The policy side of CPAC

I can’t remember a Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that received more media coverage and broke more news events. As fate would have it, political speeches probably scheduled months in advance were affected by the results of the primaries, and particularly the Super Tuesday primaries just two days before the conference began.

Mitt Romney chose his CPAC speech on Thursday to announce that he was suspending his campaign. That made McCain’s speech later that afternoon one of rallying conservative support for the GOP frontrunner, rather than persuading conservatives to support him over other primary candidates. There was much media attention on conservative reaction to McCain’s almost-certain clinching of the GOP nomination.

But overlooked in the media was the broad policy focus of the conference. In CPAC sessions and its exhibitors’ booth, the conference featured a broad array of public policy topics of interest to the center-right coalition. There was also a healthy debate on different points of view within the coalition.

Yes, there were some odd topics among the exhibitor. But there were also some overlooked groups from outside the Beltway that had powerful messages. From my hometown of Kansas City, Mo., America’s Majority Foundation made the heartland conservative case for why more immigration benefits America’s economy and culture. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition gave some cops’ perspectives on why the Drug War is a failure, and how drug legalization would reduce crime and let police focus on real criminals.

There were also panels on everything from the failure of gun control in Great Britain to the overcriminalization of white collar crime. All in all, CPAC provided a good chance for conservatives to rejuvenate from the fountain of ideas, whatever happens in 2008.