The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is over and almost everyone is describing it as one of the best in years. People left feeling invigorated and enthusiastic. Most people had quite a bit of fun as well. Those who attended are now recovering and reflecting on four great days for the conservative movement. It has been described as a conservative Mardi Gras, and even the left called it a “Woodstock for the right.”
Cries of racism from places like the New York Times failed to ignite and made the accusers look silly.
Surprisingly, several people who didn’t attend are making observations contrary to the general mood of the reports that came out of the event. One of these negative voices who didn’t attend CPAC is Mike Huckabee.
In an interview with Geraldo Rivera on Fox News, he complained about the conference. Why Huckabee didn’t save his rant for his own show is a bit odd. But in order to fully appreciate the sneering remarks you must read what he said:
“CPAC has become increasingly more libertarian and less Republican over the last years, one of the reasons I didn’t go this year,” Huckabee said in an interview with Fox News, where he is a paid analyst and has his own show.
He even had the gall — considering his highly paid Fox TV show and bully pulpit — to whine about how CPAC is sponsored.
“Because of the way that it solicits sponsors and it’s almost become a pay-for-play,” he said. “It’s kind of like, who will pay money to be able to be a sponsor and get time in the program. That’s one of the things that has hurt its credibility in the last couple of years.”
Needless to say, CPAC has come out strongly against Huckabee’s “pay for play” comments. From David Keene, the chairman of the American Conservative Union:
“We were frankly a [little] perplexed by Governor Huckabee’s comments about CPAC given our long and cordial relationship with him and his family,” Keene told CNN, noting that Huckabee’s daughter Sarah attended CPAC this year, “I can only assume that the governor has been misinformed as to how CPAC operates.”
I suspect his remark about CPAC and its sponsorship practices is in reference to the criticism social conservative groups have leveled for the inclusion of GOProud as a sponsor. GOProud is a homosexual conservative group that added its name to the sponsor list.
You have to wonder if, in fact, Huckabee did not attend in order to comply with the call for a boycott of CPAC by Liberty Counsel and other Christian extremists. Huckabee strongly disagrees with GOProud’s views on homosexuality, which was made obvious in his confrontation with John Stewart.
There was a clearly a more tolerant feel to the whole event. It was more of a gathering of like-minded folks who differ on some issues but ultimately want fiscal conservatism. Ron Paul supporters, libertarians, constitutionalists, Republicans, and independents all rubbed shoulders, inspiring each other.
Rather than “sucking the air out of the room” as Huckabee has claimed, the newly engaged tea party movement people gave the event the inspiration it needed.
Instead of attending CPAC, Huckabee attended a FairTax Rally in D.C. The FairTax people have been quite irked by the fact the Tea Party Patriots effort at developing an agenda — the Contract from America — has not included specific language calling for the so-called “fair tax.” Governor Huckabee is a strong supporter of the fair tax initiative and has been since his failed presidential run.
There are those who think Huckabee’s rant against CPAC was caused by the fact he fared so poorly in the infamous straw poll that saw Ron Paul win by a wide margin. Huckabee could not even best Palin in the vote. The former Alaska governor has never run for president and also blew off CPAC. It should be noted that only 2,400 people out of the 10,000 that attended voted in the poll, and of those only around 800 (or 33%) voted for Paul (with far fewer for Huckabee). He and his supporters were probably not happy about the fact attendees were less concerned about stopping gay marriage and “promoting traditional values” than they were with fiscal issues.
Ultimately, CPAC this year was not a “social conservative only” zone as Huckabee might have wanted it to be and it has been in the past. The tea party movement has focused the event’s collective mind on the fiscal issues that face us all and that need to be addressed.
That said, Huckabee’s CPAC remarks have not endeared him to many people who did attend the conference. In short, he felt the need to criticize something of which he knew little for the sake of a good sound bite.
Record numbers and the enthusiasm of the attendees will assuredly make it clear to the CPAC organizers that the current formula is the right one for success.