This is a town full of rituals, such as introducing presidents at State of the Union addresses so many times that Harry Truman once started speaking before being told his presence had to be announced again. And you’ve got the media dinner rituals, the most famous being the White House Correspondents fest where big name journalists drool all over the pricey shoes of Hollywood celebrities.
There’s the egg roll on the South Lawn, the Supreme Court’s first Monday in October and whatever those Masons are always doing in secret (their main temple actually holds the personal effects of J. Edgar Hoover, so who knows what’s going on with that).
In recent years a new ritual has taken hold – the annual gathering of hundreds of conservative fire breathers at what we insiders simply call CPAC, or the Conservative Political Action Conference sponsored the American Conservative Union. You get it, liberals not allowed. This bunch is so anti-liberal they’re still seething that Ted Kennedy got away with Chappaquiddick. And some believe (not making this up, have their email blasts to prove it) that Chelsea Clinton got a facelift to conceal that Web Hubbell is her real father.
Spread across this weekend the conference concludes with a much-covered straw vote where they boost the prospects of a potential presidential candidate and dash the hopes for others pining to become the favorite conservative martyr. Of course this all comes after the obligatory vote to re-elect Ronald Reagan to a seventh term.
In recent years either Ron Paul or son Rand have won the day, except on those occasions when Mitt Romney swooped in with barrels full of cash to persuade these predominantly Christian conservatives that Mormons are OK so long as your kid doesn’t marry one. But of course they’re taking no chances with Atheists, who were officially banned this year (for real) after somehow sneaking a booth into their exhibition hall last year.
This year brings subplots below the radar of presidential campaigning. One the media will be closely watching (while quietly snickering at these proceedings): Who’s more unpopular, John Boehner or Mitch McConnell? The tea partiers and other faithful here are really mad at both congressional leaders because they got in the way of shutting down the government, allowing their archenemy Barack Obama to continue running the country he took away from them.
Anti-tax high priest Grover Norquist will likely rise to condemn any Republican who dares not take his pledge to abolish poor people and anyone elderly who isn’t rich enough to fund a SuperPac.
With Russia’s hijacking of Crimea in the news, this year’s CPAC will be fertile ground for hawks to sprout wing. Surely one among the cavalcade of speakers from the ranks of right-wing radio hosts will propose grinding Moscow to glass with a nuclear cocktail. And of course, NRA bossman Wayne LaPierre will surmise that if more underage Americans had assault rifles Putin wouldn’t even think of invading a neighboring country.
On the presidential front, our ever-so-inventive political media will be looking for bits of string to keep on weaving their thread of choice these days: Is Chris Christie DOOMED! Will he ever rise above bridge gate to breathe oxygen and engage in normal human activity? Or will these conservatives embrace him because one thing they hate more than a moderate Republican like him is MSNBC, which is leading the press posse to pound him down in case he might emerge as a threat to Hillary. Still, this group, which didn’t invite Christie last year, remains angry at him for traitorously working with Obama to rebuild New Jersey after superstorm Sandy.
A lesser event will be monitoring the so-called comeback of Rick Perry (he’s even tried wearing glasses in photo ops to look smarter). Another will be whether Marco Rubio can get out of the immigration dog house after galling this bunch by proposing eternal life for illegals.
Ted Cruz can do no wrong with this crowd. Even a rendition of “Green Eggs and Ham” will get a standing ovation. Don’t count out Rick Santorum, who always delivers a head-wrenching sound bite for the media in front of believers, usually something involving his strange obsession with gay sex acts.
In a disturbing sign that this group might not be the powerhouse it thinks it is, the one potential contender who could probably be the instant frontrunner if he goes for it, Jeb Bush, is ducking CPAC, citing through aides unspecified “previous commitments.” In other words, he has to wash his hair and do his laundry that day.
As rituals go this one is actually one of my favs, sort of like watching an auto race where everyone crashes. And the best part is C-SPAN carries it all, so I can safely hide in my bunker and avoid direct exposure to Rush Limbaugh.