On the first day of CPAC, Rand Paul was the no-surprise headliner.
Paul was given just 10 minutes, but he stole an additional eight or nine to let loose an entertaining, cogent and far more articulate and attractive version of his father’s message. He declared that liberty should be the backbone of Republican Party doctrine going forward, and that this would be an improvement over what he called an inconsistent approach to it in recent years. How to sell that idea to national-security and social conservatives will be Paul’s challenge as he attempts to build a coalition in advance of his 2016 presidential run, but he didn’t quite have enough time even with his pilferage of the podium to sketch out the details of that appeal.
And then there was his veiled shot at John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who so rudely attacked him for his filibuster. “The GOP of old has grown stale and moss-covered,” said Paul. “I don’t think we need to name any names, do we?”
The best line probably had to do with his description of the Facebook generation as quite good at smelling out lies and hypocrisy from politicians, and that the future political favorites of that generation are the ones who can convince them they “won’t feed them a line of crap.”
Paul’s speech came after another one of the GOP’s rising Senatorial stars, Mike Lee of Utah, took to the floor. Lee, less well known than Paul and perhaps less skilled at getting headlines but equally as thoughtful in his commitment to the Constitution, gave a bit more low-key speech which contained one really good rhetorical point – namely, that the opposite of bad government isn’t good government but rather civil society, that space between the individual and the State in which we live our lives through voluntary association and consensual behavior. Lee noted that the primary effort of the Progressive Left over the past 80 years has been to hollow out civil society as much as possible, and the mission of conservatives needs to be to expand it.
For energy and passion, of course, there was no beating Allen West’s speech…
But Pat Toomey, who seems to be a highly underrated new conservative voice in the Senate, gave a purposeful speech on the federal budget and why it’s THE issue…
“Frankly, cutting spending should be easy.”