The best — and weirdest — moments from CPAC


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) walks onto the stage holding a rifle before speaking at the Conservative Political Conference at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Conservative activists are currently gathered in Maryland for three days of speeches by potential Republican presidential candidates, members of Congress and other bigwigs as part of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Here are some of the best — and at times downright strange — moments from the gathering so far.

1. Rick Perry gets this party started

The Texas governor, who is not seeking reelection in November, kicked off Friday with a red-meat speech that received enthusiastic applause from the audience. Could another presidential bid be in Perry's future?

 

2. Paul Ryan and the tale of the brown paper bag

Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman and 2012 GOP vice-presidential nominee, recounted a story he had heard about a child and a brown paper bag that equated free school lunches to an “empty soul.”

 

The only problem? It didn't happen — at least not as Ryan presented it. As The Post's Fact Checker Glenn Kessler noted when he awarded Four Pinocchios to Ryan, the story actually appears in a book whose authors partner with a group that works to connect needy children with federal programs that provide nutrition assistance.

In this case, apparently, the story was too good to check. We appreciate he is regretful now. But a simple inquiry would have determined that the person telling the story actually is an advocate for the federal programs that Ryan now claims leave people with “a full stomach and an empty soul.”

 

3. Donald Trump channels "South Park" on immigration

The billionaire and perennial non-candidate warned Republicans that supporting comprehensive immigration reform would spell electoral doom.

 

When Trump told the audience that illegal immigrants are "taking your jobs," it's hard not to be reminded of a classic "South Park" episode:

 

 

4. Mitch McConnell brandishes a weapon — for Tom Coburn

Perhaps the oddest moment of the convention so far was when the Senate minority leader, who is facing a tough reelection fight in his home state of Kentucky, brought a rifle onstage as Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" blared from the P.A. system. The gun was a gift for retiring Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) as a lifetime achievement award from the National Rifle Association. Yes, this happened.

 

5. Ted Cruz impersonates Jay Leno

The Texas senator and tea party favorite performed a passable Jay Leno impression while explaining that in order to win over  young people, conservatives need to "tell the truth."

 

6. Bobby Jindal likens the Obama administration to segregationists

The Louisiana governor accused Attorney General Eric Holder of attempting to “stand in the schoolhouse door” to stop minority and low-income students from attending charter schools.

 

7. A year after being snubbed, Chris Christie gets a warm welcome

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made a return to CPAC after last year's invitation got lost in the mail because Christie very publicly sparred with congressional Republicans and cozied up to President Obama in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which ravaged his state. In his speech, Christie sought to play up his conservative bona fides and took aim at Obama's record of leadership.

 

8. Rand Paul quotes Pink Floyd

In a wide-ranging speech that undoubtedly delighted political science undergrads (featuring references to Montesquieu, William Lloyd Garrison and Daniel Webster), the Kentucky senator asked, "How will history remember Barack Obama?" — and then answered his question with a line from Pink Floyd's "Wish you were here":

"To those who had hoped that President Obama would somehow be a champion of civil liberties, Roger Waters might ask: Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts? Did they get you to exchange a walk- on part — did they get you to exchange a walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?"

 

This post has been updated.

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