Starving with a soul


Alden Graves

You might have thought you stumbled upon a new season of "American Horror Story" set in a world of delusionary politics. But Tina Fey wasn’t doing a guest spot on the show, that was really Sarah Palin. It was the annual Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) meeting, something infinitely scarier than anything Hollywood could ever concoct.

Among the speakers in a stellar lineup of first proponents was Donald Trump, who has tirelessly promoted himself into a celebrity status equal to any Kardashian. His name is emblazoned on casinos, country clubs, hotels, seminar rip-offs, and multiple divorce papers. Trump is the incarnation of the American Dream, albeit with strange hair and the requisite jump-start from a healthy inheritance.

In a rambling, humble-challenged speech, he praised his own intelligence and told the audience how people respect him because he is so smart, the birther thing notwithstanding. And if they don’t respect him for his intelligence, he has got a whole arsenal of names to call them. Just ask Rosie O’Donnell, who is fat and, you know, one of them.

To the rest of the world, Mr. Trump emerges not only as a shining example of the old adage that money can’t buy class, but also as a caution that, whatever worthy concepts might lie buried in today’s version of conservatism, they are vastly diminished by hauling out shameless opportunists like Trump and Palin to promote them.

Chris Christie dragged himself out of the muck in New Jersey to attend. The governor is in a tough spot, politically speaking. Either he was complicit in a host of shady maneuvers allegedly engineered by his top advisors or he didn’t know anything about anything. Once a shining star that bellicosely beckoned the GOP to a new birth, Christie now exuded all the luster of an abandoned car with four flat tires.

In a ploy that Judy Garland might have dismissed as too theatrical, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell walked out on the stage holding up a rifle. The crowd’s reaction might best be compared to a mass ingestion of Viagra. McConnell’s intent was clearly realized, even if the image he projected was more that of a geriatric Davy Crockett than the superhero champion of the Second Amendment.

To dispel the perception that McConnell presented a slightly ridiculous figure holding the gun aloft and grinning (he did), there was the stoic, wire-rimmed presence of Wayne LaPierre. The executive vice president of the National Rifle Association brought the audience back to the hard realities of life in 21st century America. Everyone needs at least one gun, according to LaPierre, because of all the killers and molesters and terrorists and rapists and carjackers and drug dealers and addicts and arsonists and thieves and people with funny accents who congregate on every street corner in the country.

The tirade so frightened Jon Stewart that, after a clip of the speech was played on "The Daily Show," Mr. Stewart cowered under his desk. When he finally worked up the courage to peer over the edge, he said, "Geesh, where does this guy live?"

Probably in a gated community, Mr. Stewart. Safe and snug from the lunatics and criminals that he, in his $1 million a year position with the NRA, fights so tirelessly to keep armed with automatic weapons, lest their "rights" be trod upon.

There was a lot of enthusiasm cascading throughout the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., but no one brought the real message of modern American conservatism home quite as vividly as Rep. Paul Ryan. To the country’s great detriment, Ryan now serves as the Chairman of the House Budget Committee and has assumed the mantle of the GOP’s resident intellectual after Newt Gingrich hightailed it out of town.

Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, who actually knows something about the complex subject that Ryan oversees, begrudgingly has written that at least the congressman has mastered the art of sounding like he knows what he is talking about, no small accomplishment.

Mr. Ryan is a great proponent of what might be called scorched earth budgetary measures, provided that they don’t infringe upon oil subsidies and tax avoidance schemes for the rich, as practiced by his running mate in 2012. To illustrate his tough love approach to social programs, he told a cornball tale about a child who was mortified because his school lunch came from a government program and not from a brown paper bag just like all the other kids. (You can imagine Ryan’s audience discreetly brushing away a tear between sips of Perrier.) Sure, Mr. Ryan concluded, the kid gets to eat, but at the cost of his soul.

If that ludicrous assertion doesn’t summon up the callous indifference to suffering that is at the core of the conservative agenda, I don’t know what ever will. Geesh, on what planet do these people reside?

Alden Graves is a Banner columnist.


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