My posts on turmoil caused by CPAC’s decision to exclude New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and the conservative gay group GOProud and the need for younger, more forward-thinking conservative leadership have engendered a very positive reaction from conservatives, many of them under 40 years old.
But it didn’t please Al Cardenas, the head of the Conservative Union, which puts on CPAC. On Sunday afternoon I received this e-mail from him:
Respectfully, I believe that you have totally missed the point regarding our invitations at CPAC.
I hope you have had a chance to read my recent op-Ed on conservative civility in Human Events and the National Journal’s recent coverage of the rationale for our decisions.
Simply stated: we at the American Conservative Union insist on civility from all of our guests.
In years past we have decided to not invite even crowd favorites whenever we felt they have crossed the line of appropriate discourse.
We had invited GOProud to participate at previous CPACs but when they decided to publicly attack some of our board members and draw attention to themselves at our event while being our guests, we decided to take a pass for a while on their organization — while making it clear that all of their members were individually invited and welcome.
Likewise that year we also disinvited the John Birch Society; also for reasons of civility. Also, this year we decided not to invite Pamela Geller for comments she made at CPAC critical of our officers. In each of these cases, their ad hominem attacks denigrate the debate and distract from the real point of CPAC — to energize and empower conservative political activists and offer a platform to leaders to discuss policy issues that are important to the conservative movement and the nation.
This year, as in previous years, we intentionally invited those with a different perspective on social issues, like Chris Hayes and S.E. Cupp, to engage in a civil and lively debate. Instead of taking the opportunity to freely express their points of view at CPAC, they decided to draw attention to themselves and dump on those who invited them.
Sadly public discourse is becoming more and more uncivil, and while many seem resigned to this increasing lack of civility, I am not. We never censor our guests and have always added diverse points of view to our conservative conferences, and this year will be no different. But the price of admission at CPAC is agreeing to the rules of civil discourse, and organizations that violate those rules by engaging in ad-hominem attack are not welcome. I hope you agree that this is a standard to which we should all aspire.
Lastly, we felt that Governor Christie, a crowd favorite at previous CPACs, was not particularly deserving this year. I have said that CPAC is like an “All Star” game for conservatives. Even players that have great careers in baseball don’t make it to the All Star game every year. I hope he earns an invitation next year. But, everyone must keep in mind that we are not the Republican Party — we are conservatives.
I then asked several follow-up questions: 1) To what are you specifically referring by this comment: “they decided to publicly attack some of our board members and draw attention to themselves at our event while being our guests”? 2.) Why won’t you allow Log Cabin Republicans — have they been uncivil also? 3.) Do you think your action has sent a message of intolerance that has tainted CPAC? 4.) Did any group refuse to attend or threatened to pull out if GOProud was allowed in?
He declined to personally respond. Instead I received this from his communications director:
“Please refer to the many previous media reports on their public attacks.
The Chairman has already made public comments on this matter and does not have anything further to add.
And, we have a long-standing policy that we don’t discuss internal conversations with sponsors or board members.”
This is troubling on many levels (of which I will touch on only a few) — beginning with the willingness to make accusations and then not explain the factual basis for them (waving your hand at unspecified news reports doesn’t cut it), the indifference to the upset caused within the movement, the attacks on people of conscience as attention-seekers and then the sudden refusal to explain how the action came about with a ground rule ignored in the prior e-mail (“we don’t discuss internal conversations with sponsors or board members”). Even worse is lumping in the John Birch Society with pro-gay-rights activists. To call these all questions of “civility” is frankly outrageous.
To be blunt, this is shabby stuff. Shame on them. If you weren’t convinced before that CPAC — the organization, not the pols and conservative activists trying to speak to others and solve the movement’s problems — is a symbol of what must change on the right, this might do it. I have to cover it, but i can’t imagine why any well-meaning conservative would want to give the event credence by attending.
Updated (3:50 p.m.): Oh, brother. CPAC has now jumped the shark by inviting the pro-choice billionaire buffoon Donald Trump. Any gathering that says Sarah Palin and Donald Trump are “deserving” of inclusion while GOProud and Gov.Chris Christie aren’t really isn’t worth attending, unless you’re looking for laughs. For this latest bizarre move, conservatives of all stripes are slaying CPAC on Twitter. At least the vast majority of conservatives can agree on something.