29 Takeaways From America’s Biggest Conservative Conference

The Daily Signal followed the main speakers and debates at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, which wrapped Saturday. We’ve pulled together a quick guide to our coverage of CPAC, the largest annual national gathering of conservative activists, held again just outside Washington at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.

1) 5 Things Trump Talked About While Wowing CPAC

President Donald Trump’s freewheeling speech stressed border security and shifting to a merit-based immigration system, Fred Lucas reports.

“A strong nation has strong borders,” Trump said, then delivered a big applause line: “Don’t worry, you’re getting the wall.”

The president also recited the lyrics to “The Snake,” a 1968 song by Al Wilson, as a metaphor for the dangers of illegal immigration. It was a throwback to a campaign routine.

2) Podcast: Trump’s Speech Gets High Marks

Attendees at CPAC gave the president a big welcome as he spoke about the Second Amendment, tax cuts, immigration, and more. 

On our podcast, The Daily Signal asked attendees, who Trump urged not to be complacent, what they thought about the speech.

3) Pence Touts Tax Cuts, Border Wall

Vice President Mike Pence praised the tax cuts passed by Congress and signed into law by Trump, Rachel del Guidice reports.

“President Trump promised to cut taxes across the board for working families and job creators, and two months ago today, President Trump signed the largest tax cuts and tax reform in American history. Promises made, promises kept,” Pence said.

He also touted Trump’s attention to longstanding issues related to illegal immigration.

“Today, illegal crossings along our southern border have been cut nearly in half. And make no mistake about it, we’re going to build that wall,” Pence said.

4) House Intelligence Chairman Says Democrats Guilty of Government Cover-Up

The chairman of the House intelligence committee accused Democrat colleagues of trying to cover up wrongdoing in the government’s surveillance of a former campaign aide to then-candidate Donald Trump.

Speaking to The Daily Signal just minutes after committee Democrats’ declassified memo was released, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said the document is shocking because of what it reveals about the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and Democrat operatives.

“We really wanted it out because it’s clear evidence that the Democrats are trying to actually not only collude, but they’re colluding with a cover-up,” Nunes told The Daily Signal’s del Guidice after speaking at CPAC. “And they’re trying to cover up the fact that the Democrats and the Hillary campaign paid for dirt and it was used by the FBI.”

5) Betsy DeVos Urges Americans to Embrace ‘Education Freedom’

The secretary of education said one pathway to opportunity should be education savings accounts to benefit military families who don’t want to send their children to failing public schools.

Kevin Mooney covers an onstage conversation with Kay Coles James, president of The Heritage Foundation, in which DeVos said military families face unique challenges in meeting the educational needs of their children, and that making available federal funds for use in education savings accounts is one solution. Heritage has championed the idea.

6) #UsToo: How Liberal Feminism Excludes Millions of Women

Does #MeToo include #UsToo? That was the question posed to Ashley McGuire of the Catholic Association, Mona Charen of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and The Daily Signal’s Kelsey Harkness.

Feminists such as those who subscribe to the Women’s March would be wise to open their eyes to the realities of the world and join hands with conservative women in concern about abuse of women wherever it takes place, Harkness writes.

Instead of narrowing the definition of feminism to include only the most radical of views, Harkness says, we should broaden it.

7) John Bolton on U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and North Korea’s Olympic Propaganda

Bolton, America’s former ambassador to the United Nations, shared insight with our Rob Bluey on China, North Korea, Iran, and other regimes that threaten the United States.

Plus, he explained North Korea’s propaganda at the Olympics and assessed Nikki Haley’s performance as the latest U.S. ambassador to the U.N. 

8) FCC Chairman Pledges to Carry On as NRA Honors Him for ‘Courage Under Fire’

Ajit Pai told CPAC conferees that he will stay on mission to “deliver value for the American people,” despite personal criticism, racial slurs, and death threats from the left.

For facing down death threats to his family and himself over changes in public policy, Pai received the National Rifle Association’s Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award, Lucas reports.

“Some people encouraged me to try to nibble around the edges and make some minor changes [at the FCC], but I don’t play small ball,” Pai said.

9) Weaponization of the EPA Is Over: An Exclusive Interview With Scott Pruitt

In his first year as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Pruitt has transformed the agency. In an exclusive on-camera interview, The Daily Signal’s Bluey speaks with him about cutting red tape and reducing barriers for job creators while protecting the environment.

“The key to me,” Pruitt said, “is that weaponization of the agency that took place in the Obama administration … those days are over.”

10) More Gun Control Not the Answer, Ted Cruz Insists

The Texas Republican said he supports a proposal backed by Trump that would allow teachers to carry firearms while at school, Lucas reports.

“It makes perfect sense that if teachers want to exercise their right to keep and bear arms, that will only make schools safer,” Cruz said. “I don’t think you should make teachers do that. But if a teacher is comfortable and wants to defend himself or herself, that’s a good thing.”

Cruz also talked about a bill he co-sponsored in 2013 that would have provided $300 million for school safety measures. It had bipartisan support, he said, but Democrats filibustered.

11) How a Conservative Agenda Is Transforming Ohio’s Economy

Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor talked with The Daily Signal about the big issues facing Ohio, among them welfare reform, Obamacare, tax cuts, and deregulation.

12) ‘Ripple Effect’ of Tax Cuts Will Boost Americans, Kellyanne Conway Predicts

Tax cuts not only are helping Americans now but will have a “ripple effect” of new investment across the nation, the White House senior adviser and former Trump campaign manager told the conservative activists.

“One thing we haven’t talked about yet, because it is fairly new, is what the capital investment from these companies is going to mean to your communities,” Conway said, adding: “So that is going to have a ripple effect across the economy.”

13) Family Tragedy Prompts Eric Bolling to Take Action on Opioids

The opioid epidemic is the No. 1 killer of Americans under 50—a startling reality that the former Fox News Channel host  spoke about in personal terms.

Bolling’s only son, Eric Chase, died Sept. 8 from an overdose of Xanax laced with fentanyl. He was 19 and a student at University of Colorado at Boulder.

In an interview with The Daily Signal’s Ginny Montalbano and Rob Bluey after his CPAC appearance, Bolling stressed the importance of confronting challenges and not ignoring warning signs.

14) Congress Must ‘Show Leadership’ in Reforming Immigration, Lawmakers Say

“We’ve got to do what we told the American people we were going to do and what the mandate of the 2016 election was all about,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a former chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, told the CPAC crowd.

“And that is border security law first, then [end] chain migration, stop the visa lottery, get rid of sanctuary cities, do all those things, and that’s got to get done,” Jordan said.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., current chairman of the group of House conservatives, called the immigration debate a “defining moment” for Congress and its leadership, del Guidice reports.

15) Congress’ Conservative Champion Brings Bold Agenda to CPAC

Meadows, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, also spoke to The Daily Signal about the president and what he hopes to accomplish in Congress this year.

16) How the Entrepreneurial Economy Is Transforming America

Labor Secretary Alex Acosta spoke at CPAC about getting Americans back to work and improving the way government works.

Check out his with conversation with Heritage Foundation President Kay Coles James.

17) Fired Googler Warns Social Media Users About Censored Speech 

While tech companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere are incentivized to create a “safe and civil” environment for their customers, problems emerge when “they get to define what offensive is,” former Google engineer James Damore said during a breakout session.

Jarrett Stepman reports on why Damore, fired by Google for politically incorrect  views, worries about what he sees as a censorship trend.

18) A Conversation About American Greatness

Rick Graber, president of the Bradley Foundation, spoke to The Daily Signal about American greatness and the important role of families, schools, churches, neighborhoods, and voluntary associations.

19) Straw Poll Shows High Approval of Trump’s Policies, Caution on His Tweets

Trump found high poll numbers Saturday in an unsurprising venue. But the contrast with his past performances in the CPAC straw poll was striking, Lucas reports.

Although the president grabbed a 93 percent approval rating, a plurality of attendees surveyed wish he would tweet less and a majority oppose his position on ending the Senate’s filibuster rule.

The straw poll also showed a high tolerance for amnesty for illegal immigrants if it means a border wall will be built at the southern border.

20) Stephen Moore’s Solutions for Out-of-Control Government Spending

Heritage Foundation experts Stephen Moore and Romina Boccia joined Jonathan Bydlak, founder and president of the Coalition to Reduce Spending, to talk with The Daily Signal about practical steps for the government to get its fiscal house in order—including withholding pay from Congress.

21) Judicial Picks Key to Deregulation, Reining in Bureaucracy, White House Counsel Says

Selecting federal judges and limiting government are the “flip side of the same coin,” Don McGahn, the president’s top lawyer, told the crowd, as Lucas reports. 

Many judges are increasingly deferential to unelected agency heads who impose regulations without Congress’ involvement or consent, but not Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, McGahn said.

“What really resonated with the president was, [Gorsuch] was someone with impeccable credentials, wonderful character, great man, [who] frankly stuck his neck out on an issue that anyone else may have feared would hurt their chance at a promotion. He is sort of a vanguard on this.”

22) David Bozell Builds a Grassroots Army on Facebook

Bozell, president of ForAmerica, recapped highlights of Trump’s speech and explained how his organization’s grassroots army helps to shape the national debate.

23) Trump Cabinet More Conservative Than Reagan’s, Panelist Says

Dan Schneider, executive director of the American Conservative Union, said President Ronald Reagan’s Cabinet was “not nearly as conservative” as Trump’s is.

“Trump’s Cabinet is the most conservative” of any administration in recent memory, Schneider said, as Kevin Mooney reports.

Despite the persistent media caricature of capitalism, it “is the greatest antidote to poverty the world has ever seen,” Schneider said. “Capitalism is the economic expression of conservatism.”

24) Podcast: Conservatives Gather for CPAC

The Daily Signal sat down with gun rights expert John Lott, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, technology policy expert Roslyn Layton, and National Young Americans for Freedom Chairman Grant Strobl to go through a wide range of hot topics.

25) Campus Activists Take on a Generational Battle for Free Speech

The battle for Western civilization is taking place on the campuses of American universities and high schools, activists argued at an event on campus indoctrination covered by Kyle Perisic and Chrissy Clark.

“Somehow liberals are the party of freedom, but they don’t actually promote freedom at all,” Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk said. “[The left] believes in one-size-fits-all solutions.

Liberal college students want to promote “freedom of race,” but not freedom of thought, he argued.

26) Meet the Talk-Radio Host Shaking Up Washington

Larry O’Connor hosts an afternoon show weekdays on WMAL in Washington, D.C. He also fancies himself as Maryland’s unofficial crab cake czar. The Daily Signal’s Kelsey Harkness spoke to O’Connor about his popular show and big issues affecting metropolitan D.C., including MS-13 and #MeToo.

27) American Media Fails the Public, Conservative Critics Argue

The media obsesses over trivial things such as “how many Diet Cokes” Trump drinks, Kimberley Strassel, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, said during a CPAC panel covered by Stepman, but often fails to pursue stories with more serious implications.

“The press allows itself to be a part of one of the dirtiest political tricks of all time,” she said in reference to the anti-Trump “dossier” compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele and its connection to the allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.

28) Meet the Man Behind CPAC

Matt Schlapp is known for his crisp political analysis on TV and as the husband of Mercedes Schlapp, the White House’s strategic communications chief. He’s also the chairman of the American Conservative Union, the organization that puts together CPAC each year.

29) And That’s a Wrap: The Many Stories of CPAC 2018

A special edition of The Daily Signal podcast includes some of the people we met at CPAC 2018 and the interesting work they’re doing.

You’ll hear the stories of CPAC attendees such as:

  • Patrick Neville, member of the Colorado House of Republicans and Columbine survivor, on gun-free zones.
  • Robert Kuykendall of 2nd Vote on the left’s attacks on businesses associated with the NRA.
  • Aaron Ginn, president of Lincoln Network, on Silicon Valley’s lack of diversity.
  • Mark Joseph, author of “Rock Gets Religion,” on the music industry’s embrace of Christian performers.
  • Spencer Tate, a student at the University of South Florida, on the struggle against the Israel boycott movement on his campus.
  • Iain Murray, a vice president at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, on the dangers of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
  • Ken Klukowski of First Liberty Institute, the American Civil Rights Union, and Breitbart News, on the importance of Trump’s judicial nominees.

And those are the highlights from CPAC 2018.

Rob Bluey, Chrissy Clark, Daniel Davis, Lauren Evans, Michael Goodin, Kelsey Harkness, Fred Lucas, Ken McIntyre, Ginny Montalbano, Kevin Mooney, Peter Parisi, Kyle Perisic, Thaleigha Rampersad, Sarah Sleem, and Jarrett Stepman contributed to our reports from CPAC.

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Source material can be found at this site.

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