. . . and by "best," we generally mean "most amusing to those of us who don't believe that Barack Obama is a Kenyan communist dedicated to melting all guns and gold owned by Americans for metal to forge a 2 mile tall statue of Stokely Carmichael beheading Ronald Reagan."
Although I live just a mile or so from the Marriott Wardman Park, where the CPACkers flock to buy insane crap and listen to even more insane speeches, I didn't make it down to the Big Crazy. As usual, I did run into plenty of the attendees, particularly on the Metro -- more on that later -- but I couldn't set aside the time to witness the hijinks in person. Maybe next year. But I did try and follow as best as I could the dispatches from those intrepid reporters who ventured into madness to report on the latest depredations of America's "conservative" (really, though, how can any group of people so committed to radically destroying the social contract of the last 75 years be honestly described as "conservative?") movement. Maybe you didn't, because maybe you've got more sense than me. So if you missed it, here are the high points of CPAC 2011. Big shout out to all those who provided us with the laughs, especially TPM DC, Dave Weigel, and the fine folks at Wonkette .
10) Ron Paul peaks early by winning straw poll. As promised, goldbug heartthrob Doctor Ron Paul won the CPAC presidential straw poll, trouncing second-place Mitt Romney and all the rest of the hopefuls. We've already been over what an awful predictor the CPAC poll is -- remember President Gary Bauer? -- but this year's might be the silliest ever. I mean, Gary Johnson, the pot-loving former governor of New Mexico, tied for third with firmly declared non-candidate Chris Christie. So I hope the Paulista enjoyed watching their guy inaugurated as the President of the Wardman Park, because this is probably going to be the high point for their campaign.
9) The prospect of a Donald Trump presidential candidacy. The Donald was in the house on Thursday, and he did not disappoint. Not only did he take the first tentative steps towards what would be a hilarious, doomed ego trip, he did so by insulting Wardman Park President Paul.
You just made a . . . not very powerful enemy, Mr. Trump.
8) De-nile is ignoring Egypt. You'd think that a collection of self-professed lovers of Liberty and Freedom such as the CPAC crowd would be over the moon about the popular uprising which rid Egypt of its evil dictator. Not so much:
On a day of history in the Middle East, there was one topic virtually absent from the speeches of prospective 2012 Republican presidential candidates at the annual Conservative Political Action Committee's convention: Egypt.
The would-be contenders - and others who addressed the gathering - struck a series of common conservative themes, such as reducing the size of government as well as projecting strength and muscle abroad. All attacked President Obama for his domestic and foreign policies.
But for the most part, they had little to say about the nation's policy toward Egypt, whether to praise the demonstrators whose protests forced President Hosni Mubarak to step down, or to offer the principles that should guide U.S. policy as the American and Israeli ally takes the next steps toward democracy.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney didn't mention Egypt at all in his speech. Nor did Sen. John Thune (S.D.), although his text included a line that said, "Let's stand with those around the world who are risking their lives for freedom." Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty made a glancing reference, criticizing Obama as appeasing U.S. adversaries, including "Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood."
Maybe they only get hot and bothered about democracy when it's the US delivering it, hot and fresh.
7) They call him the Streak! Of course, it might have been a bit awkward to discuss liberalization in the Arab world immediately prior to the main entertainment at the Presidential Banquet, given that the entertainment in question was none other than '70s novelty country sensation Ray Stevens . Here's Ray performing his classic hit, A-hab the A-rab:
"But don't you see? Mubarak was Ahab!
Keep it fresh, CPAC.
6) John Bolton was there, and wants to run for President. Seriously.
5) Fetch me another old fashioned, Senator. TPM's Evan McMorris-Santoro ran into Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams , who's planning to run for Kay Bailey Hutchinson's Senate seat next year. He was planning in running in the special election which would have been necessary had KBH resigned to run for governor last year, and received Jim DeMint's very meaningful endorsement at that time. Sounds like a Tea Party comer, right? But there's one other thing you need to know about Williams: he's black.
When I ran into him yesterday, it appeared conservatives have not made much progress on that front. Ahead of me was a CPAC attendee rushing past, as they are wont to do in this giant place.
"Hey, are you Herman Cain?" the young man asked Williams, referring to another African American conservative running for federal office and attending CPAC.
I asked Williams if that happened a lot.
"Not really," he told me. "A lot of people think I'm a waiter."
Williams blamed the confusion on his trademark bowtie, which -- like a lot of conservatives -- he wears all the time, and wears well.
A friend with him said that on more than one occasion, people had asked him to get them a drink.
"I think it's really because of the bowtie," Williams explained.
4) The street theater of wingers unleashed in DC. Bitching and laughing about wingers unleashed in DC is an annual tradition among those of us who live here year round. The most common complaint is the cluelessness displayed in the Metro, where they block escalators during rush hour, stand in front of doors in busy stations, and freak out if they think they're headed in the wrong direction toward a scary neighborhood. But there's more to it than that. A friend of mine tells a story about going to Open City, a diner near the Wardman Park, during last year's CPAC. She ordered an omelet, and it was only when she received it dripping with double cheese and extra home fries, that she realized that it was CPAC time.
But don't just trust me. Listen to a brief, brief summary from the Twitters:
OMG the metro is filled with CPAC dweebs. Please send help.
dismalscience Matthew McCormick
Metro this morning: lots of skinny white kids with no fashion sense looking confused about mass transit. Must be #CPAC time.
_rachel_m Rachel Marie
Spotted: cpac-ers at woodley park metro. How I knew: men in bowties and blondes in too much makeup
Dear #cpac -ers, please stand to the RIGHT on #metro escalators. I don't appreciate missing trains while you discuss newt's speech.
adamtragone Adam J. Tragone
Fact: I smirked at some Ron Paul supporters at the metro and they wanted to pick a fight. #CPAC
EdEspinoza Ed Espinoza
A good way to avoid crowds during CPAC week? Ride the green line metro.
Someone carrying "don't tread on me" flag on metro. And so it begins. #cpac
I'll be the first to admit that this entry is a bit mean-spirited, but then again, these are the great patriots who have denied me and 600,000 other District residents any Congressional representation and who micromanage my city's government, so I don't feel bad. Maybe we'd be more welcoming if the wingers respected our basic rights as citizens.
3) No EPIC NITES? As far as I can tell, CPAC 2011 did not include a reprise of last year's after-hours "XPAC" party, held for and by the hip conservative youth:
Brah. James O'Keefe and Steven Baldwin? Brah. How could they not bring that shiz-nit (am I saying that right? "shiz-nit?") back, brah? SO EPIC. (h/t: JJ)
2) Teh Gays have landed. GOProud, the latest version of the "chickens for Colonel Sanders" faction, took part in CPAC this year. This freaked out a bunch of people who were afraid of catching the gay, and actually caused a few high-profile folks to boycott -- Jim DeMint and the Heritage Foundation among them. Mike Huckabee clearly thought the thing was icky, even if he didn't explicitly support the boicott. Even those who were cool with GOProud's presence had an interesting way of showing it; the charming Andrew Breitbart, who co-hosted a party with GOProud, prefaced his embrace of the gay Republicans by declaring that "I will be the harshest critic of the activist gay left, who I fear more than al Qaeda." And at the Breitparty, which featured entertainment from Sophie B. Hawkins, the following exchange was observed:
A word about Sophie B. Hawkins. Michael Steele, who was chairman of the RNC until last month, showed up at the party and stayed a while. Right before I showed up, in an exchange witnessed by several people who described it to me, Steele met Hawkins. She explained her political philosophy to him.
"I'm not a conservative," said Hawkins, "but I'd like to [expletive] Sarah Palin."
Steele reacted quickly. "Well, she's very attractive," he said.
1) This circus freak caravan got more ink and coverage from trad med sources than every Netroots Nation, combined. OK, that's not really an amusing story. In fact, it kind of sucks. But it's got to be true; coverage everyday on A2 or A3 of the WaPo, a daily recap on All Things Considered ... it just goes to show that people who dress up in 18th century breeches and believe that the American president is an African socialist are Serious Thinkers, and you're all a bunch of irrelevent hippies.
Blah. Sorry to end it on a down note.