It normally doesn't generate much media attention, but this year's Conservative Political Action Conference might've been the most bombastic ever. Usually this annual powwow is a mostly wonky, drab affair, but this year the tighty righties pulled out the knives. It wasn't terribly surprising that a fair part of the CPAC was spent criticizing Former President Bush; as much as he adored the conservative movement, Bush had such a poor handle on these ideals that his own party gave him the cold shoulder. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich dared to compare President Obama to Bush by comparing their "failed" economic policies and propencity for humongous bailouts. Gov. Mitt Romney took another stab at Bush, wishing that our 43rd president had laid out a stimulus package before he left office, while Gov. Mike Huckabee cited the need for competant conservative leadership that Dubya only intermittently offered.
The 800-pound gorilla in the room wasn't the past or present but the future of the GOP. With the Democrats controlling the presidency, both houses of congress, and possibly the Supreme Court in a year or two, the Republicans are feeling increasingly marginalized. Some might argue that the conservative movement is digging its own grave, that an inherent lack of focus resulted in crushing losses in the 2006 midterms and the 2008 presidential race. Non-conservatives will suggest that it's the media representation of the right wing --not the politicians themselves-- that's bringing them down. After Rush Limbaugh declared that he hopes Obama fails, did anyone really expect him to tone his bluster down? Were we really expecting any new insight from Ann Coulter, outside of her usual cartoonish liberal-bashing? Are there any conservative pundits that can keep their egos seperated from their opinions?
There's still reason for optimism, though. This year's CPAC was attended by a record 9,000 Republican gearheads, most of whom were college kids and politically active twenty-somethings. It's not too often that you see youngsters looking wide-eyed with their mouths agape at the likes of John Boehner and Ron Paul. This is the future of the Republican Party, tomorrow's campaigners and speechwriters and somewhere down the road candidates in their own right. The near-future isn't quite as rosy; Gov. Bobby Jindal's response of the Obama's state of the union address was criticized by both sides as too feeble and homespun, and some moderate Republicans still aren't warming up Gov. Sarah Palin, but they're still viable sparing partners for President Obama in 2012.
Finally... I really don't know what to make of the Roland Burris situation, probably because I'm still burnt out from the Blagojevich impeachment. I can't tell if it makes sense to kick Burris out of office at this point; after all, he's only finishing out President Obama's term and it's unlikely that Burris will get reelected to a full term on his own merit. I don't doubt that Burris deceived the state of Illinois, it's just a question of how much he's hiding. On the other hand, Burris is not Blagojevich; our former governor was an arrogant buffoon and got what he deserved, whereas Burris is a longtime Illinois politico that keeps finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.