By Jerome Corsi and Garth Kant
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – After Sen. Ted Cruz's call to dismantle Barack Obama's agenda, including a complete repeal of Obamacare, speakers at CPAC Thursday touched on similar themes, envisioning 2014 as a prime opportunity to seize on Democrat failures and articulate an alternative vision for the country.
Cruz was followed by Sen. Mitch McConnell's call to fight Obamacare with "everything we’ve got," Rep. Paul Ryan's belief that the GOP is primed for victory and the Democrats "will overreach," Sen. Tim Scott's call for "responsibility," Sen. Marco Rubio's conviction that the world is on the verge of a "new American century," Sen. Mike Lee's exhortation to conservatives to"get to work," Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's call to mirror his state's performance-based evaluations of teachers and Donald Trump's urging to "make America great again."
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Meanwhile, Cruz told WND after his speech that social issues should not be taken off the table in the 2014, former U.N. ambassador John Bolton called Obama the nation's "biggest security threat" and Chris Christie showed that despite major political setbacks in recent months, his star power has not dimmed.
Cruz's speech was followed by a roundtable discussion with columnist George Will and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., moderated by American Conservative Union President David Keane, asked whether Congress matters anymore and whether or not federal spending can ever be curtailed.
Will noted the abuse of executive authority did not start with Barack Obama.
"Our country was founded in reaction to executive overreach with King George and the British," he said. "This has been an enduring problem in American history."
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The founders established Congress as the first institution of government, but as the federal government has grown, the power of Congress has weakened, he observed.
Bureaucrats end up writing the fine points of law through thousands of regulations.
"We need a properly engaged judiciary that is willing to referee disputes in government representing the separation of powers," Will said.
Coburn said there is "laziness, a lack of a work ethic in Congress."
"We need to reconnect with the Constitution when we legislate and ask ourselves where in the enumerated powers of the Constitution we get the authority to pass a specific law," the senator said.
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Coburn observed the country is "running today not under the rule of laws but the rule of rules."
Will said the real change that precipitated the growth in the federal government and the weakening of Congress took place in the 1960s with the passage of primary and secondary education acts.
The federal government put education under its purview.
"Once that line was crossed, there was no barrier to prevent the federal government from being involved," he said. "We really have to consider what is the responsibility of the federal government and send everything else back to the states."
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Coburn said the problem underscores the need for term limits.
Will offered an alternative, citing Warren Buffet's belief that Congress could balance the budget immediately if it passed a law that said no current member could run for re-election without a balanced budget.
Will argued it's not just a systemic problem but a matter of electing the right people. He didn't think Congress members would ever vote to limit their terms.
"Give me a half-a-dozen more Tom Coburns and we will change policy in Washington," he said.
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Coburn commented: "There are hundreds of thousands of Tom Coburns out there, but the question is whether or not they will come up here to Washington and be willing to get beat up doing what they know is right for America."
Will said it's important to "grill presidential candidates to make sure they have proper respect for Congress and are willing to accept the limits to presidential power imposed by the Constitution."
Coburn insisted term limits are possible, because members of Congress "want to be reelected badly enough they will vote in term limits when the voters demand term limits."
Mitch McConnell: Fighting 'same old socialist notions'
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Following the forum, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, the Senate minority leader, expressed his appreciation to Coburn for his service and handed the Oklahoma senator a classic rifle, apparently as a gift.
McConnell told the CPAC audience that liberals hated it when Coburn stepped on to the Senate floor.
"He isn’t afraid about anything or anyone," McConnell said. "He never put himself above the cause."
McConnell said that when Coburn enters the Capitol building, he goes through the metal detector and empties his pockets, even though, as a senator, it isn't required of him.
"He does it because he knows his constituents have to empty their pockets when they enter the building," McConnell said.
McConnell said the Obama administration is "abusing its power to make it harder for conservatives to exercise their First Amendment rights."
"We are going to fight this with everything we’ve got," he said.
The Kentucky senator said Obama "has failed to deliver to the American family."
"Under Obama, the poor are getting poorer and the rich, richer," he said. "Obama has done nothing for the little guy."
The Wall Street reforms, McConnell asserted, "have shuttered community banks while big banks have gotten bigger."
"Under Obamacare, community hospitals are closing, while big hospitals are making deals to become bigger," he said.
"The Democrats don’t care. They are too busy trying to fix up Benghazi for Hillary Clinton."
McConnell said that if the Republicans take back the majority in the Senate and he is given the opportunity to lead, he will "fight for conservative principles."
"The same old socialist notions that never pan out will finally be put to rest," he declared.
"Never before has it been so hard for the rich to become poor or for the poor to become rich."
Rep. Paul Ryan: 'Democrats will overreach'
Former vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan began by acknowledging the 2012 election did not end up as he had planned, but he vowed the GOP would bounce back in 2014 and 2016.
“The Democrats will overreach," said Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin.
He pointed to the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Catholic nuns who are being forced under Obamacare to pay for abortion services.
"The left is trying to make a point that they are in charge, and if you don’t like it, you have to deal with it anyway," Ryan said.
The lawmaker, known for his financial and budgetary prowess, said he's excited about his party.
"The Democrats say we are divided, Tea Party versus Establishment, social conservatives versus fiscal conservatives. I’m Irish. That’s what I call a family reunion," he said.
But the party must offer a vision.
"We have to tell America where we want to lead America," he said.
He pointed to Sen. Marco Rubio's idea of the "dignity of work," emphasizing "that’s how we want to build a safety net."
The tax code, he pointed out, is "10 times the size of the Bible and none of it is good news."
"Rather than send our money to Washington so Washington thinks is the right thing to do, I have a better idea – why don’t you just keep your money," he said.
Ryan said that when he introduced a balanced budget in 2008, he had just eight co-sponsors, because the GOP leadership told people to stay away.
"But in 2010, the tea party representatives got elected, and now we have passed a balanced budget several years in a row," he pointed out.
He said the GOP is the "party of ideas," and the left is "not only out of ideas, the left is out of touch with America."
He mentioned Obamacare as an example, saying "the left is excited that people can get health care and don’t have to work."
But what Americans want, he said, "are jobs, not a health care system that puts them out of work."
"We don’t want people to leave the work force; we want people to share their skills with the rest of us," he said. "Americans want a life of dignity and opportunity."
Ryan said the party "will look back at the creative tension in the GOP right now as the moment when we got it right."
"The GOP mission is to save the American Dream," he said. "In the future, we will see this day as the day the GOP saved America."
Sen. Tim Scott: 'It is our responsibility'
Freshman Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who was appointed Sen. Jim DeMint's vacated seat, said he finds "the greatness of America not in Obama administration executive orders but in the wisdom of our Founding Fathers and the pages of the Constitution."
Scott recalled his early years as the child of a poor, single mother.
"I had lost my way. I failed civics – but when I got the U.S. Senate, I realized I wasn’t the only one who failed civics," he said.
He said education is the route out of poverty.
"I believe that kids, not unions, should be the focus of our education – that parents, not bureaucrats in Washington, should be free to choose the education their kids receive," he said.
He said it's important for lawmakers and others concerned about education to understand that not every kid wants to go to college and "you can earn while you learn."
"It is our responsibility to make sure the blessing of God upon our country continues," he told the CPAC audience.
Sen. Marco Rubio: 'A new American century'
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., considered a viable candidate for president in 2016 despite his co-sponsorship of the immigration reform plan touted by Democrats, received a standing ovation when he took podium.
"While we are facing true challenges as a nation, there is no other country where I would rather be," he declared. "I am convinced that despite the bad leadership we are getting today, we are on the verge of a new American century if only we make a few key decisions for the good."
Rubio said the global economy "has created real opportunities for our economy but that demands we have a tax code that makes U.S. business competitive."
It also depends on the U.S. exporting more of its energy, he said.
He pointed out that American companies have $4 trillion in cash sitting in banks, "but they won’t invest it as long as we have a broken tax code, restrictive regulations and a health care system that won’t work."
"Government regulations are holding us back from the American century," he said.
He said the primary cause of the country's economic challenges is "a president who is done in three years."
He said he remembers growing up in a world in which he was told the communist world must be accepted as a matter of fact.
But fortunately we had a leader in the White House who didn’t believe that vision, and the Berlin Wall came down," he said.
Now, communist North Korea is developing rockets capable of reaching the United States, and Cuba, where his family originated, continues to oppress its people.
In Europe, he said, Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to reconstitute the power of the former USSR.
It's a world in which China gets to decide who trades in the South China Sea and where Iran gets to decide which nations it will wipe off the face of the earth, he said.
"There is only one nation that can stand up to totalitarianism," he said, "that is ours."
The United Nations certainly can't do it, he said.
"The U.N. can’t do anything," he said to applause and laughter.
"We have a president who believed he could shape global events by the sheer force of his personality," said Rubio. "We do not have the luxury of seeing the world as we hoped it may be, we have to see the world as it is."
Rubio said the U.S. need a foreign policy "rooted in our principles and ideals – with rights bestowed by the creator, not by government, such that any government that violates those rights is illegitimate."
He noted Reagan never took back his contention that the USSR was the evil empire.
"He never fell victim to moral relativism," Rubio said.
"There is nothing moral or acceptable about a government that forces women to have abortion, jails political opponents or accepts terrorism as a legitimate form of statecraft," he said, "and we should never accept any government that does."
He urged Americans not "to fall into the trap of taking for granted all that we have."
"What makes us exceptional and important is that anyone on the planet can achieve their goals in America," he said.
Rubio closed with a story about his father being diagnosed with cancer.
At that time Florida's former Gov. Charlie Crist was moving from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party and Rubio was in a primary campaign for the Senate.
His father was dressed and in his wheelchair, ready to go to the victory party.
But Rubio said his father was too sick to go.
He asked his father why he wanted to be there.
"It was because he saw me doing all the things he was never able to do," Rubio said. "That was his American dream, because America opened its door to me and made it possible for me to achieve what I have achieved today."
Sen. Mike Lee: 'Let’s get to work'
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, a tea party favorite in the Senate along with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called for a conservative resurgence within the Republican Party.
"We as conservatives have to be much more engaged in finding converts than in discarding heretics," he said.
He said 2014 is an important year for the conservative agenda, because "the Obama agenda is crumbling and Obamacare is a disaster."
"But our strategy cannot be to keep our heads down and sit on our hands while we let Obama self-destruct," he said. "That conventional wisdom is wrong."
He said President Obama and the Democrats have "done everything possible to deserve defeat, but the Republican Party has not yet done everything necessary to deserve victory."
He challenged Republicans to do the work "of redefining our party and rescuing our nation."
It won't be fun or easy, he said, or even noticed much, but if it isn't done, Republicans will lose again in 2014 and 2016.
He noted that in February 1977, conservatives faced a similar challenge as they were blamed for handing a victory to Jimmy Carter.
"But Ronald Reagan knew the future of the GOP was not the old GOP of Washington insiders," ge he said. "Reagan came to CPAC, and he asked for a new GOP based on conservative principles and ready for change. Those in the establishment GOP never knew what hit them."
By the 1980s, he said, conservatives "had not only found a leader for the future, they found an agenda for America and they won."
"It’s time to do it again," Lee said.
Countering the Democrats, he said the "real problem in America is not an income inequality between the rich and poor but an opportunity inequality created by the welfare system that traps the poor and concentrates the power of the rich in Washington, D.C."
He said the party has introduced legislation to help low-income families overcome welfare, to help them educate children and to deal with fatherless homes.
"It’s time for the Republican Party to stop talking like Ronald Reagan and start acting like him," Lee said.
He said a new generation of conservative leaders is rising with a reform agenda.
"When candidates ask for your vote, ask for specifics – let them tell you not just what they are against, but what they are for, and why."
Lee noted Reagan’s generation made its way from defeat in 1976 to victory in the 1980s.
"Together this new generation of conservative leaders can restore the GOP," he said.
"My fellow conservatives, let’s get to work."
Gov. Bobby Jindal: Obama 'worst in my lifetime'
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was welcomed to stage with a standing ovation.
He said there is "a rebellion brewing in the U.S. with people like you and me saying we’ve had enough."
Jindal declared President Obama "the most incompetent president since Jimmy Carter."
"We have a president who doesn’t understand a weak America leads to instability in the world," he said.
The governor said President Obama has long been called a smart man, but it may be time to revise that assumption.
"President Carter," he said, "I want to issue a sincere apology. It is no longer right to say you were the worst president in my lifetime. President Obama has proved me wrong."
Recounting victories in his state, he said everyone says they are for great teachers, but in Louisiana, "we did something to hire, fire, and compensate out teachers based on how well the children are doing in the classroom, not just on whether the teacher is still breathing."
"It’s like going to a football game and not worrying about the score at the end of the game," he said of the alternative. 'If it’s not about how well kids do learning in school, what is it about then?"
He said that in Louisiana, "education is about choice, and the choice begins with the parents."
The unions insist parents don’t have a clue what’s best for their children, Jindal said.
Likewise, Obama "doesn’t trust people to make decisions for themselves."
"Who could be against giving choices to parents?" he asked. "Eric Holder and Barack Obama, that’s who."
He noted the Department of Justice is in court trying to block the state of Louisiana from getting minority children into schools "with uniforms, disciplines and a future in school beyond eighth grade."
"It is a tragedy to trap these children in failing schools," he said.
"I have a message for Eric Holder and President Obama: We are going to fight them even if it takes going to the Supreme Court of the United States."
Noting the deficit has increased from $10 trillion to $17 trillion during Obama's tenure in office, he said the federal government is "getting so big it is intruding on or freedoms."
"This president believes our First Amendment religious rights begin and end in the pew of church on Sunday," Jindal said. "This country did not create religious liberty and freedom, religious liberty freedom created this country."
Jindal noted the attention he received when he stood up and defended the patriarch of television's "Duck Dynasty" clan when he stirred controversy with comments about homosexuality.
"I stood up for their rights to articulate their beliefs because I am tired of the political left that is tolerant of our beliefs only as long as we agree with them," Jindal said.
The Louisiana governor said the president should read the Constitution.
"The genius of the Founding Fathers was to trust the American people," he said.
Referring to his parents' immigration from India, he said they "reached the United States believing that if you worked hard, you could better yourself."
"My father wanted a job, not a government handout," he said.
"There was no Obamacare when I was born, but my dad shook hands with the doctor – just two guys in a hospital – and my dad promised he would pay the doctor every penny he owed him for delivering his son," said Jindal.
Donald Trump: 'We have such tremendous potential'
Donald Trump, who toyed with running for president in 2012, was received with a standing ovation.
He began with the economy, noting the country is "in serious, serious trouble with $17 trillion in debt."
"How do you pay off $17 trillion in debt?" he asked. "China yesterday right in our face devalued our currency. They said, ‘We are really ripping you big league. Now we’re doing it again.’"
China can do this, he said, because the U.S. is so weak.
"China is taking our jobs and they have no respect for our leader, and frankly they have no respect for our great economy," he said.
Trump said that when those who have quit working are taken into account, the unemployment rate is closer to 22 percent.
He noted a new poll that found Obama's approval rating at 38 percent.
"I’d like to see him do a great job and bring the country back, but it isn’t going to happen," Trump said. "We are getting into Jimmy Carter territory, and we’re headed there fast."
He said he believes conservative Republicans will take the Senate this year, and in 2016, a Republican candidate will run against Hillary Clinton.
"I think the country by then will be so bad that we can probably end Obamacare," he said. "That is a complete catastrophe."
Pointing to the many delays in Obamacare brought about through executive order, Trump said Republican leadership is allowing Obama and the Democrats to push all the problems to after the 2016 election.
"So, I expect 2017 and 2018 will be an economic disaster for the United States," he said.
On the foreign policy front, he said the U.S. has little to show for the war in Iraq after sacrificing so many lives, with Iran taking over.
"We didn’t even take the oil in Iraq," he said. "What’s the matter? Don’t you remember the old slogan, ‘To the victor go the spoils'? You know who’s taking the oil now? Iran. And Iraq has the second largest amount of oil reserves in the ground and we got none of it. But it’s OK. They don’t want us and I don’t want them."
In Afghanistan, Karzai won't sign an agreement and China is gleaning the country's minerals.
"By the way, I don’t dislike China," Trump said. "Business Week just did an article about the top 10 things China wants, and what they want is anything Trump. They love me."
Trump noted the largest bank on the world, which is Chinese, is a tenant of one of his buildings.
"They’re smart. They don’t respect stupid people," he said.
On immigration, Trump said, "you either have borders or you don’t."
"When you let 11 million people in and it grows to 30 million in the not to far future, [Republicans] won’t get one vote," he said. "The Democrats will get votes no matter how many times Republicans say, ‘Rip down the borders and let everyone in.’
Trump said America has a tremendous amount of money under its feet, referring to oil and natural gas reserves.
"This is how we can fix the Social Security and the Medicare," he said. "We are sitting on top of such tremendous wealth."
The bottom line is very simple, he said.
"Make America strong again. We have such tremendous potential. We have to use it. Make America great again."
WND's coverage of CPAC:
- Mark Levin calls GOP elites the problem
- Former Obama agent warns president's policies kill
- Cruz talks 'social issues' with WND
- Bolton: Obama 'biggest security threat'
- Ted Cruz: 'Liberty is under assault'
- Scandal hasn't dimmed Christie's star power