On Friday, none other than Donald Trump will be holding forth at 8:45. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is up to bat 15 minutes later, along with Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Reps. Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Paul Ryan of Wisconsin — all before 10 a.m. on Saturday is no different. First out of the chute in the early a.m.: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Newt Gingrich and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota take the stage by 9:45 a.m.

Party-minded liberals, meanwhile, don’t have a monopoly on attracting the young and restless. On tap for Friday night: a “speed-networking event for future conservative power players” complete with “Obama zombies,” makeup artists, free food and drink, and a sponsorship that includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the 60 Plus Association and GOPUSA.

BASHING CPAC

Oh, such an inviting, convenient target. Politico is not the only news organization attacking long-lived CPAC on its 40th anniversary event, staged with panache and nerve in a sparkling hotel on the shores of the Potomac River. There is a media pile-on under way. Among the headlines:

“Does CPAC matter anymore?” (The Washington Post), “CPAC 2013: A rogue’s gallery of smear merchants (Media Matters for America), “The new March Madness: The CPAC guest list” (The Huffington Post), “Don’t Go to CPAC, conservatives” (Bloomberg News), “The heresy-hunters of CPAC” (The Daily Beast), “On eve of CPAC, GOP searches for identity” (NBC News).

HOT FOR THE COLD WAR

There’s a cultural trend of note: “nostalgia for safer dangers.” So says Anton Fedyashin, executive director of American University’s Initiative for Russian Culture, who also teaches a course called “The Cold War and the Spy Novel” that includes the work of Ian Fleming, Graham Greene, Len Deighton and John Le Carre. The class is filled to capacity with students curious, if not fascinated, by Cold War-era stereotypes and misrepresentations, Mr. Fedyashin says.

But something more is afoot.

“Resurrecting shadows of the Cold War is part of a nostalgia for safer dangers and more predictable opponents. The dangers of the Cold War notwithstanding, the USSR was run by people who shared elements of the same mentality with their Western opponents. This is no longer the case with other geopolitical groups, such as Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organizations in the Middle East,” the professor says.

“The West could negotiate with the Soviets. Thousands of scattered individual suicide bombers and planted IEDs are much less amenable to rational engagement.”

OLBERMANN VS GORE

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