From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — For 30 minutes on Thursday, Mitt Romney, a likely Republican candidate for president in 2012, offered a systematic indictment of what he described as the failed presidency of Barack Obama. A little earlier, a crowd of conservatives whooped in delight as a speaker made coy allusions to Mr. Obama’s youthful experimentation with cocaine.
Republican leaders took the stage at a conservative conference here to pay tribute to the Tea Party movement and soberly pledge to defeat Republicans who did not adhere to conservative views. Speaker after speaker drew hoots as they mocked Mr. Obama for his use of a teleprompter, seemingly oblivious to the teleprompter that rose from the floor before them.
The setting was the Conservative Political Action Conference, and it produced a sometimes incongruous meshing of mainstream Republicans — presidential candidates, leaders of Congress, political thinkers — with the often rowdy crowd of activists who have typically lent a slight air of the carnival to this long-time Washington political gathering.
(From top, clockwise: Naked Scotty Brown, Michael Not-Steele Williams, Tim Timmeh Pawlenty, Snarling Liz Cheney, Willard Mittsie Romney, Dick Dick Armey)
[C]onservatives and Republican leaders face a challenge as they try to harness the Tea Party movement’s energy and sudden influx of new faces and views. Speakers showed no hesitation in denouncing Republicans, often with the same intensity they brought in denouncing Democrats; Tea Party leaders made clear that Republicans could no longer count on the automatic backing of conservatives.“I’m afraid we’re causing a little trouble for the establishment,” said Senator Jim DeMint, a South Carolina conservative who has created a committee that is financing conservative challenges to some Republican incumbents.
Dick Cheney, the former vice president, drew a lengthy standing ovation after his daughter Liz introduced him as a surprise guest. But the crowd applauded just as loudly when Marco Rubio — a Tea Party hero, who is challenging Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida for the Republican Senate nomination — offered a 30-minute indictment of Mr. Obama’s policies that summed up Tea Party views on taxes, federalism, Mr. Obama’s health care plan and the handling of terrorists.
Similarly, Senator Scott Brown, the Republican who pulled off an upset victory in Massachusetts and who in many ways has become a symbol of the Tea Party success, was greeted as nothing short of a conquering hero when he made a surprise visit.
The remark about Mr. Obama’s experimentation with cocaine came from Jason Mattera, author of a forthcoming book called “Obama Zombies: How the Liberal Machine Brainwashed My Generation,” as he likened the CPAC gathering to “our Woodstock.”
But the conservative celebration does not necessarily translate into Republican power. If anything, it may complicate things for Republicans, as Mr. DeMint noted.
FreedomWorks, the advocacy group led by the former House Republican leader Dick Armey that has been an incubator for Tea Party groups, held a news conference to endorse a primary challenger to Senator Robert F. Bennett [a Republican] in Utah, even as Mr. Armey pleaded with the group not to get torn up in power struggles.
And some of those at the conference advocate positions that might be problematic for more mainstream Republicans.
At one point, Mr. DeMint attacked the federal income tax, noting that the Constitution did not originally allow it. (The 16th Amendment, ratified in 1913, did.)
“The Constitution, when it was signed, it did not even allow a federal income tax,” he said.
From POLITICS DAILY:
Minnesota’s Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty spoke to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington on Friday morning. Pawlenty, a favorite of the conservative base and a likely presidential candidate in 2012, used the opportunity to criticize President Obama’s handling of the economy and national security and to articulate how Republicans could do better.
As he began his remarks, however, the usually demure Pawlenty joked about Tiger Woods’ predicament to make a point about the direction of the Republican Party.
“I think we can learn a lot from that situation, not from Tiger, but from his wife,” Pawlenty said. “She said, ‘I’ve had enough.’ She said, ‘No more.’ I think we should take a page out of her playbook and take a nine iron and smash the window out of big government. We’ve had enough.”
So funny, Timmeh! I say we take the nine iron and smack some sense into whomever told your boring humorless wussy ass that you’re a comedian or even the slightest bit macho. I’ve seen toast with more personality and more testosterone on RuPaul’s Drag Race. And I’m not so sure the scores of African-Americans who attended CPAC would take kindly to making fun of Tiger Woods. Let’s ask the scores of African-Americans who attended. Ooh! I think I see him now! From TALKING POINTS MEMO:
It’s an easy observation to make at CPAC: there just aren’t a lot of African American conservatives. Walking the halls of this massive event (organizers say up to 10,000 activists are in attendance) you barely see any color in the sea of white faces. The same goes for the candidates on the dais. Though conservatism has embraced a form [of] gender equality when it comes to candidates — some of the biggest names in conservative politics are women, after all — there are very few conservative leaders that check a box other than “white” on their Census forms.
One big exception to that rule is Michael Williams, who took the stage this morning to share some of his considerable knowledge about climate change (or, as he would say, the lack thereof) and the intricacies of energy policy.
Williams, a member of the Texas Railroad Commission, is preparing a bid for the U.S. Senate should Kay Bailey Hutchison resign after the GOP gubernatorial primary (as she’s promised.)
Williams is a conservative through and through, counting George W. Bush among his close personal friends. He wants less regulation, less taxation and more drilling for oil. He also calls for increased research into alternative energy technologies including wind and solar power.
He has the backing of Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), the coin of the realm here at CPAC and is counted by DeMint and his followers as one of the few “pure” conservative candidates on the ballot this year (CPAC superstar Marco Rubio in Florida is another of DeMint’s candidates).
Williams also happens to be black. I asked him what the conservative movement has to do to see to it that more people who look like him to join the ranks of the right.
“The first thing we have to do is show up,” Williams told me. “I mean, we have to go in and have that conversation with the African American community.”
Williams said that conservatives need to do a better job of answering the concerns of black voters, which he said included “the disparity in education levels [with whites], and the lack of job creation, particularly in low-income, predominantly African American and Hispanic communities.”
I asked him who among the current crop of GOP politicians are doing the best job at making the conservative connection with the black community.
Williams paused, and then smiled. “I’m really not sure,” he said.