The 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held this week in National Harbor, just across the river from Washington, DC, did not appear to be a depressed gathering of Republicans and conservatives still reeling from last November’s presidential loss. There was friendly rivalry between supporters of Sen. Rand Paul (R–KY) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R–FL), but I saw no evidence of divisive infighting and vicious internal attempts to gain mainstream media publicity at the expense of fellow party members.
But then again an impressive contingent of off–duty police officers was probably more than enough to keep John McCain and Lindsey Graham from attending the conference.
The opening day of CPAC 2013 evolved into a faceoff between two potential Republican presidential candidates: the aforementioned Rand Paul and Marco Rubio.
Judging by the crowd’s reception, Paul was the winner.
Rubio — America’s foremost spokesman for regular hydration — did not address immigration, the issue he’s been most associated with this year. Instead the bulk of Rubio’s speech, once we got past the H2O jokes, was fairly standard — although he did touch on the call for a remodeled Republican party.
Rubio said the goal of the Republican Party should be to “create an agenda to apply our time–tested principles to the challenges of today” because average Americans are asking, “who is fighting for them?”
Specifically, Rubio believes the US should be the best place in the world to create middle–class jobs and to facilitate that the country must solve the federal government’s debt and spending problem. Republicans should stress pro–growth energy policies that include both oil and gas. On the home front, he wants every parent to have an opportunity to send their children to “the school of their choice.” And we need real heath care reform that empowers Americans so they can buy insurance from any company, regardless of where the company is headquartered.
The young senator also addressed leftist critics and predicted they will downplay his speech and claim that he didn’t offer any new ideas. “We don’t need a new idea. The idea is called America and it still works,” Rubio responded as the audience applauded.
It would have been the best conservative speech of the day, if Rand Paul had not made an appearance.
It was a standing–room only crowd that anticipated Paul’s appearance and it erupted in applause as he brandished the binders he used during his drone filibuster in the Senate and declared, “I was told I only had ten measly minutes, but just in case I brought 13 hours worth of information.”
Paul — who gives hope to the curly–haired since no one will ever call him ‘blow dried’ — began by explaining that the motivation for his filibuster was to question whether presidential power has limits: “We want to know will you or won’t you defend the Constitution?”
As an audience member called out, “Don’t drone me, bro!” Paul explained that the president’s good intentions are not enough. “No one person gets to decide the law,” he said. And that’s his philosophy in a nutshell: leaders must defend and abide by the Constitution even when it’s not convenient.
Paul then moved to compare his conservative philosophy with that of Obama’s, which has proven to be you can have your cake and eat your neighbor’s, too. He quoted Ronald Reagan who said, “As government expands, liberty contracts.”
With that in mind he proposed a five–year plan to balance the budget. Paul’s blueprint cuts the corporate income tax in half, creates a flat personal income tax of 17.5 percent, erases the regulations “strangling American business” and eliminates the Department of Education entirely giving the power and the money back to the states.
Paul observed without mentioning names that the GOP “of old has grown stale and moss–covered.” His new GOP will need a big tent because it will “embrace economic and personal liberty. Liberty needs to be the backbone of the Republican Party and I ask everyone who values liberty to stand with me.”
And the crowd did, giving him a standing ovation that easily eclipsed the response to Rubio’s earlier speech.