- For the millions of American reality-show junkies who just can't wait for the return of 2012's most outrageous hit show—the Republican presidential debates—this week's Conservative Political Action Conference has offered a tantalizing sneak preview. Just about every potential 2016 cast member was in D.C.—and everybody had something to prove.
- For Chris Christie, excluded last year but invited back now that he's being "attacked" by the media—instant conservative cred!—had to show he could get the 'wingers on their feet. Which, Christie being Christie, was a snap, especially with guaranteed-to-please counterfactuals like this one about Democrats: “They’re the party of intolerance. Not us.”
- (And hey, if you doubt for a second that Republicans are indeed the lonely beacons of open-mindedness in this land, check out the instantly famous photo of the near-empty conference room where they held their minority outreach panel on Thursday.)
- Bobby Jindal, who's trying to prove that being detested by the state you govern doesn't mean the rest of the country won't love you, has been trying to reignite his rising star with some good, old-fashioned cultural populism—including his own down-home brand of Republican tolerance. He had the folks a-hollering with this: "I got some attention forstanding up to defend the ‘Duck Dynasty’ family when they got in a little bit of trouble,” Jindal declared. “You may have thought I was defending the Robertson family because they’re from Louisiana … because my kids are just huge, huge fans. … But the reality is this: I stood up for their right to speak up and articulate their beliefs because I am tired of the left. I’m tired of the left that claims they’re tolerant, claims they’re for diversity and they are, they’re tolerant and they’re for diversity except when you dare to disagree with them.”
- Jindal's cheap-point-scoring routine also included the ultimate jab at President Obama: Not the worse president since Jimmy Carter, but worse than Jimmy Carter!
- Donald Trump, who's learned it's good for business to pretend you might run for president, also spat on the grave of "the late, great Jimmy Carter." Trouble being, Carter is reportedly still alive and unburied.
- But the Donald did demonstrate the rock-solid consistency of his views; while others have abandoned the birther fiield, he's still clinging to the notion that we very well may "have a sham president."
- Rick Perry came to CPAC hell-bent on showing he's kicked the pain medications blamed for his sleepy incoherence the last time he ran for president. And guess what? Governor Goodhair, as he's known back home, sported his new-look glasses—so scholarly!—and rocked the joint Friday morning, madly gesticulating and emoting and recommending "a little rebellion."
- Surprisingly, Perry outshone Mike Huckabee, who's been slimming down and insulting women as he prepares to make a second run after his runner-up finish in '08. Huck's message to the CPAC-ers: He knows things. Like Hillary Clinton (from Arkansas days), "life begins at conception," the IRS is a "criminal enterprise," and "mothers and fathers raise children better than government ever will." Ho-hum.
- Marco Rubio, the former Tea Party dreamboat who's been looked at askance since he committed the mortal sin of trying to legislate on immigration, was out to prove his gravitas on foreign policy—which meant invoking Reagan while sounding like George W. Bush, hammering "totalitarian governments" and reviving that good old invade-Iraq logic: “There is only one nation on earth capable of rallying and bringing together the free people on this planet to stand up to the spread of totalitarianism,” Rubio said.
- Paul Ryan, who's been busy re-fashioning himself as The Budget-Slashing Conservative Who Cares, spun a rather bizarre yarn that actually did sound like something the real Ronald Reagan would have come up with: He told the folks about a "young boy from a very poor family" who receives free lunches at school "from a government program"—only because he didn't have "someone who cared for him." Poverty is all about neglectful parents, you see. Now if we can just make them care as much as Ryan and the Party of Tolerance do ...
- Ted Cruz, the opening speaker, repeated much of his 2013 speech—which was perfectly fine with his adoring fans, who chased him like The Beatles circa 1964 when he showed up on Thursday.
- Rand Paul, who got a hero's welcome this afternoon, came second in a recent GOP preference poll—to the undead Mitt Romney—and he brought the house down by showing what makes him the only guy in the field with something different to say, vigorously damning the NSA all to hell.
- Oh, yes, lest we forget: Paul was preceded on stage by Rick Santorum, whose appearance was notable primarily for his choice of outro music: "The Power of Love."
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