FEBRUARY 27, 2015
National Harbor Maryland—A reality show star, Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson, was by far the most entertaining attraction at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Friday outside of Washington D.C. He ranted that sexually transmitted diseases are the “revenge of the hippies” and advised Republican presidential hopefuls to “keep the scandals down.”
Clad in head-to-toe camouflage, the long-bearded character also talked about religion, morals and the nation’s second president. “You lose your religion, according to John Adams, and there goes your morality,” Robertson said. “We’re almost there. I hate to admit I got my facts from the CDC the day before yesterday—110 million Americans now have a sexually transmitted illness.” The audience chuckled and Robertson continued. He even whipped out a Bible and read a passage. A professional hunter, Robertson is the patriarch of a Louisiana family that creates top-of-the-line duck calls.
Less than an hour later on the same main ballroom stage the most anticipated appearance by a politician, Jeb Bush, was not nearly as amusing. The rumored walkout during the former Florida governor’s presentation—to protest that he’s not conservative enough— didn’t materialize and instead it seems like his popularity as a 2016 presidential hopeful increased among the crowd. In a ratings war, Robertson would have been the undisputed winner.
Bush survived a question and answer session with a Fox newscaster at the annual conference without any major disruptions. The venue was packed and only a few hecklers could be heard in the distance, but none managed to effect the flow of the 25-minute presentation. Bush looked calm and incredibly comfortable throughout and didn’t flinch when the crowd booed his stance on immigration and education.
As Florida governor Bush favored driver’s licenses for illegal aliens and discounted in-state tuition at public colleges and universities. On Friday he defended his stance on immigration and Common Core, the highly unpopular federal takeover of the nation’s public education system. Nevertheless Bush described himself as a “practicing, reform-minded, conservative.” He touted his accomplishments during two terms as Florida governor (cut taxes, made the state a world-class business center and 3% unemployment) and insisted “we have to be young and dynamic and aspirational again.”
Carl Schuler, an 18-year-old college freshman from Ohio, said he believes in Bush despite some differences on certain issues like immigration. “At the end of the day he’ll do what’s best for the country,” said Schuler, a freshman at the University of Alabama. “He worries about the nation and that’s what we need.” One of Schuler’s friends, also a college freshman, said Bush reminds him of Ohio Governor John Kasich.
Earlier in the day Florida Senator Marco Rubio and former Texas Governor Rick Perry addressed the conference. Like most of the politicians who have appeared at CPAC Rubio blasted Obama, especially his foreign policies. During his speech Perry delivered a witty line that received applause, chuckles and a few roars. “We survived Depression, we even survived Jimmy Carter and we will survive the Obama years too!”
The conference ends Saturday instead of the traditional Sunday, but all the big political figures are done. Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton will headline a morning panel titled: “Reining in a Lawless President: Obamnesty and Other Pen and Phone Affronts.” A noon session on the politicization of the internet will feature former officials from the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communication Commission.
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