CPAC: Dick Cheney
Well, Day 1 of CPAC 2005 is in the books.
The banquet, which featured Vice President Dick Cheney as the before-dinner speaker, was interesting. I’ve always liked Cheney, in much the same way as Rumsfeld, simply because they’re rather curmudgeonly and are sufficiently liberated by not having ambitions beyond their present position to more-or-less speak their mind. The veep didn’t say anything particularly surprising, except that an intended joke line that we had more people in the income tax preparation business than we have in the United States Army fell flat. Cheney got a laugh when he deadpanned “hey, that was a pretty good line!” when he failed to get the anticipated reaction the first time. Of course, unintentionally reminding people that the Army might oughta be a little bigger right about now is not necessarily the best fodder for humor.
Overall, though, Cheney was amusing and charming. His tributes to two soldiers, one a 39-year-old NYC firefighter who raised the flag after 9/11 only to die last month with his Army National Guard unit in Baghdad and the other a young immigrant from Haiti who died recently from terrorist activity, were especially compelling.
Still, my reaction to the dinner festivities was much like my reaction to the first day overall. There were a lot of high-powered speakers who had a lot to say but, for whatever reason, didn’t say it. While I’ve been bored at plenty of academic conferences, I’ve generally found them much more engaging than these type of events.
Partly, this is just a function of my natural grumpiness combined with being enough of a political junkie that it’s hard to say anything I haven’t heard–hell, blogged–before. But I expect there’s more to it. Washington policy insiders spend so much time delivering their boilerplate to the media and various other venues that they’re simply unused to speaking their minds. Still, giving what amounts to warmed-over campaign speeches at a forum where the audience is almost definitionally already on your side is dull at best, condescending at worst.
I suspect I’d have had a better time at a liberal version of this–say, a MoveOn.org convention. At least there, the speakers would rant and rave about the Bush Administration and say things to generate controversy.
See CPAC Bloggers for the reactions of other bloggers with credentials to the convention.