Conservatives are gathering from across the country in D.C., and they are doing so in the shadow of an international crisis that will bring seriousness to the speeches they hear and the conversations they have.
For many years now CPAC has been an orgy of finger-pointing as various groups within the conservative movement nod at each other as the root cause of the rise of Barack Obama, never fully grasping that the president's rise was an almost inevitable byproduct of a national withdrawal from the hard realities of a post 9/11 world.
Not just the terrible hardships of Iraq and Afghanistan, though surely those conflicts cost much in blood and treasure. But much more than those: The seeming endlessness of the challenge, its vastness across the globe. When the Soviet Union collapsed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, we took ourselves off on a holiday from history, packing only Francis Fukayama's The End of History for reading and not Anne Applebaum's The Gulag: A History. It was supposed to be easy. There was supposed to be a peace dividend. Bill and Hill said so. They lived as it were so.
To borrow a bit from good Dr. Johnson: The prospect of Putin's hangings now concentrates the mind, if the mullahs, the gas attacks, the butchery of Benghazi hadn't already. And hopefully it will concentrate the minds of all the attendees at CPAC.
As homework to convention goers, I assign a few posts.
The first is New York Times' columnist Nicholas Kristoif's conversation with me from Wednesday in which he offers the best defense possible of Hillary's bid to be president in 2016. True, on the same show, Jonathan Alter allowed as to how Hillary could very well be very old news by 2016, a tarnished Washington insider of 20-plus years duration. But Kristof summons up the best case for the former Secretary of State.