Old Glory is a presence at the Conservative Political Action Conference. There are four immense American flags surrounding the main stage where all things CPAC transpire. There's some magic here of the Reagan variety.
This is a rare place where Sen. Rand Paul grins and says, "Hey, they only gave me a measly 11 minutes" when he's accustomed to 13 hours. It is place where Sen. Marco Rubio looks out knowingly across an immense audience that hangs on his every word, and brings down the house by observing, "Water has never been so popular."
The Republicans from Kentucky and Florida, respectively, are on very friendly turf.
For three days, thousands of buoyant conservatives of every age and persuasion wander the grand halls of the big hotel a few miles from the nation's capital, site of the 40th annual CPAC. They wear dark suits, they clutch the precious bundles of handouts from activist groups, publishers, think tanks. The crowd is accented by the occasional rogue in colonial garb, or a fedora. The crush of folks ebbs and flows; Internet connections sag and balk as thousands of fingers tap out missives into the din of social media.
Everyone waits for the big names, who appear like clockwork on that big stage, larger than life on twin Jumbotrons, hustled onstage and off by knowing handlers.
American Conservative Union Chairman Al Cardenas has a hearty smile.
"It's going great so far," he tells Inside the Beltway. "I'd rate it a 9.5 right now. Pretty good for the first day of the festivities."
Republicans and conservatives will spend much of their time reaffirming their beliefs, and inventing some new ones during their time here.
"We're not going to work out all the kinks in the next two days," Allen B. West tells Inside the Beltway.
"But I think we have a true, authentic message here about fundamental values, about the future of the Republican Party, and the future of the nation. And after this is all over, it's vital we get that message out — to Detroit, to Seattle and every place in between. That's the next part of this mission," the former Florida congressman concludes.
Civility has not been left by the wayside in the great rush to 2014, and beyond. Though much coverage of CPAC has verged on mockery in the mainstream press, some plan to take the high road, and get things done. Adultlike.
"In order to work together with people you disagree with, there has to be mutual respect. That means I respect people that disagree with me on certain things, but they have to respect me, too," Sen. Marco Rubio told his audience.
"Just because I believe that states should have the rights to define marriage in a traditional way does not make me a bigot. Just because we believe that life, all life, all human life is worthy of protection of every stage in its development does not make you a chauvinist."
"The popular media narrative is that this country has shifted away from conservative ideals, as evidenced by the last two presidential elections. That's what they think. That's what they say. That might be true if Republicans had actually nominated conservative candidates in 2008 and 2012."
— Texas Gov. Rick Perry, from the main stage of CPAC on Thursday.
Acerbic comedian and late-night host Bill Maher embarks on a 25-city tour March 23, bound for destinations that include Alaska, Las Vegas and Atlantic City. The tour theme: "Making Back My Million."
Notes his PR team: "The title is, of course, a tongue and cheek reference to the million dollar donation Bill made last year to Obama's re-election effort."
TERRI SCHIAVO REMEMBERED
"The national controversy that erupted over the court-ordered decision that ended Terri Schiavo's life by removing her feeding tube in 2005 has been channeled into a positive effort of awareness, education and advocacy," say organizers of a new outreach that has named April 5 as "Terri's Day."
Sarah Palin will appear at the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network's Award Gala in Philadelphia to mark the event; Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of the archdiocese of Philadelphia will celebrate "The National Memorial Mass for Terri's Day" at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.
"Terri's life and legacy continue to live on, as our nation is now aware of the immediate threat placed upon the hundreds of thousands of persons with cognitive disabilities," says her brother Bobby Schindler, executive director of the network.
"We invite churches to hold memorial services and to educate their congregations about the dignity of every human life, despite any disability or disease," he says. "We encourage the media and educational institutions to help dispel the myths and inaccuracies about Terri's life and death by providing accurate, factual information. And we invite all people to reflect on the ethical considerations of caring for the weak and vulnerable."
POLL DU JOUR
• 69 percent of Americans don't know enough about sequestration to judge if it will affect them personally; 47 percent of Republicans and 62 percent of Democrats agree.
• 55 percent of Americans overall don't know enough about sequestration to judge its impact on the nation; 39 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of Democrats agree.
• 27 percent overall say sequestration is "a bad thing" for the nation; 22 percent of Republicans and 28 percent of Democrats agree.
• 17 percent overall say sequestration is "a good thing"; 27 percent of Republicans and 8 percent of Democrats agree.
Source: A Gallup poll of 1,022 U.S. adults conducted March 11 and 12.
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