One of the more interesting people on both the right side of the aisle and my left column on TweetDeck is Lisa De Pasquale, author of the novel Finding Mr. Righteous and for five years the head of the Conservative Political Action Committee. Amazingly, Jezebel snagged her for an interview, and while their angle was primarily CPAC’s lack of, um, diversity of a specific nature, they did pop a lot of good questions, one of which drew my attention because her answer ends with a universal truth:
Who is the nicest politician or personality you’ve dealt with behind the scenes? The meanest? (If you don’t want to name names, can you drop a general hint or two?)
Aside from people like Ann Coulter who I already knew, the nicest was Rush Limbaugh. Not only was he extremely nice, but very humble. He didn’t have an entourage or any backstage demands. Backstage he asked what had been the biggest news from the conference. I don’t remember what I said, but the reality was he was going to be the biggest news of the conference. That he was genuinely interested in the conference made me proud of the work my team and I had done. He also personally signed 100 or so Limbaugh Letters for our volunteers. I should mention that the man responsible for making his speech happen was the recently departed Kit Carson. He was a great man who, like Limbaugh, was always interested in other people’s opinions.
I won’t name names on the meanest, but I will say it’s never the A-listers. It’s always the B or C-list people who are demanding and impatient. They act like divas because they think that is how important people act.
This may be one of the reasons why I’m still on the D-list after all these years.
The description of Limbaugh is consistent with others I’ve seen: he saves his bombast for the airwaves. (If you didn’t know Carson, he was the “Chief of Staff” at Limbaugh’s EIB Network; he passed away in January after a four-year battle with brain cancer.) And Rush will happily tell you that he’s not really interested in other people’s opinions, which is why he has no guests on the show, but this, too, is part of the act.
Nor was this the only worthy maxim De Pasquale uttered:
CPAC has a history of allowing groups that are controversial. If you put two conservatives in a room they will fight about something, so it’s impossible to get consensus on anything.
Ain’t that the truth.
CPAC is an event for choirs and not conversions. In the last few years, it’s gained a notoriety that has made it a public spectacle, but the true purpose of the Conservative Political Action Conference is to impress the hordes of College Republicans, with their Brooks Brothers finery and their as-yet-unpickeled livers, and the elderly crowd that has been coming to these things since the first Republican presidential candidate painted his foreign policy on a cave wall — not to preach to the disenfranchised independents and unmoored moderates. The candidates have all the depth of a Lego mini-figurine and the speeches are as nuanced and complex as a made-for-television marine life-motivated disaster movie. And that’s just how it’s supposed to be, especially at the start of a presidential election cycle, when potential candidates are trying to live up to impressive double standards set for them by a party that is, itself, in flux. Everyone who presented himself to the crowd amassed at National Harbor had something to prove, specifically to conservatives, whether that was that they were conservative enough, that they were thoughtful enough, that they were tough enough, or that they were capable of mounting a campaign that did more than annoy network television anchors forced to divert more than thirty seconds of their broadcast away from fawning coverage of Hillary Clinton’s breakfast choices.
How seriously you take this event, it appears, depends on a lot of things besides ideology.