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Dr. Ben Carson is on the schedule to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference this week along with Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
So are Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, Gov. Bobby Jindal, Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Steve Scalise and Rick Perry also will speak, along with Donald Trump at the event organized by the American Conservative Union, the largest annual gathering of conservatives.
But Pat Buchanan, who wrote speeches for President Richard Nixon, was President Ronald Reagan’s White House communications director and helped shape the strategies that drew people to conservatism for decades, isn’t on the list of speakers.
Nor is Richard Viguerie, who is credited with introducing computer technology to political fundraising and was assessed by the Washington Post as having tipped “the entire political balance” in favor of conservatives.
He’s also the author of “Takeover: The 100-Year War for the Soul of the GOP and How Conservatives Can Finally Win It.”
And Phyllis Schlafly, the author of “A Choice Not An Echo,” “No Higher Power” and “The Flipside of Feminism” who led the epic battle in the 1970s to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment, is participating on a panel but not speaking.
“One gets the feeling they would rather have a rock-star jamboree with Donald Trump,” said Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center and a well-known leader among conservatives in his own right.
“I am not in the selection process, I’m not working for the ACU,” he said of the absence of several of the conservative movement’s icons, “so I don’t know, but I think it is a worthwhile question to ask.”
Get for yourself the new “Takeover: The 100-Year “War for the Soul of the GOP and How Conservatives Can Finally Win It,” by Richard Viguerie.
He said the absence of some of the modern movement’s founders is only a part of the issue.
“I’ll tell you something very disconcerting,” he added, and that is that “the ACU would for a nanosecond, give serious consideration to an atheist organization [participating].”
That happened this year before the ACU quickly backtracked, but Bozell said it was similar to the move to allow a “gay” organization to participate several years ago.
Bozell said anyone with conservative views is welcome, but all of those members of the movement need to remember “conservatism was grounded in a belief in God,” he said.
“Conservatives have been commenting for 30 years about this GOP big tent,” he said, but it isn’t always a workable prospect.
As a result, he said, members are for big government as well as limited government and non-traditional values as well as traditional values.
He said that breadth of belief only undermines the movement’s strength.
ACU officials did not respond to a WND inquiry about their plans for speakers.
Buchanan told WND he spoke at several of the original CPAC gathering but has not been back lately.
“In the Bush II years, the movement and I parted company. But [I] wish them well,” he said.
“When the Cold War ended, I took up new causes: a halt to mass immigration, securing the borders, a noninterventionist foreign policy that put America first, opposition to NAFTA, GATT … and the New World Order,” Buchanan said.
But he said he still believes in fighting the “culture war for the soul of America.”
Joseph Farah, the founder and CEO of WND and WND Books, as well as a featured speaker at conservative events, said that if he were putting together a program for CPAC, he “would start with three main speakers – Phyllis Schlafly, Richard Viguerie and Pat Buchanan.”
“These were people who were around and influential in the early days of the movement – particularly Phyllis and Richard. They are without a doubt the founding fathers of the movement – still around and very active,” Farah said.
“Precisely because CPAC attracts so many young people, presentations by those with history and experience in the movement have so much to offer,” he said. “That they are excluded, forgotten or given only minor roles is a travesty, suggesting CPAC does not honor the conservative history and tradition.”
He said WND Books proposed a speaking slot for Viguerie but never got a response, despite multiple emails and telephone messages to ACU.
The biographies of the three individuals cited by Farah are bristling with qualifications.
Schlafly led a 10-year fight for a victory over the main legislative goal of the radical feminists, the so-called Equal Rights Amendment. She now writes a syndicated column that appears in 100 newspapers, and her radio commentaries are on more than 600 stations.
She’s written 20 books on family and feminism, including “No Higher Power: Obama’s War on Religious Freedom” and “Feminist Fantasies.” She served on the Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution after her appointment by President Reagan. She’s appeared before more than 50 congressional and state legislative committees on constitutional, national defense and family issues.
Viguerie, as founder and president of American Target Advertising, tailored messages to constituents to help conservative groups and leaders develop a grassroots base. His 1970s and 1980s marketing techniques were trailbreaking in most aspects.
Buchanan remains a nationally syndicated columnist after two runs for the Republican presidential nomination. He was the Reform Party’s candidate in 2000.
He coined the term “silent majority.”
Even those on the left edge of the political spectrum were reveling in CPAC’s “big tent” idea and apparent effort to allow representatives of perspectives long considered in opposition to conservatism to participate.
At Daily Beast, Dean Obeidallah wrote that at this year’s CPAC, March 6 to 8, “we don’t see speakers from hate groups or panels representing the dark, underbelly of American society.”
“There’s even one panel I would love to attend: ‘Can Libertarians and Social Conservatives Ever Get Along?’ My answer is ‘no’ if they stay true to their principles, but you never know what bedfellows you may find at CPAC,” he said.
He noted the inclusion of a Muslim on a CPAC panel and the appearance of GOProud, a homosexual advocacy organization.
“Amazingly, CPAC’s organizers even invited an atheist group to participate – at least for a few days. The ultimately rescinded the invitation when conservatives like Brent Bozell expressed outrage about the inclusion.”
Obeidallah said “one of the big names at CPAC is none other than Sarah Palin.”
“Say what you will about Palin, but … Nope, I actually can’t think of any thinking redeeming (sic) to say about her.”