Perhaps the best characterization of the Conservative Political Action Conference of the past three days was offered by Republican activist Steve Schmidt, who likened it to the bar scene in “Star Wars” — which is to say it was a freak show.
For every political biped who speechified at CPAC (Jeb Bush, for example), there were two political quadrupeds (Sarah Palin and Donald Trump).
But more to the point, the doings were a festival of dissonance, as we see HERE:
If there was any doubt about the huge amount of discord within the Republican Party, the three-day Conservative Political Action Conference should put it to rest.
The suburban Washington gathering of the most conservative elements of the GOP this week featured speaker after speaker picking fights with other Republicans and offering criticisms — sometimes indirect and often direct — of party figures such as Mitt Romney, Sen. John McCain, Karl Rove, former president George W. Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Most of the speakers urged Republicans not to change but rather to double down on conservative principles. They included keynote speaker Sen. Ted Cruz, a leader of the new generation of Republicans whom McCain recently labeled “wacko birds.”
“If standing for liberty and standing for the Constitution means you’re a wacko bird, then count me a proud wacko bird,” Cruz said Saturday. “I think there are more than a few other wacko birds gathered here today.”
Cruz also argued that the party’s new generation is starting to gain traction, pointing to Sen. Rand Paul — who had just won the CPAC straw poll — and his 13-hour filibuster this month against President Obama’s drone program, along with the spending cuts contained in the sequester that took effect at the start of the month.
“For the last three weeks, conservatives have been winning,” Cruz said.
The discord, while not new, is particularly noteworthy as the party seeks its way forward after a disappointing 2012 election.
Republican officials unhappy with their losses have begun to push for a new core message and changes or moderation on social issues and illegal immigration.
Two recent events have inflamed that debate. First was the launch of a new group headed by Rove that seeks to recruit and nominate more electable Republican candidates, which conservatives see as a veiled attempt to elect less-conservative Republicans. Second was Paul’s filibuster, which earned the ire of foreign policy hawks such as McCain and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham.