Bryan Preston and I arrived at CPAC at 5:30am this morning–yes, bad time to give up caffeine for Lent–to set up the Hot Air camera and get through security. There’s a shortage of metal detectors and an abundance of attendees. We’re already parked in the main ballroom at the Omni Shoreham. A lot of people will just stay here for the duration of the speeches. VP Cheney’s at 11am, Mitt Romney at 12:30pm, John McCain at 3pm, and Ron Paul at 4:30pm. Believe or not, a lovely young CPAC volunteer who identified herself as a Ron Paul supporter came by and said hi.
“To boo or not to boo?” is the hot question regarding McCain’s speech. One registrant told me last night that conference organizers warned him not to boo when he joked about it. Several groups are mobilizing various protests.
Having been on the receiving end of such theatrics on college campuses, I would prefer the recommendation of one Hot Air reader–who recommended this morning that the audience just sit in absolute dead silence.
That would speak volumes.
It would also afford McCain a modicum of the kind of respect he has long refused to show the conservative base.
I hope that McCain’s opponents will not rudely interrupt him before he has a chance to even make his case, such as it is. On the other hand, if he’s going to stand here and trash the base, condescendingly tell them to “calm down,” etc., grass-roots conservative activists have every right to make their feelings known.
Update 10:23am Eastern. David Keene has opened the conference. He recounts how Ronald Reagan attended 17 CPAC events. When aides asked why he insisted on attending, Keene says, Reagan explained that he “wanted to dance with the ones that brung him.” Keene jokes that all of the Democrat presidential candidates were invited, but none accepted. He also remarks that “even liberals” have attended and been treated with civility….which segues into a request that those with whom the attendees disagree be treated with courtesy.
Keene also notes that President Bush is headed to the tornado disaster zone tomorrow, but will keep his commitment to speak here. Speech rescheduled for 7:15am tomorrow.
The first session is on Reagan. Bob Novak, Carl Cannon, and Lou Cannon are the panelists. The Cannons just wrote a book about whether Reagan would have supported the Iraq war. They argue no.
10:34am Eastern. The Reagan panel has been cut short because Cheney is here early.
10:52am Eastern. ACU board members and CPAC sponsors are being introduced. Big applause for Ken Blackwell, Chris Cox, and Wayne LaPierre.
Wyo. Sen. Jon Barasso gives the introduction. Cheney gets standing o and rousing applause. A few chants of “Four more years.”
Cheney: “We’re going to revitalize the american economy and stay on the offensive in the war on terror.
He’s trying to sell the 3 trillion budget.
Lower taxes are always good for this economy. Today we’ve got new economic challenges and once again the times call for decisive action…We’ve put together a solid effective stimulus package…Our stimulus package is simple and temporary….We’ll still have more important work to do: without action by congress, most of the tax relief will be taken away…1800/year tax increase of some 160 million americans…there’s the larger question of fundamental fairness to the american taxpayer…letting them expire would be one of the largest tax grabs in american history…and we must not allow it to happen…Working americans have to set priorities and make tradeoffs in their budget every day, it’s time for the governmetn to do the same.
Update 1107am Eastern. Cheney challenges Congress on earmarks. Congress did not get the job done. If Congress sends him an appropriations bill that fails to cut the number and cost of earmarks in half, he’ll send it back with a veto. (Applause.)
Cheney touts Bush national security record. “Guiding this nation through a time of peril is a very tough job, and the right man is in it…The danger remains very real and we know the terrorists are still determined to hit us. They are fanatical in their hatred…in a heightened threat environment, the absence of another 9/11 is not an accident. It is an achievement.” (Standing ovation, prolonged applause.)
Update 11:17am Eastern. Cheney: “We are at war with an enemy that wants to cause mass death in this country and we must work until this enemy is destroyed…
To wage this fight, we have to marshal our resources to go after the terrorists, take down their networks, disrupt their funding sources…go after the sponsors of terror…
To win a war like this, you need good intelligence…monitoring of terrorist communications. warns of expiration of fisa reform. (applause)
Those who act in good faith to defend this country should not be punished with lawsuits or be hassled by trial lawyers. (Loud applause)
Gitmo interrogations/overseas interrogation…ksm captured: It’s a good thing we had them in custody and it’s a good thing we found out what they knew.
Iraq/Afghanistan: There is still tough work ahead…Fortunately we’ve got the best people in the fight, including Gen. David Petraeus. The new strategy is succeeding…
12:31pm Eastern. Connectivity here is spotty. I confirmed with folks here 10 minutes ago that Romney is going to announce he’s suspending his campaign. Stand by…
Jeff Quinton reports that Romney may appear with John McCain tonight in Baltimore.
12:38pm Eastern. Laura Ingraham is being introduced.