Saturday, May 27, 2017


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What a difference a year—and a presidential victory—makes. President Donald Trump was persona non grata at last year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) outside Washington D.C. He ended up bailing at the last minute from speaking at the annual event, but had he kept the appointment grass-roots conservatives were planning to walk out during the address.

At the time the bombastic billionaire, a CPAC veteran known for engaging deliveries, was running for president and many conservatives shunned him, asserting that he wasn’t conservative enough. It didn’t help that he blew them off. The former chairman of the American Conservative Union (ACU), which hosts the annual event said in a news report that Trump’s cancellation was “about as strong a slap in the face as you can get.”

Fast forward to this year’s conference in National Harbor Maryland, outside of Washington D.C. Trump received a rock star ovation and, appropriately, exited the stage to the classic Rolling Stones tune “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” He took the stage to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” Ronald Reagan was the last U.S. president to speak at CPAC in his first year in office and that was more than three and a half decades ago.

Trump came out firing at the media, which occupied about half of the ballroom floor. More than 1,300 credentialed reporters, photographers and camera crew covered the event, some from student outlets and conservative organizations but the traditional mainstream media was also represented in full force. The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and the Los Angeles Times were among those present.

Trump spent a chunk of his speech trashing the establishment, charging that “fake news” outlets are “the enemy of the people.” His delivery was sprinkled with blow after blow directed at the mainstream media. “They’re very smart, they’re very cunning,” Trump said as the crowd cheered loudly.

“There are some terrible dishonest people and they do a tremendous disservice to our country.” Needless to say, the targets were less than thrilled and the media sphere exploded. One mainstream newspaper called it “a declaration of war on the news media.” Another accused the president of being “totally obsessed with the media.” Yet another major paper determined that Trump used CPAC to complain about the media.

The electrified crowd sucked it up and often erupted chanting “U.S.A, U.S.A!” The president spoke about strengthening the military, protecting the southern border, trade and repealing Obamacare. “As part of my pledge to restore safety for the American people, I have also directed the defense community to develop a plan to totally obliterate ISIS,” Trump said. He also revealed that “as we speak today, immigration officers are finding gang members, drug dealers and criminal aliens and throwing them the hell out of our country. And we will not let them back in.

They’re not coming back in folks.” Of interesting note is that small flags resembling Russia’s flag with Trump plastered across them, were waved by a few dozen attendees. It’s not clear if it was a prank, but a young man with a blue CPAC bag was distributing them for free in the hallway outside the ballroom where the president spoke. CPAC staff members were observed confiscating some of the flags.

Genevieve Peters, an educator who works for the Los Angeles public school district, described Trump’s speech as “phenomenal.” Peters made the trek from her home in the bastion of liberalism with a friend, who is Mexican-American, and also a big Trump supporter.

The women let loose at CPAC because they assert that it’s downright dangerous to express conservative ideas where they live in Los Angeles County. “I can’t wear my ‘Make America Great Again’ hat in L.A.,” Peters said. “I’m as bold as they get and I attended campaign events all over the country, but when I got back home, everything went in the drawer.” Her favorite thing about Trump is that he’s “America first.”

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On the second day of CPAC, it was obvious who the crowds came to see and Trump delivered a memorable speech.

Many in the Trump administration also spoke at the convention. The administration was well represented on the first day of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) outside Washington, D.C. The president’s beleaguered counselor, Kellyanne Conway, kicked off a morning session at the annual political event and a few hours later Education Secretary Betsy DeVos took the stage of the main ballroom of the Gaylord Resort in National Harbor Maryland just south of the capital.

Both women have served as mainstream media punching bags lately and undoubtedly enjoyed a friendlier crowd at the annual powow. Conway ran President Trump’s campaign and spoke about what it’s like to work for the commander-in-chief.

DeVos, who recently endured hostile Senate confirmation hearings, joked; “I’m sure you heard all the wonderful things the media has called me” and reminded the crowd that she was the was the first to tell former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Minutes after DeVos spoke in the main ballroom, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and White House Strategist Steve Bannon took the stage together. Always good for an entertaining soundbite, Bannon referred to the media as the opposition party and said “they’re corporatist, globalist media that are adamantly opposed to an economic nationalist agenda.”

Reporters from virtually all of the nation’s mainstream media outlets sat in the back area cordoned off for press. Priebus countered rumors that he and Bannon are rivals competing for influence in the White House. Thursday was the day of appetizers, but everyone is really excited for Trump.

The big talk among the thousands of attendees, many of them college students, is the presidents much-anticipated appearance on Friday. Trump has spoken at CPAC many times, but only as a sort of entertainment figure.

Now he’s the leader of the free world. “It’s very exciting to see a president, right here,” said a college junior from Nebraska. A Florida woman who hasn’t missed a CPAC in six years, predicts she won’t sleep tonight. “I thank God he won the election,” she said. “Can you imagine what would become of our country if he didn’t.” A similar feeling of enthusiasm filled the conference.

When Trump took stage the crowd was incredibly enthusiastic, and why shouldn’t they be excited.

See the speech below.

Thoughts? Comment below.

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During my obligatory annual visit to the Conservative Political Action Conference, I managed to avoid the crowds of thousands of pretentious and privileged college kids by bolting directly to the elevators and heading to a working suite to visit with old friends.

Over the years, I’ve learned that CPAC was one of two things for most people: an annual reunion of right-of-center politicos and consultants or an alcohol-infused carnival for college aged kids who are eager to become the next talking head on Fox News. The later have become more and more overwhelming over the years.

After safely making it to the suite without having to endure a single political discussion (a first!), the news of Donald Trump’s snub had echoed to the 9th floor of the Gaylord, the hotel where the American Conservative Union has hosted CPAC for the last several years.

Friday morning, Donald Trump announced he would be campaigning in New Orleans and Wichita rather than attend the gathering of 10,000 on Saturday morning.

The move was a smart one as he drew a crowd of 25,000 supporters rather than play to a crowd of coalition conservatives who largely support establishment candidates.

But that wasn’t the real reason why the billionaire frontrunner made the call to skip out on the year’s premier event for conservative insiders and thousands of their ideological fanboys.

On Thursday evening, a boatload of Cruz Kids attending the event decided they were going to organize a walkout during Trump’s speech.

The plan for the anti-Trump youngsters was to get to the room early, get good seats that the camera’s could not miss, then pull the old “about face” and walk out while chanting for their candidate of the hour.

The rumor that 1,000 of the CPAC kids were planning to crash Donald’s speech hit Trump’s trusted few who were there in advance of the event and once they caught wind of the organized walkout, the candidate decided to pull the plug.

Rather than ruffle feathers over the no-show like Marco Rubio did with his non-commitment (that lead to an uncomfortable back and forth with the American Conservative Union), Trump managed to exit as gracefully as possible.

The move was a “win” for the Cruz Camp in that they had the opportunity to own the weekend at the National Harbor, but in the end, it was a blip in the news and meaningless to Trump’s supporters.

As for the Cruz Kids, they appeared to be disappointed by their lost opportunity to get in front of the camera, too fledgling in their political careers to realize they had actually done Donald Trump a favor by giving him an excuse to land his plane in the states that matter rather than giving opportunity to his opposition.

Comment below.


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