Ukraine got almost eclipsed last week in the media by the Conservative Political Action Conference, an amazing feat considering that only 2,500 people attend the annual event in Washington. The press does show the GOP lack of understanding, lack of regard for humanity, and just downright craziness. Because the conference has been so entertaining—in a very noir fashion—I can’t resist writing about it.
In an effort to shine a negative light on free school lunches, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) told a heart-wrenching tale of a little boy who would rather his folks fix him a school lunch in a brown paperback rather than get a free hot lunch. The speech went viral and got a fact check from Washington Post, receiving Four Pinocchios—the highest number possible for a falsehood. Ryan credited Eloise Anderson, who serves in the cabinet of his “buddy, Governor Scott Walker,“ as the person who met this little boy.
Anderson told the story at a congressional hearing last summer, claiming that she had spoken to him. When pressed for the truth, Anderson said that she hadn’t actually met the boy but was referring to a television interview with Maurice Mazyck, who repeated the story that occurred over 25 years ago which may have come from Laura Schroff’s The Invisible Thread. Both Anderson and Ryan got four Pinocchios because “politicians need to check the facts in any prepared remarks.” The question is whether Ryan will learn his lesson faster than Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) who continued to plagiarize after he got caught.
A better school lunch story comes from Howell (MI) where an eight-year-old boy started raising money because he didn’t want his classmate to have his lunch taken away and replaced with a cheese sandwich. That’s what my state representative calls a “scarlet sandwich” like The Scarlet Letter.
Cayden and his mother collected cans and bottles to fund lunches, and friends and neighbors helped them raise $64, enough for other 100 lunches. After a radio station broadcast the story, they had enough money for 5,000 lunches the next week. Almost 30 percent of students in the county where Cayden lives are on free or reduced-price lunch, better than in my county where almost two-thirds of the kids eligible for the school lunch program because of poverty. Detroit’s ABC affiliate picked Cayden as its “Detroit 2020 Person of the Week.”
And he’s doing all this while conservatives at CPAC were blowing hot air about how poor people don’t deserve any help. The richest country in the world is now at the place where eight-year-olds have to go out to raise money to help his friends.
Right-wing talk show host Michael Medved said, “There has never been a state in this country that has ever banned gay marriage.” He claimed that this was a “liberal lie.” Try telling that to same-sex couples in the 33 states that deny them marriage licenses. Thirty of the states have banned marriage equality through state constitutional amendments and the other three by statute.
Thanks to John Hudak, Fellow of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institute for this photo of the room for the minority outreach panel, “How do we grow our ranks in areas where we traditionally underperform?” The seats stayed empty, according to Mediate, until people rolled in for the next session with NRA’s Wayne LaPierre.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, whose personal hopes for presidential candidate were revived with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s debacle, compared the Obama administration’s opposition to George Wallace trying to keep black students out of which schools. Jindal also advocates a policy of “health for handshakes” because that’s what his folks did when he was born.
Donald Trump mentioned the “late, great Jimmy Carter,” forgetting that the 39th president of the United States is still helping people all over the world.
A panel on “Why Conservatism is Right for Women” pushed the point that the “real” GOP War against Women is the insistence of people on the left to point out the GOP positions and statements. If the media didn’t print what GOP members said, no one would notice.
Conservative author Kate Obenshain asked GOP members to lay off their dumb comments: “We cannot have any stupid comments this year. Please think before you make pithy, obnoxious comments.” She added, “White men stay behind, let the women talk about this issue.” Letting GOP women talk might not even be a good idea. At CPAC, Ann Coulter said about unwed mothers, “Shaming is good.”
Possibly the strangest part of CPAC was Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) waving a musket rifle in the air on-stage. Actually, he was make a NRA presentation to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) who is retiring with a 100-percent approval for his voting record on giving guns to everyone with no restrictions. The strange part was not the gun but what McConnell said today about the Tea Party, those people at CPAC. “I think we are going to crush them everywhere. I don’t think they are going to have a single nominee anywhere in the country.”
White House senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer summed up the speeches: “Based on today’s speeches, I am not sure we will be able to tell the difference between CPAC and the SNL spoof of CPAC.”
A bit about CPAC:
- While claiming to be grassroots, the American Conservative Union, parent of CPAC, is supported by guns, big oil, cigarettes, and the Koch brothers.
- Among the CPAC sponsors was Facebook. They may have used all their money to go there because they’re not scheduled to be at Netroots Nation in July.
- Casual encounter ads on CraigsList greatly increase for the CPAC with many attendees searching for man-on-man relationships in a wild variety of weekend love fests. Read this for the graphic language.
Hard to believe, but some people are even too extreme for CPAC. Family Research Council leader Jerry Boykin wasn’t invited so he gave his own speech. After he was finished, an open mike mistakenly picked up his comments: “The Jews are the problem, the Jews are the cause of all the problems in the world.” An unknown person answered, “I know, I know, that’s why we’re trying to fix everything.”
For people who want to check the veracity of GOP statements, Media Matters has started Mythopedia and encourages tips. The online database has about 400 entries but may evolve in a Wikipedia-style site.
At CPAC, GOP presidential wannabes compete with each other in the straw poll. Rand Paul won for the second consecutive year, this time with 31 percent of the vote. Conservatives and libertarians agree with Paul that businesses should be able to discriminate to anyone they wish–minorities, pregnant women, etc. Other issues, however, caused divides at CPAC.
One major division was whether the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is a hero or a coward. Libertarians think that the constitution means absolute privacy while conservatives think that he is helping “to dismantle the defenses of this nation in a time of maximum danger,” as former Virginia governor James Gilmore said.
Even more disunity occurred at the panel to determine whether “libertarians and social conservatives” can unite. Referring to the Christian right’s anti-gay marriage, anti-abortion, anti-pot messages undermining the GOP’s election chances, a member asked, “Will conservatives ever ease up on social issues, or do we have to wait for our generation to do it?” An attendee responded, via Twitter, “It’s unfortunate that this conference has been hijacked by libertarians. Libertarians are not conservatives. They should hold their own conference.” Oops.
Polls show that the next generation may make a significant change. More millennials, born after 1980, view themselves as liberal than conservative. About 32 percent call themselves liberal compared to the 25 percent who identify as conservative. Almost half of them say that they grow more liberal as they become older, and 57 percent of them say that their views on social issues become more progressive with time. Almost 70 percent support marriage equality, and millennials are twice as likely to view same-sex couples raising children as positive rather than negative. Over half of them favor a “bigger government providing more services” rather than a smaller government. Now if we can just get them to vote!