Live From CPAC: Day One

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.—When I told Slate’s editor-in-chief, David Plotz, where I’d be today, he expressed some characteristic surprise.  “It’s always CPAC!” he said. “It’s like Fashion Week—it’s always happening.” Sometimes it seems like that. CPAC remains the marquee political conference in Washington, one that draws (this year) 11,000 activists and (every year) hundreds of journalists who want to understand the conservative movement the way a college freshman understands macroeconomics via one weekend of Adderal-fueled cramming. Which is to say: It works! CPAC is always something of a challenge to insta-blog/insta-analyze—unless you want to be tethered to a chair in the dark, you can’t do it. (There are plenty of people to blog the biggest gaffes/zingers/gazingers from the stage.) So I’m running around today, but have so far seen: - Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey methodically walk the general audience through the defeat of Obama’s DOJ/Civil Rights Division nominee, never mentioning his colleague, Democratic Sen. Bob Casey. (I’ve noticed that Tea Party Patriots is also taking credit for marshaling grassroots opposition to the nominee. It’s hard to see how the Fraternal Order of Police in Pennsylvania doesn’t deserve the credit.) - Sen. Mitch McConnell saying farewell to his colleague, retiring Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, by telling the audience that Coburn empties his pockets and goes through metal detectors at the Capitol. “He doesn’t have to do it, but he does,” said McConnell. “He’s the only senator I know who does that every single morning.” It was of a piece of McConnell’s critique of the Democrats, that they were functionally elitists under whom “the rich have gotten richer and the poor have gotten poorer.” - Sens. Ted Cruz and Tim Scott being chased by throngs of college students and international reporters, whipping up such a frenzy that security had to cut off the interlopers at a barrier. Escaping the scrum, I overheard some of the college students comparing notes. “I just shook hands with Tim Scott.” “That just happened!”