Thoughts On CPAC

February 14, 2011

                      Sacking out at CPAC

Had a great! time in Washington–the guys were interesting; it was strange but not too terrible to share a room with them, as all the hotels were sold out and overbooked, and Georgia was great, aside from her horrible smoking habit, which was hard to take any time we were outside. We are just not used to breathing that rancid smoke any more, since it has become so rare over the years of froideur against smoking in private and, now, even public spaces.
I biked everywhere in DC. There were few riders, so few that they all said hi and waved at me–the weather was gorgeous, about 15-20 degrees warmer than Manhattan, where the black ice has taken up what seems like permanent residence on patches, and filthy crusts of the big snow still grudgingly squats at corners and atop inanimate objects, untended cars and piles of rubbish. There were 12,000 plus people there, and the delight was feeling so in synch with them–they were all on my side of the ledger. It was the biggest turnout in the history of CPAC.

The speeches and presentations were fabulous, some so funny it could have been a nightclub (Ann Coulter), some so magnificent our waves of applause were unbroken from one thought or statement to the next (Florida’s Alan West–a man I think might in a few years be president–he already carries himself with the gravitas of a hero and a leader, which I believe he is and was). We went from early a.m. to late p.m., going from ballroom to meeting space, from 3,000 in a room and overflow, to a packed room or two with ‘only’ 100 or so (on the history of the current Israeli/arab situation), in a room so hard to find it was amazing to us that anyone was seated by the time we found it, far in some aerie of the vast Woodley Marriott on Connecticut Avenue. I was so proud of myself,  flying everywhere on the bike, in strange streets–but it’s not as if it were China, where the streets were black at night, and I never knew where the edges of the road actually were, and every car coming, in either direction, was a menace. 
DC midtown is a pleasure, a grid that is easy to figure out and navigate; wide, wide streets; stately and gracious capitol-ish buildings; historic sites; lovely roundabouts (Dupont Circle and others) and to me, the traffic was laughably light compared to the constant turmoil and bubble of the NYC canyons. The cars are slow to accelerate after a light change, which seems strangely courteous and helped me quite a bit to  circumnavigate huge multilane avenues and intersections. I got places in half the time. My friends  arrived via train, or even taxi.

Neither Sarah Palin nor Dick Morris were in attendance; somehow I would have expected both, but she has priorities, and so does he. And as press, even rooms that were packed to the gills were open to me and the men or women I brought with me. Others had to wait in queues that were hundreds of people deep, then repair to overflow rooms for the video of the speakers. Everyone smiled at everyone. We got free T-shirts, hats, buttons, pins, paraphernalia, books. My favorite t-shirt:  I read it for the articles ( There were book signings, and live on-the-spot interviews. Andrew Breitbart got to be caught in the nexus of mics on the central hotel lobby floor. Breitbart was almost as funny as he was smart and cogent on the problems assailing us.
People were well dressed, the women were foxy and often sexy, teetery on tall stems and spike heels, the men in well-tailored suits and conservative but cool haircuts. There were well-behaved people from every one of the 50 states, a sprinkling of African-Americans, Hispanics, cowboys, pols, mavens. There were lots of kids, many teens, a few elderly individuals, but masses upon masses of well-informed, sharp adults taking the reins. Many of the ‘jokes’ made could not have been understood were the listeners not amazingly au courant with every aspect of government and events of the day. Former Ambassador John Bolton, serious and deeply conversant with the realities of politics and diplo-urgencies the world over, remarked that with the shocking failures of intelligence revealed by the events in Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Tunisia and now, Algeria, unfolding without anyone in the administration knowing much beyond the average Joe, this is one time Clapper ought not to be fired, since in all likelihood, he would be replaced with someone even worse.  
All in all, the excellent feelings of bonhomie carried us along even though it was hard to find food, and no time for restaurants, though we did find a great organic Chinese place not far from the convention with delicious and light fare. I found a cell phone, three undated/unnamed compromising photos in a plain manila envelope, and a shirt. I turned them in to the hotel Lost and Found.  Our friend Chris lost his cell, and when I called to locate him, a woman answered. She had found the cell, and guarded it for hours, and she and I navigated toward each other through the teeming throngs via constant re-vectoring, and my red hat, something that made finding me easier.
The cell phenomenon really is a marvel: We all called each other constantly, since the minute you went to the loo or out for a water, you were swallowed up by people. So all day long we were in constant touch–Where are you now? Which escalator bank? Is that Chris Rock–oh, looks exactly like him, though… Doesn’t Betsy Mccaughey  look great in that winter-white suit? Are you looking at Margaret Hoover being interviewed? Hey! That’s Richard Dreyfuss over there! [I spoke with him Friday and Saturday--he has totally white hair, and wore a Tyrolese hat that made him resemble a cheery troll with mushroom tendencies. I addressed him as Mr. Dreyfuss. He answered me back, Hello, Mrs. Dreyfus. Weird but funny. A hugeuber-liberal, Dreyfuss had to feel this event was excruciating, so I asked if this event were not excruciating; I am sure he is doing some undeclared docu or something...] Was that Jim Pinkerton passing you–is he 6’8″ or what? A giant! And is there free food at that lecture? Did you get that tote bag at the NRA booth? Where’d you get that magazine? Tea Party people were there, a strong undercurrent, with a few presentations in not massive meeting halls. 
Lots of celebs, lots of firepower, lots of ‘popcorn’–jumping up and down, clapping madly. My hands are shreds of their former selves. We whooped and hollered. What the State of the Union might have been, should have been, was heard from the Boltons, Haley Barbours, and the roster of outstanding speakers from inside and beyond the Beltway.
The only surprising and disturbing thing was the results of the straw poll–some 3,740 people voted–not me, as I never saw the ballots anywhere–and the results were given for the preferred 2012 presidential candidates: Ron Paul (odd, since he has zero chance of winning) and Chris Christie, governor of NJ who is building quite a head of steam, but is not onboard in terms of things like amnesty-which he endorses-and illegal aliens. My friends and I were dismayed, actually, by the huge roar that went up at the results–surely not these people! Paul is draconian, perhaps, on issues, and that makes him popular–but insofar as my issues go, he seems a far outlier who is scarily off the reservation.
My companions and I were chastened by the results, even though they were not a scientific poll in any way, and there is the possibility that Paul had a big staff representation at the convention, and voting; we have no way of knowing if the results were skewed, though the interpreters did a superior job of tabulating all sorts of aspects in bar graphs and scales, projected onto our giant screens, and compared last year’s results to this year’s on all the variables. The results were teased out for many minutes with slides and analysis before the audience got the tachlis they sought: Which candidates are favored by this crowd for 2012. Note that the rest of the ticket was not hazarded at all, though Georgia thinks Bachmann and Mitch Daniels, Johnson Huntsman and Jindal have a better chance than the straw poll results indicated.

A sad note: Jonah Goldberg had been scheduled to speak, and at the last minute was subbed for by someone (from the National Review). A friend emailed that Jonah’s 43-year-old brother, Josh, had fallen from something–and had died. Their mother is Lucianne Goldberg, quite famous from blogging … and the Monica Lewinsky “stained-dress confessionals.”
We had free wi-fi in our terrific hotel room (another Marriott, just 10 minutes’ biking from the convention), a kitchenette and dishwasher and fridge and stove as well as a dressing room, three beds and great lighting–that is my major focus, as most hotels are underlit. They gave us a fabulous included breakfast with fruit and fries and eggs and waffles and toast and yogurt and cereal and juices and tea and coffee. Held us through the day. 
Looking around in the hotel’s breakfast room, I spoke with some men in my elementary Arabic, and I had guessed right–they were businessmen from Tunisia, and we discussed the current Egyptian imbroglio. They think the Muslim brotherhood to-do is overblown, a figment of the press, and not the risk we make of it. While that is comforting, I somehow doubt their take is as real-politicky as is ours. A mistake to judge our situation by another culture’s assessment, no matter how well-meaning.
Anyway–a vast high.  I shall go again.
marion ds dreyfus          .   .   .        20(c)11

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