The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

‘We’ll Always Have CPAC’

Posted on | February 15, 2011 | 15 Comments

Ginny at Obi’s Sister paid tribute to my schmoozing abilities by dubbing me the “cruise director” of CPAC, but I had just been watching Casablanca on TCM, so I told Ginny:

“Cruise director”? I’d rather you thought of me as Rick Blaine in Casablanca: “We’ll always have CPAC.”

Yeah, that’s me. Bogie, hardened and cynical: “I stick my neck out for nobody.” The rest of you starry-eyed idealists are Ilsa or Lazlo, but I’m too wised-up to fall for that sentimental nonsense.

And then Sam starts playing “As Time Goes By,” and the memories come rushing back. It was CPAC 2008, and I’d just quit The Washington Times. I was due to fly to Uganda in a few days on a freelance assignment, and my buddy Matthew Vadum and I were planning a huge party that night. But first, there was crying:

Tears streaked the faces of the young conservative activists, heartbroken by the disastrous news.
It was Feb. 7 [2008] at the Omni Shoreham Hotel and I had stepped down to the exhibition hall where scores of attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference gathered in front of a large plasma TV. They watched in stunned disbelief as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney announced he was suspending his presidential campaign.
“If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win,” Romney told the audience in a nearby ballroom, his speech relayed to the exhibition hall via closed-circuit TV. “And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.”
Some of those staring at the TV dabbed moisture from the corners of their eyes. Others just let the tears flow.
Scarcely an hour earlier, many of those same faces had been beaming with joy. The young volunteers swarmed over the hotel lobby, offering Romney lapel stickers to conferees arriving for the governor’s CPAC speech. While they eagerly boosted their candidate, however, I was among the journalists scrambling to confirm the news that had just flashed over the Drudge Report: Romney would quit the race.
One of my friends was volunteering with Evangelicals for Mitt. As I crossed the lobby she grabbed my arm and asked: “Stacy, is it true?”
I explained the situation as I understood it at that point. My friend was flabbergasted. “But why? It doesn’t make sense,” she said. I agreed, but had no insight to offer, nor any consolation for her tears. And I had a story to file. . . .

It’s all just a job, another assignment, another deadline to meet — file it and forget it, then move on to the next story. But three years later, what have we seen? What have we learned?

We’ve learned that some people who call themselves “conservative” are in fact only in politics to advance their own selfish interests — $35,000 a month plus expenses! — by selling out the suckers stupid enough to believe in anything else. You see that kind of stuff happen often enough and you wonder whether there is any point in believing anything at all. Why risk becoming one of those foolish True Believers whose idealism only serves to empower such political con artists?

To persist in believing despite all discouragement requires many things, including the spirit of camraderie gained through the shared experiences of good times and bad. In 2008, conservatives were betrayed, backstabbed, sold out and defeated. After two years of relentless toil, conservatives triumphed against overwhelming odds.

Now we’ve just had the biggest CPAC ever, and we’re a year away from the next CPAC. Where will we be then? What will be the condition of the conservative movement? I don’t know. While I don’t share Ann Coulter’s belief that Chris Christie is the only hope in 2012, I agree wholeheartedly with her that if the Republican Party nominates Mitt Romney, we’re doomed to another four years of Obama.

Mitt quit.

Simple as that. I can’t forgive Romney for his gutless decision to surrender in 2008, breaking the hearts of all those who had supported him as the last hope to stop John McCain. Look at my blog post from a day that shall live in infamy, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008:

Excuse the long delay in blogging. Had trouble connecting with the WiFi system. There will be many updates to come, but right now … wow. What a day.
From my report for

The announcement stunned many of Romney’s supporters, especially hundreds of college-age supporters who had been handing out Romney lapel stickers in the hotel lobby just minutes earliers.
“I am incredibly shocked … profoundly saddened,” said Ruth Malhotra, an activist with Evangelicals for Mitt. “I can’t support John McCain. He is not a conservative. … He’s stabbed his party in the back and he’s betrayed the conservative movement.”
Her sentiments were echoed by Orit Sklar of Jews for Mitt. “There’s no way I’m voting for John McCain,” she said.
In an exhibition hall, Romney supporters gathered around a big-screen TV to watch the speech. Many had tears in their eyes. …

Now John McCain is on TV talking about his conservative principles. Should be a short speech.

Will update later ….

UPDATE: At this point, among conservative McCain opponents, people seem sort of stunned. I just had a long conversation with Tony Blankley, who suggests that Rush, Ingraham, Levin and others will eventually support the Republican nominee.
We’ll see. There are now people in the hotel lobby waving “Stop The McCain Amnesty” signs.
You know who’s happy now? The Paulistas. Ron Paul just gave a speech — he’s very popular with College Republicans.

(Just so you know, the site for which I covered CPAC that year,, was sold in fall 2008 to Salem Communications and shut down. The URL now redirects to, a site that keeps hiring my friends but evidently has no use for the disreputable likes of me.)

The point of quoting my 2008 CPAC coverage was to show how clearly subsequent events were foreshadowed, up to and including the otherwise unexpected boost that Romney’s surrender gave to the youth-backed Paulista insurgency.

By the time I returned from Uganda a couple weeks later, Hillary was still fighting on in her doomed effort to beat Obama, and the job offer I’d previously had from a Conservative Publication That Need Not Be Named Here had become, instead, a request that I send them some articles for possible freelance publication.

Well, hell, if I wanted to be freelancing, I already had a good relationship with The American Spectator, where the editors treated me with respect. Why should I be expected to write for another outfit on a tryout basis, like some grass-green rookie? Screw that.

I write for money. And don’t ever ask me to write for anything else.

So instead of looking for another full-time job, I just kept freelancing for the Spectator and doing my blog as if it were a regular job, spending out my 401(k) to subsidize this unexpected venture in reader-supported journalism. By the time my 401(k) was gone, Barack Obama was president, I’d managed to reach a million hits, and another CPAC had arrived. A year later, by the time of CPAC 2010, Smitty had joined up as a sidekick and switched us to WordPress. Now, Smitty is in Afghanistan and Wombat’s covering the sidekick duties.

None of this stroll down memory lane was planned when I started writing this post, just as none of what has happened in the past three years was planned when I quit The Washington Times a couple of weeks before CPAC 2008. All that I’ve gone through . . .

Well, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of one little blogger don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. It’s nearly 2 a.m., and I’ve got to make a run to the store. When I get back, I’ll update with the final batch of my CPAC pictures.

Here’s looking at you, kid.

UPDATE: Now for the photos:

Tabitha Hale and Melissa Clouthier sing karaoke Saturday night at Peyote Cafe in Adams Morgan.

Rebecca Grunewald was sucked into the hurricane-force vortex of karaoke awesomeness created by Tabitha and Melissa.

Christopher Malagisi and Sarah B. Smith of the Young Conservatives Coalition listen as Dale Peterson talks to attendees at the YCC Reaganpalooza, inviting them to join his national campaign to hunt down those SOBs who keep stealing yard signs.

Co-blogger Wombat with Dale Peterson at Reaganpalooza Saturday night at Teatro Goldoni on K Street. Wombat immediately signed up for Peterson’s campaign to eradicate sneaky yard-sign stealers.

Fleming and Hayes with Alfonzo Rachel of PJTV and the dude on the right, whose name I’ve forgotten, but he’s from Kentucky and sang Hank Jr. at karaoke.

My son-in-law Martin  and his wife/my daughter Kennedy pose with Christopher Malagisi of the Young Conservatives Coalition at the Reaganpalooza. Martin will be attending law school in the fall, so he can afford to support my daughter in the style she deserves. I’ve nicknamed Martin “Che” because he’s kind of a liberal. That’s OK, though, because (a) compared to me, everybody’s kind of a liberal and (b) when I was young and ignorant, I was kind of liberal, too.

Rebecca Grunewald shows her “compassionate conservative” streak by giving a pity-hug to Tommy Christopher. You may be asking yourself, “Why does a liberal douchebag like Tommy Christopher always hang around conservative parties?” The answer is quite simple: Because this gives Tommy the opportunity to be rejected by attractive women, as opposed to the ugly women who reject him at liberal parties.

Contrary to appearances, I was not drunk in this picture. What happened was that these two lovely young ladies asked me to hold their beers while they posed with the irresistible Wombat. Just ask him. He’ll swear to it.

OK, I’ve forgotten the name of the dude posing with Ali Akbar at the Reaganpalooza. But that doesn’t prove that I was drunk or anything.

At the Reaganpalooza with financial expert Peter Schiff, the guy who predicted the collapse of the real-estate bubble, but who failed to warn me that my memory was about to go completely blank.

Sarah Rumpf couldn’t resist a chance to hang out with Wombat at the Reaganpalooza.

Recent law school graduate Chad Burchard poses with Daily Caller staff writer Chris Moody at the Reaganpalooza, wondering why all the pretty girls were hanging out with Wombat

At the late-night Kruiser Kabana party hosted by Stephen Kruiser, I pose with blogger Susannah Fleetwood and some dude whose name I can’t remember. But that doesn’t prove anything.

Surrounded by a cheering crowd of people whose names I can’t remember, Angel Fleming sings karaoke while Shane Hayes catches it all on video.

Two dudes whose names I can’t remember hang out with Kennedy and Martin at the Reaganpalooza.


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