CPAC 2023’s Home Run - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
El jonrón de CPAC 2023
Former President Donald Trump speaks at CPAC on March 4, 2023 (MSNBC/YouTube)

In the long ago and far away, I went to what was the first or one of the first CPACs in the mid-1970s.

A young staffer in the Pennsylvania State Senate, I went down to Washington for this new political event. There were some 200 people gathered in a ballroom at the Shoreham Hotel. The central attraction? That would be the-then former governor of California — Ronald Reagan.

And it would be the future president who said this at one of those early CPACs. The Republican Party, he said — and this decidedly applies to the conservative movement and CPAC — should be raising “a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues troubling the people.”

The CPAC 2023 I just returned from at National Harbor’s Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center was eons away from a small cluster of conservatives applauding former Gov. Reagan. But without question, CPAC 2023 was a successful gathering of conservatives who raised that “banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors.”

CPAC has grown from that early gathering of a couple hundred to a gathering of thousands. The speakers at CPAC 2023 were first-class serious conservatives from all over America, several right at the heart of the new GOP House majority. 

They included my own Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry, the head of the House Freedom Caucus. There was Ohio’s Jim Jordan, the new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Wyoming’s Harriet Hageman — she who primaried the Jan. 6 Committee’s “Republican” Liz Cheney (and defeated her by 40 points.)

From the Senate side were GOP stars Ted Cruz (TX), John Kennedy (LA), Rick Scott (FL), Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty (TN), as well as Tommy Tuberville (AL), Ohio’s J.D. Vance, Indiana’s Mike Braun, and Missouri’s Eric Schmidt.

Media stars included Donald Trump Jr., Kimberly Guilfoyle, and Lara Trump, with Newsmax’s CEO, Chris Ruddy, being interviewed by Mercedes Schlapp. Also Fox and talk radio’s Mark Levin and Julie Levin, the War Room’s Steve Bannon, radio’s Todd Starnes and Larry O’Connor, podcaster Ben Ferguson and Truth Social’s Devin Nunes. Also on board was Sara Carter of the Sara Carter Show and a frequent Hannity contributor on Fox. So too did Candace Owens of the Daily Wire have a starring role.

And, not to be forgotten, there was Arizona’s Kari Lake — who won the straw poll for vice president — and presidential candidate Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and UN ambassador, as well as another presidential candidate, entrepreneur and activist Vivek Ramaswamy.

There were more stars — plenty. And that’s well before the biggest star — former President Donald Trump — appeared. All of these people played well to the thousands of seriously energized attendees. 

Unsurprisingly, the media is no fan of CPAC. So they filled their columns and broadcasts with bogus stories about a “low-energy,” “not-well-attended” gathering that was “sad” and “desolate.” And there were personal attacks in the media on CPAC chair Matt Schlapp and his wife, Mercedes, both stars in their own right. 

As someone who was there from first to last, these pieces from the liberal media on CPAC 2023 are nothing but — to be polite — bunk. Sheer bunk.

Anyone with a working knowledge of the history of the conservative movement is well aware that the Schlapps are not the first conservatives to be targeted in this fashion. Nor will they be the last.

Before CPAC came to be in the 1970s with the staunch support of Ronald Reagan, the favorite media target was then-Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, the decidedly conservative 1964 GOP presidential nominee.  

Here are two examples of how the game the media is now playing with the Schlapps was played with Goldwater.

In 1963, Goldwater was approached by CBS’s Eric Sevareid and CBS News President Fred Friendly to, in Goldwater’s words, “produce an hour-long documentary on the conservative revolution in America.” The proposed title: The Conservative Revival.

A reluctant Goldwater, viewing CBS as filled with liberal bias, decided to take a chance and do it. In his memoirs, Goldwater described what happened next:

Sevareid interviewed me in my office for two and a half hours. (Goldwater aide) Tony Smith was present. The interview went downhill shortly after the start, when Sevareid asked in these general terms: Senator, you don’t have a college degree; do you regard this as an impediment to your ambition? I replied that I wasn’t a Phi Beta Kappa but had extensive military, business, and political experience that rounded out my general knowledge.

The questions got meaner and nastier as we went along. They suggested I was an accomplice of the John Birch Society and similar groups. Tony stood up at one point and was about to ask if the interview should be halted. He was very angry. I shook my head and he sat down. I’d given them my word, and I would keep it. I expected them to do the same.

A CBS camera crew followed me around for a month or so and took what seemed to be several hundred thousand feet of film. One day CBS called our office to alert us that the long-awaited documentary was about to appear. It was to be called Thunder on the Right and would report on the John Birch Society, the Minuteman, and other far-right activists. The program turned out to be an attack on these groups, not a documentary on the conservative revival. The only part of my long interview with Sevareid that was used was a single answer on the John Birch Society. The selection and editing of the film attempted to link me directly with the group. After the narration blasted the Birchers, Barry Goldwater suddenly appeared saying the society was not violating the Constitution. Yet we had long opposed the views of the Birchers and similar groups. In view of their conduct I would never again accept the word of Friendly or Sevareid.

Next up was this from Goldwater on how CBS operated. During the week of Goldwater’s actual nomination at the 1964 Republican Convention, CBS correspondent Daniel Schorr filed a report from Munich, Germany. Schorr said: “It looks as though Senator Goldwater, if nominated, will be starting his campaign here in Bavaria, center of Germany’s right-wing.”

Schorr went on to say that Goldwater would be visiting: “Berchtesgaden, Hitler’s onetime stamping ground…. Thus there are signs that the American and German right wings are going up.”

Goldwater wrote of this: “The CBS broadcast was false, and Schorr’s was the most irresponsible reporting I’ve witnessed in my life. The New York Times followed with an untrue account of its own.”

And where was Goldwater headed following his nomination? Home to Arizona to rest up for the campaign ahead.

Time after time, these kind of incidents pop up with the liberal media’s treatment of prominent conservatives. The tip-off to just how predictable this ridiculous media coverage of CPAC 2023 would be was that the personal attacks on CPAC chairman Matt Schlapp and his wife, Mercedes, launched before CPACers even arrived.

Speaking to Newsmax’s Chris Salcedo on Chris’ namesake, popular, Newsmax TV show, Matt Schlapp said this: “My wife and I have been victims of the left-wing media. They go after you. They try to destroy you. They try to destroy any conservative leader. They’re trying to destroy moms and dads. They’re trying to destroy Newsmax.”


The difference between the first CPACs in the 1970s and CPAC 2023 is that conservatives, whether they were there for this CPAC or were somewhere else in America unable to attend — understand the media.

A perfect description of today’s media came in a CPAC panel that featured the Media Research Center’s L. Brent Bozell III. Said Brent: “When we started in 1987, we went after this thing called liberal media bias. It doesn’t exist anymore. We’re not talking about a liberal media, you are talking about a media that could care less about the news. They don’t report the news. They’re weaponized. They’re Marxist! Many of them are Marxist.”


Needless to say, former President Trump was indeed the star of this CPAC. The annual CPAC straw poll announced that Trump had won the poll for the favorite in 2024, with 62 percent to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 20 percent. Which is to say, the 2024 campaign is now on — and Trump, with his vision for the future — which he outlined in detail at CPAC — is in the lead.

But without question, regardless of the predictably negative headlines from the anti-conservative press directed at both CPAC and Trump, CPAC 2023 was a great success. And Trump was a huge success.

CPAC 2023 was that success because of the endless hard work and vision of Matt and Mercedes Schlapp, CPAC Vice Chair Charlie Gerow, and a cast of hardworking conservatives who put on this success.

And, it should be noted, under this leadership team, CPAC is expanding the conservative movement around the globe — to far-off places like Hungary, Mexico, Japan, Australia, Brazil, and Israel. 

Which is another way of saying a decidedly energized conservative future awaits. And as I saw firsthand at CPAC 2023, conservatives have their sleeves rolled up and are ready to get back to work.

Somewhere President Reagan is smiling.

jeffrey señor
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Jeffrey Lord, editor colaborador de El espectador americano, fue ayudante de Ronald Reagan y Jack Kemp. Autor y excomentarista de CNN, escribe desde Pensilvania en Su nuevo libro, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump y el nuevo populismo estadounidense frente al viejo orden, ya no está disponible en Bombardier Books.
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