The excitement is underwhelming. Beginning on Thursday prospective 2016 presidential candidates will come together in Maryland for three days in a classic Republican affair. The speeches will be many while each candidate will attempt to win over the audience. What no one will hear is ideas which would make the party more credible. What everyone will hear, bringing a room of old white men to their feet, is continual bashing of President Obama and his policies.
CPAC began as a small gathering of influential Republicans, but has now become an Amway convention. It is no more than a party for wealthy individuals who want to become more wealthy. Emotions will rise as slogans and catch phrases abound.
Let’s look at who finances the conference. Major contributors are lobbyists and Political Action Committees; the National Rifle Association, the Heritage Foundation, the Trump Organization, and the Motion Picture Association of America. True Americans none; members of the one-percent, many.
It’s difficult to determine if the probable candidates consider this conference an opportunity to convince voters of their qualifications or merely a chance to acquire donors for their campaigns.
CPAC has become an event inviting stunts and attacks; it has little or no substance. This is where Mitch McConnell waved a musket around in support of the lobby/financier NRA. This is where half-governor Sarah Palin drank a ‘Big Gulp’ on stage mocking New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg who attempted to make a stand against obesity. This is where lucky attendees are forced to listen to the inane ramblings of Donald Trump, who financially supports the conference simply to be allowed to have his ten minutes of fame. (I have a dream ticket; Donald Trump for president and Sarah Palin for vice-president).
Reports say that Republicans are excited. They believe that Hillary Clinton can be defeated in 2016. The problem is that they do not have one candidate they can place in the party leadership position. Every poll taken in these early stages of campaigning reveals variable results, depending on the demographics of those who respond to the poll. The only poll that matters is who can win against Clinton? Her closest competitor so far appears to be Jeb Bush.
So who are the leaders? It depends on your definition. To me a leader is someone who stands above the rest; a man or woman who has the courage to stand up for his or her convictions and principles. Let’s take a recent issue. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani made a ludicrous statement saying that President Obama doesn’t love America. Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin, was attending the same dinner. When asked what he thought about Giuliani’s statement, he climbed on top of the fence and said ‘he didn’t know if the President loved his country.’ Strike one. There were no comments for Marco Rubio, or Chris Christie. They don’t want to be involved. Ted Cruz agreed with Giuliani, once again confirming his extremism. Jeb Bush and Rand Paul ‘gently’ criticized Giuliani. I guess that made them stand out, a little.
It’s highly unlikely that any Republican will emerge from CPAC as the party’s future standard bearer. The conference has little relevance to any attempt to seriously discuss strategy to win back the White House next year. CPAC is far more similar to an NRA convention where emotions become high, but nothing of substance is achieved.
Stay tuned hard core Republicans; you will soon be able to read or listen to the rants of potential presidential candidates as they ‘Obama-bash.’ I won’t be listening. I’ve decided to wait until someone gets serious about the issues, and presents at least one positive idea.
Commentary by James Turnage