CPAC 2019: The action starts early, Trump appearing on Saturday
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD: Congressional hearings come and go, and even presidential trips overseas are often historical footnotes. Ideas are what matter. Ideas stand the test of time. The Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center was the site of the annual gathering of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) put on by the American Conservative Union.
If there was one fascinating theme to start CPAC 2019, it was that everything began early. Forget being on time. CPAC could not wait to begin. The thousands of conservatives could not wait to get started.
President Donald Trump to speak at CPAC.
He was overseas trying to hammer out a peace agreement with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. When Kim refused to completely denuclearize, Trump abruptly ended the talks early.
This allowed him to fly back to the United States early. This was an early good news gift to CPAC attendees, who were given the news that President Trump would indeed speak at CPAC on Saturday.
The party planning got an early start.
Saturday night usually features the Reaganpalooza bash to celebrate the end of CPAC. This year the event will be on Friday night.
Others also got an early start. The Young Jewish Conservatives normally begin their CPAC festivities on Friday night with a Sabbath dinner. For the first time ever, the YJC began on Thursday night. Since cellphone usage is prohibited on the sabbath, YJC attendees are never able to take pictures of their events.
The Thursday night dinner allowed the attendees to permanently capture memories. Former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold was the keynote speaker. While his remarks were off the record, he gave a passionate speech to more than 6,000 CPAC delegates on Thursday during the day.
Everybody was getting an early start.
CPAC itself has always run from Thursday through Saturday. Traditionally, the only thing to do on Wednesday was to attend Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) policy meeting. While the ATR meeting remains an important Wednesday fixture, that is held in DC itself rather than at the Gaylord. Normally Wednesday afternoon is just for checking in. This year, everyone and everything was ramped up early.
Wednesday afternoon featured an important discussion of issues. Benghazi hero Mark Geist kicked things off. The capper event consisted of ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp interviewing former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Despite losing his most recent reelection bid, Walker remained very popular with the CPAC crowd.
Scott Walker is considering another presidential run in 2024.
Thursday brought the action to the main stage. Although Dr. Ben Carson is HUD Secretary, he had the crowd revved up with passionate remarks defending the right to life for unborn children.
The line of the day belonged to South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.
Senator Graham chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. He had the crowd cheering by asking and answering a simple question. “Why is (Justice Brett) Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court? Because Trump is tough.” Graham should not be so modest. One reason Judge Kavanaugh is on the High Court is because Graham is tough.
His fiery remarks at the Kavanaugh hearings jolted conservatives into fighting mode and played a key role in getting Kavanaugh over the hump.
Diamond and Silk brought their brand of comedy to the main stage, mixing the politics of Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump with the sass of Wanda Sykes and Marla Gibbs.
Radio Row was buzzing with old faces and new.
Lars Larson returned, as did people from The Blaze and NRA TV. John Fredericks is frequently on CNN facing bigotry from Don Lemon and Rick Wilson. On Radio Row, Fredericks was treated like the respected conservative he is. Sebastian Gorka was treated like a rock star, as was former Fox News host Eric Bolling. Politicians who stopped by for interviews included Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn and Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar.
With Thursday in the books, the Friday highlight will be Vice President Mike Pence. He will be speaking in the morning, which means one thing. Like every other event to start CPAC 2019, get an early start. Lines will start to form starting 5:00 a.m.