Thousands of conservatives including hundreds of students converged in Crystal City, Va. this weekend for the 30th annual Conservative Political Action Conference.
The conference included dozens of conservative pundits, academics and politicians and was a showcase for conservative organizations from the Heritage Foundation think tank to groups like the Counter-Clinton Library, a group raising money to build a library to counter myths about the Clinton presidency.
Vice President Dick Cheney kicked off the convention Thursday, promising sweeping domestic changes and continued pressure on Iraq to relinquish its weapons of mass destruction.
Calling this year “a consequential year in the history of our nation and in the history of freedom,” Cheney outlined the administration’s domestic and international agenda for “2003 and beyond” in a speech that mirrored President Bush’s State of the Union address.
Cheney cited the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, increased airport security and the inoculation of thousands of health care workers against smallpox as important steps in protecting America against terrorism.
Acknowledging the recent terror attacks in Bali, Kuwait, Yemen and Jordan, Cheney vowed to continue to hunt for terrorists that remain at large.
“Wherever terrorists operate, we will find them; wherever they dwell, we will hunt them down,” he said.
He linked Saddam Hussein and terrorist group al Qaeda and said confronting Iraq would be essential to winning the war on terror. He cited Iraq’s possession of chemical and biological weapons as evidence of Iraq’s noncompliance with United Nations weapons inspectors.
Echoing the president’s warning, Cheney said, “it would take just one vial, one canister, one crate to bring a day of horror to our nation unlike any we have ever known.”
On the domestic agenda, Cheney called for a new round of tax cuts to revitalize the economy, starting with the repeal of the marriage and death taxes, and the elimination of the double-taxation of stock dividends.
“By leaving more money in the hands of the people who earn it, people who will spend and invest and save and add momentum to our recovery, we’ll help create more jobs and ultimately increase tax revenues for the government,” he said.
He also promised to “set a high standard for humanity” by passing laws against human cloning and partial birth abortion.
Other speakers included multiple congressmen, Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) as well as pundits Oliver North, Ann Coulter and former presidential candidate Alan Keyes, among others.
North spoke to the conference Friday as part of a panel labeled “What Are We Fighting For,” where he criticized liberals, France and the United Nations for their lack of action against Iraq.
“I don’t think there is any doubt that Saddam has to be disarmed,” North said, calling France a “duplicitous” and a “third-rate pathetic power” that “can’t even make a decent car.”
He also referred to the UN as part of the “axis of irrelevance,” noting that Libya was just elected to head the UN Human Rights Council.
Coulter, a conservative pundit and attorney who has gained attention of late for her book “Slander,” followed North Friday.
She criticized liberals for their argument that the United States needs to recruit allies if it chooses to pursue military action against Iraq. She was particularly critical of France and Germany.
“I can’t grasp the argument on why we need the moral authority from Germans to take out a dictator who gasses his own people,” she said.
“If we respond to fanatics who hate us and want to kill us, they might hate us and want to kill us,” she quipped.
She also noted the Democratic party should be renamed the “adultery party” because of its members needs to “break every one of the 10 commandments.”
Coulter called war opponents the “treason lobby” adding, “it will take a mushroom cloud over Washington before liberal are convinced (of the need to go to war.)”
College Republicans were also on hand to show their support.
“I’m here because I believe in the Bush administration’s ability to lead the American people to the Promised Land,” said Jeff Rollins, a junior at the University of Washington. “They have a vision for America, a vision that will make this country even greater in the upcoming years.”
R. Stuart Jones, national secretary for the College Republicans, said the group is working to organize young conservatives across the country.
“We have a duty to spread conservatism on college campuses, which are often dominated by liberals,” Jones said. “There are a ton of conservatives, and we’re trying to draw them out of their dorm rooms.”