- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 5, 2014

In years past, the Conservative Action Political Conference — CPAC — has proved a model of management and organization. Doubtless, it will again when the three-day event gets rolling bright and early Thursday. Ah, but it’s an art too. Consider that organizers must graciously wrangle 200 high profile and celebrity speakers, on time and in order, before thousands of often emotional guests without compromising substance, content and dramatic effect. It’s like clockwork. Those speakers stride on the mammoth CPAC stage with ringing introductions suiting their station in the conservative cosmos. The music blares, the jumbotrons flare with patriotic colors and the orators hold forth for their allotted moments before they are escorted off, Academy Awards style, as out of sight producers and directors anxiously watch the timing clock tick.

The speakers, introduced by folks who are famous in their own right, have grace as well. Think of it. The hottest of the hotshots are confined to a few precious minutes before an intense and appreciative audience. No one gets cranky, though. Why, even Sen. Ted Cruz, who staged a 21-hour filibuster before Congress last year, only gets 14 minutes. The Texas Republican is first in the starting line-up and goes on at precisely 9 a.m., but only after an opening greeting from American Conservative Union executive director Daniel Schneider, a prayer, the presentation of colors and the National Anthem.

Then it’s Cruz Time.

Next up to the podium? That would be Reps. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania followed by Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, then a triple appearance by Washington Times opinion editor David Keene, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and commentator George Will. They will parse out the question “Does the U.S. Congress Matter Anymore?” Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and former U.N. ambassador John Bolton follow.

Which takes the audience up to 10:25 a.m. And that’s just on the main stage. There are more than a dozen other assorted rooms, spaces, “hubs” and exhibit halls in the host hotel, a dramatic site on the very banks of the Potomac River. Yes, C-SPAN is there, broadcasting live from the site almost all day, beginning at 8:45 a.m. ET., with additional coverage to follow.

THE FEISTY MR. ISSA

Not long ago, an adviser to Rep. Darrell Issa advised The Beltway, that as far as he could tell, GOP voters were looking for a “fighter” who could articulate a message and take up a cause. Yes, well, Capitol Hill got a little dose of that Wednesday after the California Republican essentially closed down an IRS hearing, cutting off microphones and bristling at his opponents. No curtain calls, though.

The press was only too delighted to review the moments like performance art. A selection of headlines that followed: “Issa silences Democrats and hits a new low” (The Washington Post), “Issa holds absurd IRS hearing” (Huffington Post), Issa is out-political-theatered (The Wire), “IRS hearing explodes” (Politico), “Issa shuts down his own IRS hearing” (MSNBC), “Scream-fest at IRS hearing” (Examiner.com)

A CPAC-IAN COINCIDENCE

Former conservative talk radio host Rusty Humphries — who just joined the Washington Times this week as a video journalist — is also serving as emcee at two CPAC events called “Washington Times Idol”, a politicized and likely rambunctious version of “American Idol.”

Young and aspiring journalists will compete to discover who is the best among them by interviewing the likes of the aforementioned David Keene, The Times’ chief political writer Ralph Hallow and former U.S. Senate hopeful Christine O’Donnell. The two winners receive a paid internship at the Times; the competitors have five minutes on stage.

“This is an interesting moment for me,” Mr. Humphries tells Inside the Beltway. “Way back in 1992, I had an intern myself. Sent him for coffee, sent him on errands. He was 16, a go-getter, and his name was Ryan Seacrest. Yes, that Ryan Seacrest, now host of ‘American Idol.’ Now I call him Mr. Seacrest. And he won’t take my calls. So I must say, I believe the student has eclipsed the master.”

WHO GETS THE $200 MILLION?

Dallas, Denver, Phoenix? Maybe it’s Las Vegas, Kansas City or Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland, the three gems of Ohio. It’s come down to these eight cities. Which will host the 2016 Republican National Convention, which typically means a $200 million economic boost and 45,000 eager visitors for the winning town?

In a cunning little move, the Republican National Committee is asking for public input.

“Your opinion matters as conservatives make history in 2016. Which city do you think should host the next Republican National Convention? Cast your vote to make your voice heard?” the party asks.

Interesting choice of wording. “Conservatives.” Hmm. Find the ballot here: Gop.com

VLADIMIR, PETER, ET AL.

When the pundits finish with a big fat media event, the historians often take over. Such is the case with Russian President Vladimir Putin, now drawing academic commentary.

“Putin may be brutal and dictatorial, but he is pursuing what he sees as his nation’s interest, that is, to re-establish Russian power in the area of the former Soviet Union, if not beyond,” says Barry Strauss, a Cornell University history professor.

“He is following the traditional, expansionist Russian policy of Peter the Great. From the peaceful perspective of today’s United States or Western Europe that seems totally out of place, if not mad,” Mr. Strauss explains. “Yet it remains to be seen if Putin will pay much of a price for his actions. Until and unless he meets more resistance than he has so far, he is unlikely to stop.”

His colleague Valerie Bunce, a professor of international studies and government on the campus, has an alternative take.

“Putin is gambling that, with this military intervention in Crimea, he can undermine the new government in Ukraine, generate the very chaos that justifies his illegal actions in Ukraine while encouraging Russians to support him and fear unrest in their own country,” she says.

“By sending Russian troops to Crimea in the south of Ukraine, while encouraging protests in eastern Ukraine, Putin is doing his best to render Ukraine as unstable — as Russian propaganda has already claimed. Thus, his aggressive actions, while certainly violating international law, are building a case for those actions,” Ms. Bunce adds.

“In the process, while Putin wins political support at home and lays the groundwork for a return of Crimea to Russia.”

POLL DU JOUR

68 percent of Americans say that they are now inclined “to look around” rather than re-elect their current representative in Congress.

69 percent of Republicans and 54 percent of Democrats agree.

46 percent overall would vote for the Democratic candidate, if the election were held today.

92 percent of Republicans and 5 percent of Republicans agree.

45 percent overall would vote for the Republicans candidate; 92 percent of Republicans and 4 percent of Democrats agree.

48 percent say the Democratic Party is “in touch with the American people”; 19 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Democrats agree.

28 percent overall say Republicans are in touch with the American people; 57 percent of Republicans and 12 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Washington Post/ABC News poll of 1,002 U.S. adults conducted Feb. 27-March 2.

Polite applause, caterwaul to jharper@washingtontimes.com; follow her at Twitter.com/harperbulletin

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