What would you call an issue portfolio that is vital to the future of our country, central to conservatism’s past electoral success and compelling to significant parts of the demographics likely to determine the Right’s future competitiveness? If you were the American Conservative Union, sponsor of the recently concluded Conservative Political Action Conference, you would evidently call it taboo.
The rest of us would call it the national security.
To be sure, despite a palpable effort by CPAC organizers to low-ball topics addressing the defense and foreign policy challenges of our time, a few speakers nonetheless touched on them. But the degree to which such issues deserved to be a central focus of the three-day meeting – but weren’t – was made palpable by a parallel, day-long event held on CPAC’s first day under the sponsorship of EMPAct America and Breitbart News Network. I was privileged to have had a hand in organizing and moderating the proceedings.
Dubbed the “National Security Action Summit,” the program featured remarks from nearly forty participants including Senators Ted Cruz and David Vitter and five Members of Congress – Representatives Louie Gohmert, Steve King, Trent Franks, Mo Brooks and Jim Bridenstein.
Among the other highpoints were: a keynote address provided by former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, remarks by Phyllis Schlafly, comments by undercover investigative journalist James O’Keefe and a rousing closing speech by Fox News’ Judge Jeanine Pirro.
Panels addressed topics that were largely ignored by CPAC, but should not have been. These included: the threat posed by the Muslim Brotherhood and its “civilization jihad” and enablers; the dangers inherent in open borders and amnesty to both the country and the GOP; the need for truth-telling and accountability in the Benghazigate scandal; Obama’s endangering of the common defense, evident in and facilitated by his hollowing out of the military; the crisis in the Ukraine and what we should do about it; and the existential threat to our country posed by an electric grid dangerously vulnerable to attack and naturally occurring solar storms. (Videos of the entire conference can be viewed at www.homelandthreats.com.)
The message reiterated throughout the day was that international developments are becoming more and more ominous thanks, in part, to President Obama’s abandoning of the tried-and-true approach Ronald Reagan practiced under the rubric “peace through strength.” Speaker after speaker called for clarity about the challenges we are facing and for conservatives and the Republican Party to provide the American people with an alternative vision, call it a “Loyal Opposition,” worthy of – and likely to garner – their support.
The bottom line is that the nation deserves at least one party reliably committed to its survival.
Unfortunately, if the agenda at CPAC and the views expressed by many of its speakers are any guide, that need is going to continue to go unfulfilled. As a result, the country will for certain be disserved, and possibly be seriously imperiled.
What makes this state of affairs all the more bizarre is that the Right has historically benefited from providing strong leadership in this portfolio. From Reagan’s time to the present, when the Republican Party and its candidates offer a convincing platform of competent robustness with respect to national defense and foreign policy, it has generally been rewarded at the polls.
Alternatively, when the GOP has ignored this subject, chosen as standard-bearers candidates who know nothing about and appear uncomfortable with such topics and/or allowed Democrats to run as more responsible stewards of the common defense, the public all-too-often denies Republicans a majority.
So, why would CPAC make this seemingly obvious mistake – especially at a moment when events cry out for a focused effort to showcase conservative ideas and recommendations in the run-up to critical congressional elections in the fall? The answer appears to be, in part, a reflection of the fact that relatively few prominent figures on the right these days have experience with, or a comfort level concerning, defense and foreign policy. As the National Security Action Summit demonstrated, however, a cohort can readily be found that is sufficiently large and conversant with these topics to illuminate them helpfully and to lead with respect to them.
One contributing factor is that CPAC has for years been under the malign influence of American Conservative Union board members, notably, Grover Norquist and Suhail Khan. They have worked to ensure that the conference’s agenda precludes speakers and topics that would, for example, expose their involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood, its front groups and agenda. (For documentation on the nature and extent of this involvement see: Agent of Influence: Grover Norquist and the Assault on the Right, which is available in pdf form at www.GroverMustGo.com).
Norquist also favors open borders and amnesty, cutting defense and improving relations with Iran. (See Part 7 of the free online course.) It is, in short, no wonder that the CPAC audience has been denied a balanced treatment of such topics.
The time has come for conservatives to recognize that the future of the country, to say nothing of their movement, depends on eschewing such policies and rebuilding their national security bona fides. The National Security Action Summit was an important first step, but it must not be the last.