Monday, March 05, 2007

Lame Duck

Although Ann Coulter was warmly received, there apparently wasn't much mention of the CiC at this weekend's Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) festivities.

From the Sydney Morning Herald (h/p TPM);

There was a lot of fervour and a lot of talk of recapturing the spirit of Ronald Reagan, by consensus the greatest of US presidents. Young men and women who would have been babies during the Reagan presidency talked in small groups about America becoming great again if only conservatives would go back to basics, back to Reagan's emphasis on American strength and American greatness.

But what was most striking about this conservative jamboree was that President George Bush was hardly mentioned. The Vice-President, Dick Cheney, gave the speech at the official dinner on Friday night and, at the conference at least, Cheney remains a hero.

Not so, it seems, the President. Not only was there hardly any mention of his name, but there were no photographs of Bush on display - and everyone from Cheney to the disgraced former House majority leader Tom Delay received their photographic due.

As for the Iraq war, it was virtually ignored. Giuliani and Romney both half-heartedly said they supported the Bush troop increase and then they both quickly went on to say mistakes had been made in Iraq. That was more or less it.

Conservatives know who the villains are - Clinton and Obama and Gore and the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi - but who their heroes are is far from clear. Except that George Bush is no longer one of them.

And Tom Schaller:

I attended CPAC today to hear two of the "big three" Republican contenders (Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney) and one of the second-tier candidates who hopes to break through (Sam Brownback). I'll say more about them, especially Giuliani, later. But some quick observations about CPAC that simply need to be noted.

First, you almost never George W. Bush's name. Not among attendees, not in the speeches by candidates or others. It's as if there is no Republican president in the White House about three miles from the hotel where the conservatives who elected him are meeting. Fascinating, and revealing.

Second, it's also as if there's no war in Iraq. By my unofficial count, Giuliani mentioned Iraq just once by name -- and that in an offhand reference to a criticism of Democrats' non-binding resolutions. (A fair enough criticism, at that.) Brownback? Two references. Romney mentioned Iraq the most, taking it head-on by advocating for Bush's escalation plan. At CPAC, such Bush-and-Iraq double-mentions are as common as safeties in football.)

It's painfully obvious that conservatives are in near-total denial. There is a Republican president, and he is -- as everyone from The New Republic's Peter Beinart a few weeks ago to then-Washington Monthly's Josh Green a few years ago -- more, not less, conservative than Ronald Reagan. And there is an Iraq war going on, which has killed 4,000 Americans (counting contractors) already and will almost assuredly have a total, long-term price tag of at least $1 trillion.

Pretending these are not realities doesn't make them go away. But, boy, are the conservatives doing their level best to avoid the two big elephants in the room.

Who'd a thunk it? W and Operation Iraqi Freedom were once endless sources of pride for the conservative faithful. I wonder why that's changed. At least they still have Ann Coulter.

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