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How CPAC Moved From ‘City Upon a Hill’ to ‘Anti-Anti-Putin’

In 1974, Governor Ronald Reagan of California spoke at a new conference of rebel conservatives. But before he jumps into what will become one of his most famous speechesPresenting his vision of the country as “man’s last best hope” and “the city on the hill,” he introduced a young Navy pilot who had just been released from a North Vietnamese prison.

As the crowd gave 37-year-old John McCain a standing ovation, Reagan chuckled.

“Well, I might as well sit down,” he said. “I couldn’t do better than that for the rest of the evening.”

A worthy moment opened up by some today, as conservatives gather for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. It was an event that bore little resemblance to the one commemorating the future president and future senator, both of whom continued careers defined by their support for active U.S. intervention in the United States. foreign.

On the morning after President Vladimir Putin of Russia invaded neighboring Ukraine, at least one speaker at the conference used the forum to criticize President Biden, a Democrat, distracted by a meeting. crisis in a place where Americans don’t care. Others on the conference agenda made remarks that seemed sympathetic to Russia. On Saturday, activists will hear from Donald Trump, who this week hailed Putin as a “genius.”

This is not the first time CPAC has revealed how far Republicans have come in the Trump era. In 2018, when McCain had terminal brain cancer, a crowd of CPACs booed when Trump mentioned the senator’s name during a speech.

But the conference’s evolution from its intellectual roots to fervent populism continues to anger and frustrate many on the right.

“CPAC has always been a place where conservatives meet and debate ideas,” said Heath Mayo, who organized a rotating conservative gathering in Washington, DC this weekend. “And that’s not what it is anymore.”

Most Republicans in Congress have pay attention to a traditional conservative line – condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine while criticizing Biden for not acting more quickly to impose sanctions.

But while there was a lot of criticism about Biden’s alleged weakness, this year’s CPAC featured a number of speakers who took a completely non-Reaganesque stance. (Two of the most prominent Republicans — the former vice president, Mike Pence, and Nikki Haley, a former UN ambassador under Trump — did not attend.)

Charlie Kirk, a conservative activist, said in his speech, “The southern border of the United States is much more important than the border with Ukraine.” He added: “I’m more worried about how gangs are trying to infiltrate our country than a dispute 5,000 miles away, cities we can’t pronounce, where most Americans can’t find it on a map.”

Other speakers included Candace Owens, a popular podcast host, who this week urged her three million Twitter followers to read Putin’s comments about Ukraine “to know what *really*” happenning”. Tulsi Gabbard, a former Democratic congresswoman who has won support from the far right, said on Twitter: “This war and suffering could easily have been avoided if the Biden/NATO Governing Board had been simple. acknowledge Russia’s legitimate security concerns.”

Quin Hillyer, a longtime conservative commentator, said it would be wrong to assume such remarks represent a majority of Republicans.

“It’s not as popular as the noise,” says Hillyer. “The real debate among conservatives is about how to react rather than whether to sympathize with the Russians.” He pointed to the poll suggesting that Republican voters are more anti-Putin than widely thought.

Geoffrey Kabaservice, a Republican historian, said some conservatives were enthralled by “cheers for Putin as he destroys the liberal order and makes all the mass experts cry”.

“Tulsi Gabbard may believe many things that the CPAC crowd doesn’t, but they love her lust for destruction – and that drives them all down the anti-Putin line,” he added.

Matt Schlapp, head of the American Conservative Alliance, which runs CPAC, defended the conference as a forum for a variety of perspectives. But he says he likes to highlight unfounded voices.

“Nobody here walks up to me and says, ‘Why didn’t Mitt Romney speak? Schlapp said, referring to the Wyoming senator and 2012 Republican candidate. “I don’t see any reason to have him on stage. I don’t see him as a constructive voice.”

“Nobody here thinks John McCain should be reincarnated and give a speech at CPAC,” he added, though he said he respected his war record.

For all the criticisms against CPAC, efforts to develop an alternative forum are still in its infancy.

This weekend, 450 conservatives are gathering in Washington, DC, for what organizers are billing as anti-CPAC, Principles of the First Conference.

Mayo, the group’s 31-year-old founder, says the goal is to go back to the days when conservatives debated and inspired young activists. “They respect disagreements and arguments. They get up on stage and make arguments. That’s why we follow them,” he said.

And while this is clearly not an anti-Trump gathering, anti-Trump vibes is not to be missed. In the 2016 presidential primaries, Mayo supported Marco Rubio, Florida’s hawkish senator. The keynote speakers were Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, both Republicans who have been censored by the party for their involvement in the congressional committee investigating the January 6 riots at the Capitol. Both are vocal supporters of Ukraine.

Roger Zakheim, Washington director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Institute and Foundation, said that “reasonable people may disagree” on the Republican line, and noted that Reagan himself frequently faced challenges attack from his right flank.

But he urged Republicans to reconnect with Reagan’s foreign policy ideas, which he summed up with two basic principles: “Liberty is never more than a generation away from pernicious death. . It must be fought for “and “peace through strength”.

The more discussions and disagreements, the more fun, says Hillyer. “Right now, Trump is not our standard-bearer. he said. “So everything is fair game.”

  • For the latest updates on the rapidly evolving situation in Ukraine, stay tuned with Live coverage.

  • Discussion table held an audio roundtable on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with commentary from Ross Douthat, Frank Bruni, Farah Stockman and presenter, Lulu Garcia-Navarro.

  • Lara Jakes, Eric Schmitt and Edward Wong preview what might happen next during the Ukraine crisis, from cyber attacks to the influx of refugees to economic instability.

pulse

It is too early to know exactly how the Americans are reacting to the Russian invasion. But opinion polls during the conflict show voters sharply divided about how far the United States should go to support Ukraine – and what costs they will be willing to bear.

Overall, 52% of Americans say the US should have a “small role” in the situation in Ukraine, while 26% support a “major role” and 20% oppose that there is no role at all, according to the report. a survey completed on Monday of the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

In a surprising marker of how foreign policy positions have changed over the past few decades, Democrats are somewhat more interested than Republicans in saying the US should have a major role in the conflict. . A Republican firm, Echelon Research, found a similar divide: 56% of Democrats said the United States had a moral responsibility to protect Ukraine, compared with just 31% of Republicans.

Recent surveys offer few signs that the public is ready to support Biden in an international crisis. According to a Reuters poll. The vote tally closely reflects his overall approval ratings, suggesting that attitudes about his handling of Russia may reflect more general attitudes about his presidency than any particular view. about his foreign policy.

The investigations were made before Russia invaded Ukraine and should be interpreted with caution. The findings represent only a baseline measure of the public’s position in the face of conflict, and attitudes can change rapidly with new developments and continued media coverage. It may take a few more days before most pollsters complete the surveys taken entirely after the Russian invasion.

The poll, however, presents some political risk to the Biden administration.

A Reuters poll found only about half of Americans support sanctions against Russia if it means higher gas prices – as it seems possible – though more than two-thirds Voters say they support increased sanctions in general.

Even before any economic downturn from the conflict, most voters gave Biden poor rating to handle the economy, inflation and gas prices. Voters ranked inflation and the economy among the most important issues face the country in surveys conducted over the past few months.

Is there something you think we’re missing? Anything you want to see more of? We would love to hear from you. Email us at the address onpolitics@nytimes.com.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/24/us/politics/cpac-ukraine-putin.html How CPAC Moved From ‘City Upon a Hill’ to ‘Anti-Anti-Putin’

Fry Electronics Team

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