From The Caucus at The New York Times:
Had Senator John McCain been walking the halls of the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington this week, he might have winced to hear his name taken in vain — over and over again.
But Mr. McCain wasn’t anywhere to be found. In fact, he wasn’t even invited.
Never a darling of the conservative movement, Mr. McCain appeared at last year’s conference as the candidate on the verge of capturing his party’s presidential nomination. The audience hurled boos his way when he mentioned his past positions on immigration policy.
Conservatives had disliked him, in part because of his stance on campaign finance laws.
This year, the Arizona senator, was also roundly criticized — in absentia.
“I am a recovering McCain surrogate,” Representative Michael C. Burgess, Republican of Texas, acknowledged during a panel on Friday.
On Thursday Mike Huckabee scolded Mr. McCain for voting for the Bush administration’s bailout bill last fall, saying that the Republican nominee “meekly” lined up behind Barack Obama to support it.
“That,” Mr. Huckabee said, “was not our best moment.”
A spokesman for the Conservative Political Action Conference, Ian Walters, said that the group decided not to send Mr. McCain an invitation to appear at the three-day event [which ended] Saturday.
In fact, Mr. Walters said that he could not recall the senator’s name coming up in any of the planning meetings for the conference. Notably, those meetings started in September, after Mr. McCain tapped Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to join the Republican ticket, a choice that energized the conservative base.
Still, the shadow of the 2008 presidential race loomed over the conference on Friday as the audience greeted former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with a standing ovation.
And, Mr. Romney left no doubts on Friday about his desire to remain a player in the Republican Party, and one more palatable to conservatives than Mr. McCain. He urged those in the room not to “dwell on the battles we’ve lost.”
Rather, Mr. Romney said, “we are here to get ready for the battles we’re going to win.”
From The Boston Globe:
WASHINGTON – Deeply wounded after big losses in the last two elections, and horrified at what they see as a veer toward socialism, conservatives are coming to the same conclusion as their Democratic foes: It’s the Republicans’ fault.
Sure, President Obama is moving toward nationalizing the banks, conservatives grumbled at their annual conference here this weekend. But former President Bush started it, they noted testily, with his $700 billion Wall Street bailout package.
And yes, congressional Democratic leaders should be held accountable for pork-barrel spending, they added, but it was Republicans who ran up the deficit and debt with big-government programs in the past eight years, according to activists at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
“Sadly, our former president propelled America to socialism – all the way to third base,” with Obama set to bring it to home, said conservative columnist Deroy Murdock. “Our side emerged with neither principle nor power.”
And John Bolton, former US ambassador to the United Nations, was equally non-nostalgic in speaking about his former boss: “We are better off, in some sense, not having the Bush administration to defend,” the former Bush administration official said.
Even former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich – while winning laughs for deriding Democrats in power – slammed the recently-retired president.
“We didn’t get real change. We got big spending under Bush, now we have big spending under Obama,” said Gingrich, author of the “Contract With America” that underlay the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress.
Nor were there kind words for the man who hoped to replace Bush.
“John McCain was so much a part of the problem,” said conservative columnist Michelle Malkin, complaining that McCain did not adhere to conservative principles, especially in the area of energy exploration. McCain irritated conservatives with his opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Malkin, addressing a media workshop, dismissed 2008 GOP presidential contender Mike Huckabee, slamming him for suggesting during the 2008 primary that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was more protective of Wall Street than Main Street.
Huckabee, meanwhile, criticized McCain for sitting down with Obama during the campaign season to negotiate the $700 billion bank bailout bill. “That moment was not our best moment,” said Huckabee, who spoke after Malkin.