alien & sedition.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
  Blowback from McCain's CPAC Snub

As you may recall, John McCain was conspicuous by his absence at this year's CPAC. The American Conservative Union, which sponsored the conference, today features an article (reprinted from The Hill) by ACU chairman David Keene, who scolds McCain for the snub. He also mentions - which I hadn't been aware of - that, consistent with McCain's flip-floppy record, the Senator's aides did try at the last minute to work something out, but they were snubbed in return. The whole thing was a blown opportunity:
McCain’s people reacted to questions about how [skipping CPAC] fit into his strategy of courting conservative support with blank stares and finally began claiming that CPAC was not representative of anything, as it is attended mostly by “Washington insiders.” What was apparent to reporters and others, however, was that the 6,300 conservative activists streaming in from outside Washington were, in fact, from everywhere but Washington. As it turned out, they had come from all 50 states and were crowding the halls of the Shoreham and a couple of neighboring hotels that had been booked solid weeks in advance.

When the senator’s people realized this wouldn’t fly they tried to go around the organizers to get a room to host a separate reception for attendees, but were told quite accurately that every function room and suite in the host hotel were sold out. They satisfied themselves in the end by telling reporters that the senator would have come but for scheduling difficulties.

In fact, had McCain attended, he would have been well received. He finished fourth anyway in the straw poll won by Mitt Romney, but was booed every time his name was mentioned for the way he and his ham-handed managers handled the whole thing. There is much about his record that conservatives don’t like, but a good bit they admire as well. That is something that can be said of the other wannabes as well … and all of them were well received.
I'm not one of those liberals with a soft spot for John McCain; he's an unprincipled war hawk with a much more conservative record than many would like to admit. Still, I was counting it as a plus for him that he skipped out on this year's Coulterized hate fest. But it should come as no surprise that he in fact made a rather pathetic attempt to get on board at the last minute.

One thing that does sound odd to me is the assertion, from both sides, that McCain simply didn't know how big a deal CPAC would be. It's the major event on the conservative calendar. It's a big deal every year. McCain wasn't avoiding it because he was misinformed; he was avoiding it, most likely, because he knew what a cesspool of right-wing fanaticism it can be. And yet he still flip-flopped and tried to get in under the wire.

As it stands, McCain's relationship with the conservative base has taken a blow, not just for missing CPAC, but for making its organizers feel bad:
The loser, of course, was John McCain—not because he wasn’t there, but because of the essentially mean-spirited manner in which he and his staff dismissed the very people whose support he claims he is seeking.
And that just seems to be the line on McCain generally: nobody actually likes him very much.

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