Observations from a day of watching CPAC on TV

How Newt Gingrich balanced the budget, Reagan worship, Rick Santorum's odd music choice

Published February 10, 2011 9:15PM (EST)

Newt Gingrich (AP)
Newt Gingrich (AP)

Unlike Justin Elliott, I am not at CPAC. But I am watching it on C-Span.

Mitch McConnell, this morning: Opposing campaign finance reform was "like trying to get a deaf dog off a meat truck."

David Bossie: "There's only one man who can claim to have balanced the federal budget, and that's Newt Gingrich."

Newt Gingrich entered to "Eye of the Tiger." (I think he does this all the time, actually.) Then he compared the supposedly anti-job Obama administration unfavorably to ... the German government. You know, the one with the VAT and the high personal income taxes and the mass unionization. Gingrich then suggested replacing the EPA with the "Environmental Solutions Agency." (Maybe he thinks the "P" stands for "problems"?)

Then there was some sort of lengthy panel about Ronald Reagan. My favorite part was when a speaker began an anecdote by saying, "Ron Reagan Jr. -- don't boo ..." (Second-favorite part was when a guy said that Reagan "was even more tea party than Jefferson." He was more like the Founders than the actual Founders, themselves.)

There was a horrible panel about gay marriage and other "social issues," with two black religious conservatives. One of them, Bishop Harry Jackson, attempted to whip the crowd into a frenzy with an anti-gay, anti-"civility" mini-sermon, but was forced to say to the lily-white crowd, "somebody needs to clap or shout or do something in this place" to get a response.

Rick Santorum entered to Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop." I guess everyone finally forgot the '90s.

The NRA's Wayne LaPierre played a clip of Charlton Heston bemoaning people who try to exploit tragedies to advance their political agendas. Then he repeatedly invoked the names of people killed in shooting massacres, asserted that they were murdered by "gun-free zones," announced that "our women" were being raped as he spoke, and even played a harrowing 911 call from a victim of a home invasion. I am not even particularly left-wing on the subject of gun control and I found it to be a breathtakingly shameless and disgusting performance.

While Justin already covered the weird Donald Trump appearance, there was one line of Trump's speech that bears repeating: "If I run, and if I win, this country will be respected again." Right. Once we elect the bankrupt TV make-believe tycoon huckster, people around the world will say to themselves, "They finally got it right."

Donald Rumsfeld arrived to accept his "defender of the Constitution" award. There were boos. Dick Cheney, introduced to introduce Rumsfeld, was called various names, though the boos were then drowned out by "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" chants. As Cheney began his lengthy, boring story about his "meet-cute" with Rumsfeld, the crowd mostly settled down, except for scattered shouts from, I presume, antiwar Ron Paul supporters, who were promptly shouted down by patriots.

By Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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Cpac Dick Cheney Gay Marriage Newt Gingrich Ronald Reagan War Room