Sunday, February 13, 2011

This Week in Stoopid: CPAC

Audrey Hepburn. Because this note is so dull & pointless, I'm starting with Holly Golightly washing a car.
The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) just finished their big party in Washington, with their ever-popular Presidential Straw Poll that always seems to say more than what anyone at CPAC really intends.  Clocking in at thirty percent of the vote, and with the gold, was the hip hop happening groovy cat from Nowsville: Ron Paul, the 75 year old Texas congressman and iconic pop star.  Second place, with twenty-three percent, went to Mitt Romney.  Former Governor Romney would like everyone to believe the he is on your side.  Really.  No matter what side that is.  Mitt Romney: Change You Can Believe In (because if you don’t, he’ll be happy to change again).

            To the extent there was a bronze medalist—and there wasn’t—the winner probably would have to be former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, with six percent.  Heard of him?  Me neither.  Also with six percent was new New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who keeps insisting he’s not running for President (some people think he’s just a big liar).  Rounding up the also-rans were Newt Gingrich, Private Citizen Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, and (presumably) Rick Santorum—all polling less than five percent each.

So—what’s the problem, and more to the point, why should anyone care?  Here’s why: the results of the straw poll shows that CPAC’s professed unity lies somewhere just beyond theLost Horizon.  And there’s no spinning that straw into a precious metal.

As Rick Santorum and his stool (an expression that sounds dirty, but isn’t really) so eloquently put it, the CPAC people would have you believe that the American conservative movement are three legs on that stool: the deficit hawks, the social conservatives, and “national security” people.  By braiding those three strands together, conservatives will create a rope so strong, no liberal could possible break it.  Too bad conservatives just go on to use that self-same rope to hang themselves.

Ann Sheridan. Ms. Sheridan will demonstrate the three branches of conservatism. Here, she is a social conservative.
Why?  Because those three positions (social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and national security conservatives) are largely mutually exclusive.  The only point they have in common are amorphous yet meaningless platitudes about “freedom,” and a shared hagiography for a Ronald Reagan that never existed.

For example, look at the “freedom” promised by the social conservatives: government restrictions on abortion, government restrictions on same-sex marriage, government restrictions medical marijuana…oh, and less government.  But you get the idea: for the social conservative, “freedom” means that you get to believe what THEY believe.  The counter-argument, that “liberals” are forcing their views on the social conservative, is specious.  You don’t believe in abortion?  Fine—no one’s forcing you to have one.  You don’t want to marry someone who shares a gender with you?  No problem!  But there is no principled reason for you to deny that option to someone else.  And if you prefer the medical effects of cherry brandy to marijuana, go for it.  No one’s making you to listen to Workingman’s Dead.

Ann Sheridan, as fiscal conservative (the "zero" is for spending goals).
But how well do the sentiments of the social conservatives fly with the libertarian wing, the most vocal of the deficit hawks?  How well? Not well! (to coin a phrase).  The deficit hawks who want a smaller federal government get upset (understandably) about the federalization of petty crime, and the growth of the police state.  Why?  In part, because they know how to count: the thirty plus years of the War on Drugs is still waiting for its first even small success.  And talk about a ballooning federal government, just look at Department of Homeland Security: the last thing we need are more federal officials, telling us what to do and how to live our lives.  But when you’re talking about real dollar amounts going right down the rat hole, look at thatthree trillion dollar (USD) war in Iraq, and its cousin in Afghanistan.

Anne Sheridan as national security conservative. Trust me--she's a real hard ass.
That’s when the third strand jumps up and yells “no, don’t look there!”  John Boehner’s House Republicans insist they want to cut $100 billion USD from President Obama’s budget—while raising Defense (a brand, not unlike the “fruit” in Froot Loops) spending by two percent.  To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw: the government that cuts domestic programs at the expense of Peter to benefit Paul can always count on the support of Paul.  Which accounts for the popularity of such noted fiscal conservatives as Ted Stevens and Mitch McConnell: when it came to Alaska and Kentucky (respectively), they spent like the proverbial drunken sailors.  Maybe people in Red States think all those cuts will only hurt the communists inhabiting Blue soviet strongholds, like California, Oregon, New York, parts of New England—but that’s not the way it works.  Just like you can’t have your cake etc, you can’t have idiotic missile defense programs all over the planet, and balance your budget.

So, given largely mutually exclusive positions, what happened at CPAC?  They played the old Arab game of the enemy of my enemy is my friend.  The Patient Protection and Affordability Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (together aka ObamaCare) was roundly demonized.  Left unmentioned was any kind of alternative, viable or otherwise.  Also denounced was President Obama’s terrible record on foreign policy and the fact he’s Soft on Islamofascism (well, maybe not in so many words—but you knew that’s what they meant). 

Interestingly, the only person who talked about the Egyptian Revolution (happening at the same time as the CPAC conference) was troublemaker Ron Paul.  Congressman Paul excoriated thirty years of American foreign policy, for propping up and preserving the incompetent rule of Hosni Mubarak, condemning same as immoral, bad politics, and really just a plain waste of money.  Everyone else either avoided the topic altogether, or followed the lead of Mitch McConnell, who on January 26 told MSNBC “All I can say this morning is that Egypt has been an extremely important ally of ours, since Anwar Sadat, and we’re all watching these developments in Cairo very carefully.  Beyond that, I think I will not comment.”  Sure—because maybe MAYBE Mubarak was right, all those years, how he was the only thing holding back a Sunni nationalist Muslim Brotherhood fundamentalist Islamic al Qaida inspired Arab Egyptian Shiite Ayatollah Khomeini, who would drive Israel into the sea, then invade…I don’t know…Florida!  You never know… Those brown people are notorious for voting for the wrong people.  And that’s EXACTLY the kind of government President Obama would install in Egypt, as Michelle Bachman would be happy to tell you…if she were commenting on the Egypt thing—which she’s not.

Barbara Nichols. Ms. Nichols is here, only to catch those whose attention is starting to wander.
But clearly—the high point (or low point, if you’re not brimming with schadenfreude) had to have been when the “Defenders of the Constitution” award was given to Donald Rumsfeld.  What had former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld done to defend the Constitution, at least lately?  Well—he did write that book of his.  That’s kind of First Amendmenty.  Other than that, Secretary Rumsfeld did plow new ground—Constitutionally speaking—by introducing torture, “extraordinary rendition,” detention without trial in a system of gulags around the world, obstruct justice by covering up the murder of civilians, new levels of lying to Congress, invasion of member states of the United Nations (both in violation of the Charter, and the Nuremberg and Tokyo precedents condemning waging aggressive war).  He also so mismanaged both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to the point he almost lost them—but I’m not sure what impact that has on the Constitution; it just really pisses me off, though.  Congressman Ron Paul’s people roundly booed both the Donald (No--the Secretary, not that other guy), and the award’s presenter: former Vice President Dick Cheney (what—Ted Kaczynski and Eric Robert Rudolph weren’t available to present the award to each other?), because both Cheney and Rumsfeld wasted lots of money.

But here’s my point: Senator DeMint, Governor Mike Huckabee, and Private Citizen Palin opted not to attend CPAC, because while all three constantly squawk about freedom like deranged parrots, the “libertarian bent” to CPAC just plain goes too far.  For example, what was the big controversy at CPAC?  The gay Republican group, GOProud were just not self-hating enough.  And you remember New Mexico’s ex-Governor Gary Johnson, the man of bronze in the straw poll?  The primary theme of his CPAC speech was legalization of marijuana, no doubt sweeping the Rastapublican vote.

Barbara Eden. I recently got into a quibble over who was the hottest sitcom babe, from back in the day.
So, what’s a principled conservative to do?  How about stop pretending that social conservatives, libertarian budget cutters, and national security stooges are all brothers (even the women) under the skin, and want the same thing.  They don’t.  Mike Huckabee is not Ron Paul is not John Bolton, and they never will be.  Conservatives, IMHO, will be better served to pick one of Rick Santorum’s stools, and run with it.  Otherwise, if you try to embrace all three, you’ll just sound confused and wind up not standing for anything.  In other words, you’ll be like Democrats.

Will CPAC ever decide to be principled, and do more than just mouth platitudes and spit insults, all in the name of a non-existent “Party Unity”?

No.  They are just stoopid.

To find full size versions of pics illustrating this note (which is the only reason why anyone comes here), you can go to This Week in Stoopid: CPAC