Dr. Ben Carson, Sen. Mike Lee Kick off CPAC - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Dr. Ben Carson, Sen. Mike Lee Kick off CPAC

Greetings from Maryland where I’m attending the Conservative Political Action Conference so that you don’t have to. While we are only in the early hours of the conference, I have already seen more articles of clothing fashioned from the American flag than I thought were humanly possible. There is a man here with a pair of MC Hammer-style pants, decorated with the Stars and Stripes, that would strike fear into the heart of any of America’s enemies. Beyond red, white and blue attire, the most prominent trends at this year’s essential gathering of conservatives are Duck Dynasty beards that could comfortably house a squirrel family of four and really, really inappropriate shoes.

Kicking off the conferernce at a rather ungodly hour was Dr. Ben Carson, who spoke to a rapt ballroom (or, at least one that had not yet had its coffee). Carson, the first of the 2016 potential candidates to address the conference, had a rather muted tone to his speech, focusing primarily on the failures of government health care, a subject he can speak on with authority given his vast, detailed, and interior understanding of the American healthcare system. Probably most notable about his remarks, however, was his focus on his own humble upbringing, and how the progressive agenda, according to Carson, fails to treat people in poverty with any real compassion:

We need to understand what true compassion is to reach out to individuals who think that being dependent is reasonable as long as they feel safe.… It’s not compassion to pat them on the head and say, “There, there, I’m going to take care of all your needs, your health care, your food.” That’s the opposite of compassion.

Like all potential Presidential candidates (as, according to CPAC’s organizers, defined by the “media,” though I was not immediately consulted), Carson also had to face an audience Q&A. He was asked about his foreign policy, to which Carson replied that his foreign policy is to trust people who know something about foreign policy.

Sen. Mike Lee followed close beyond Dr. Carson, and took the opportunity to annouce that he does not intend to seek the party’s nomination in 2016. Lee instead focused on the Republican Party and conservative movement’s internal struggles, encouraging the audience to welcome disagreement within their ranks, to explore the various policy agendas of their peers in the conservative movement, and to expect more from their candidates than just rote memorization of ideological talking points. The audience was rather quiet on the subject, but Lee’s speech was received well overall, and unlike in past years, didn’t devolve into a commentary on the state of the American salad bar.

I’ll be here all weekend. If you’re around, say hello. I can’t accept tips, but I can accept gin and tonics.

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