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CPAC: A Report By Brian Jacks
On February 1, 2003, Slush Publisher Brian Jacks attended CPAC in Arlington, Virginia. Here is his limited coverage of the event, blurry photos included (blame for this goes to a touchy focus on the Olympus digital camera).
My trip to the last day of 30th Annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) began on a sour note. Upon waking up around 8am or so and performing my usual morning chore of checking e-mail, I received the CNN Breaking News alert that NASA had lost contact with the space shuttle Columbia. Some feelings that had remained dormant since the September 11th tragedy were severely reawakened, and kept me glued to the television until 1pm.
During this time I missed many of the discussions I was planning on attending, including a debate between Robert Novak and Sam Donaldson (which may have been cancelled, I don’t know), book signings by David Horowitz and Chris Mathews, and a debate between National Review Online EiC Jonah Goldberg and The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait. I did have time, however, to catch the seminal event for me, the discussion on militant Islam with Daniel Pipes, Dr. Serge Trifkovic, and Kenneth R. Timmerman, with Joseph Farah as moderator.
And so I left Fairfax for Arlington, on the way hearing the President’s address to the nation on the car radio while passing the Pentagon on my right. It made for a heightened somber moment to say the least. Traffic was light, and I made it to the Crystal Gateway Marriott in less than 30 minutes, record time considering it’s the DC Metro area we’re talking about.
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The first thing I noticed upon entering the lobby was business suits. Almost everyone there, even fellow college student, were dressed in classy attire. Looking down at my open flannel shirt with a Hard Rock t-shirt underneath, I shrugged and pressed on to the registration desk.
To my surprise, because only a few hours remained in the conference they had already shut down registration. I practically begged the booth attendant for a viable solution, to which he replied, “Well, if you really want to go, just walk in.” Sounds good, I said, and soldiered onward.
Over on the Instapundit.com website, I had read a linked article with someone complaining that CPAC was to the Right what the ANSWER rallies were to the Left. I doggedly looked around for unshowered Republicans burning American flags but all I saw were people selling the flag, wearing the flag, and posing for pictures with the flag. I also looked for people wearing Hamas headbands and flying Iraqi flags, as was the rage at the ANSWER “protests,” but alas to no avail. And while I didn’t see anyone wearing “Free Mumia” clothing, I did find someone with a “Fry Mumia” shirt.
Sure, you had the obligatory anti-Clinton signs and I saw at least one hat labeled “IRS” with a line through it, but there is a substantial disparity between the recent ANSWER rallies and CPAC. For one thing, there is a striking measure of professionalism with the latter, as compared to a significant level of rowdiness and downright meanness with the former. CPAC speakers were polite, spoke calmly and intelligently, laying out their points and allowing for courteous dissent from the crowd if it so existed.
Anyone with the pleasure of having C-SPAN on their television saw what the recent Washington DC and San Francisco get-togethers were like. If the speakers weren’t busy swearing and calling for slave reparations, they were defending despotic oppressive regimes while calling Bush a terrorist and Israel a rogue state. Anti-American propaganda and literature was a staple of the ANSWER events; CPAC was a discussion of policy planning and foreign events. Upon discovery of an anti-Muslim bumper sticker at CPAC the offending vendor was ordered to remove it or leave; at ANSWER rallies anti-Jewish banners and literature are handed out by the bucketful under the approving eyes of the organizers.
To compare the two groups to each other is grossly negligent in my humble opinion.
But anyway, back to the conference. The chief reason I journeyed to CPAC was to attend a panel entitled, “Islam: Religion of Peace?” As mentioned, Joseph Farah, an Arab-American who runs the popular news website WorldNetDaily.com, was the moderator. Participating in the discussion were Dr. Serge Trifkovic, Foreign Affairs Editor of Chronicles and author of “The Sword and the Prophet,” Kenneth R. Timmerman, a senior writer at Insight Magazine, and finally Daniel Pipes, the founder of the Middle East Forum and whom I am a big fan and longtime reader of.
Farah opened the panel by discussing the increased scrutiny Arab and Muslim-Americans have faced post-9/11. Making his own Arab-American roots known from the get-go, Farah argued that Arabs and Muslims within the United States must understand and accept any increased security measures. It must be acknowledged, he said, that something like 90% of all the world’s terrorists are from the Middle East, and to disregard that would be terribly foolish. “Am I advocating racial profiling?” he asked. “You’re damn right I am,” he exclaimed, to loud applause.
Daniel Pipes was the first of the panel participants to speak. The onetime Harvard professor has spent decades studying the Middle East and practically oozes authority with a quiet, consistent, soft-toned voice. Pipes spent the majority of his time discussing the true meaning of the controversial term Jihad. Pipes argued that while it doesn’t necessarily convey violence, it’s not a truly peaceful word either. He went on to discuss the need to make a distinction between Islam and Militant Islam, the latter of which the West is in direct conflict with. Far from advocating genocide, as radical Muslim groups like to claim, Pipes made a convincing speech that Islam itself is not the enemy, but only the extremist elements within it which must be rooted out by both the West and by Islamic moderates.
The next speaker was Serge Trifkovic, who I must confess I’ve never heard of before. The majority of his talk concerned militant Islamic elements perforating through the borders of the United States and the need to clamp down on this type of activity. Comparing our fight against Nazism and Communism to that of radical Islamism, he argued that we must use the same type of tactics in this new war. Part of those tactics, he said, must be to severely limit the immigration of peoples from the Arab world. Trifkovic noted that we would never allow residents of Japan or Germany to immigrate during World War II, and we must bear the same in mind in the current environment. His talk was certainly the most controversial of the four, although the comparison between Communism and radical Islam has been made by countless others, including by Daniel Pipes.
The last speaker was Kenneth R. Timmerman, perhaps best known as of late for his book on Jesse Jackson, Shakedown. That was a side project he did “just for fun,” Timmerman joked, before stating that he has been writing on the Middle East for many years. Among he covered a few topics, the major thrust of Timmerman’s talk concerned Arab governments and their official appointments of radical clerics to major positions. One of Timmerman’s main examples was a recent interview he conducted with the Cairo Mufti, the lead cleric in the capital city, appointed by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak himself. When the writer asked the cleric about the practice of suicide bombing, the Mufti exclaimed that he supported it fully and that it was the duty of Palestinians to conduct suicide bombings. Timmerman’s next example was visual, as he showed clips from the Palestinian Authority’s state-run television station. These were undoubtedly the most disturbing things I either saw or heard at CPAC. Both clips were of little children singing songs about the glories of suicide bombings and how they all wished to aspire to participate in the murdering of Jews. Timmerman noted that these segments and others like them have been running practically non-stop for the past two years or so, and are now viewed by Palestinian children as akin to MTV music videos. Utterly disgusting.
Afterwards, there was time for a few questions from the crowd. I unfortunately can only recall one of them, but this one was a shocker. It was from a seventh-grade history teacher in California. She announced that in her district, she is forced to spend six weeks teaching about Islam, whereas religions such as Christianity are only given one week. All children are then subjected to a district-wide mandatory test about the pillars of Islam. The teacher asked what she and fellow Conservatives could do about this (although I think all citizens of any political persuasion should be outraged). Daniel Pipes responded by saying that he’s heard of similar occurrences in California, and that there is currently a lawsuit in another district. Pipes said that lawsuits and writing about this are the best ways to curb such practices. Farah also leaned in to suggest quite forcibly, “Get your kids out of government schools,” which received a roaring approval from the audience.
At around that point, the panel concluded. As mentioned, being a longtime reader of Mr. Pipes I found the discussion immensely interesting and enjoyed listening to each of the speakers. While I wish more time could have been allotted for questions, the topics were interesting and the format was engaging. All in all, a great and very intellectually stimulating time.