When my wife and I decided to attend CPAC back in December I was very hesitant. I suppose I was concerned with three things: who I would meet, what I would hear, and how much it would cost. When I found out that my congressman, Justin Amash, would be speaking at Saturday's RLC national convention I decided to make the trek to DC to at least lend him support (which he doesn't really need). I can honestly say that the extended weekend trip exceeded my expectations and had a lot of unplanned twists and turns.
It began right after our arrival at Baltimore/Washington International Airport. Our plan on Thursday night was to take the Amtrak train from BWI to Union Station and then the metro to our hotel. However, since neither of us had ever been to BWI and it wasn't entirely clear where the shuttle bus pickup to the Amtrak station was we waited and hoped for the best outside the terminal.
While waiting I saw a young man and his girlfriend and I was pretty sure I had seen him before. Since I was on my way to CPAC it came to me that he was some sort of conservative comedian whom I had seen doing a video on the horrors of Detroit. I told my wife, "He's some kind of famous guy. I can't remember his name. I think it's Steven. This must be the right bus."
Well, it turns out that even famous guys get on the wrong bus sometimes because the four of us ended up taking a tour through BWI's historic long term parking lot. He politely apologized for misleading us when he realized that we sort of vaguely were following their lead. We introduced ourselves (he was Steven Crowder, former PJTV now Fox News Contributor) and then went to catch the proper shuttle. After I ran down the shuttle, we got to the Amtrak station and found that the train was very delayed. Steven asked us if we'd like to share a cab to our hotels and he quickly negotiated with the cab driver a very cheap rate. His New York experience with cabs was in full display to this country bumpkin. Needless to say, it was a fun ride into Washington with a couple of great people and a wonderful way to start off our trip.
Friday we attended CPAC and saw a couple speeches in the morning including Gov. Fortuno of Puerto Rico (most impressive) and former Gov. Gary Johnson. We stuck around for Rep. Tim Price but his speech turned out to be sort of boring so we struck out to visit our congressman, Amash, in his new office. After visiting for a little while and Marcy giving him some suggestions on where to hang the pictures in his office that had just arrived, we headed over to the Capitol to watch voting on the House floor. We took the tunnels from the House office building to the Capitol (which I recommend traveling in if you ever have the chance) and watched the House convene and vote on a few items.
Realizing that the afternoon speakers like Pawlenty, Paul, Perry, and Cain were coming up we decided to cut out a little early and try and find our way back to Amash's office where we had left our stuff. As we were walking in the tunnels, much to our surprise, Ron Paul came out of a side door all alone with one staffer right in front of us. We shook hands, said how it was nice to see each other again and sent along a 'hello' from his brother David, who is our retired assistant pastor. He asked us if we were going to see the speech and we said that's where we were headed and looked forward to it.
After collecting our things we headed into the metro and back to the conference at 2 PM. We got in line and waited and waited and waited. The line to get in the main ballroom was long and slow moving. There were tons of Campaign for LIberty people. Only a certain amount of people were allowed in the hall (fire codes I suppose) and it seemed as if people were not interested in getting up and leaving. First, we missed Pawlenty at 3 PM and then we were 6 people short of getting in the door when Ron Paul took the stage. Right as he began, they let 10 people in (including us!) to stand on the stairs so we saw almost the entire speech.
Once Paul finished, the room cleared out significantly and we found some nice seats to watch Perry's and Cain's speeches. Cain's we had to leave a little early since we had early dinner reservations and we skipped lunch and were really hungry. Later that evening, we went to the YAL event where Jack Hunter, Mike Church, and some other guy from The American Conservative were on a panel before Congressman Amash came on. Amash had a nice message and took questions from the mostly teenage crowd. I quipped to our friend who was in the front of the room that we were sitting back in the senior citizen section.
Saturday was spent going to the RLC convention, hearing our dear Laura Ebke speak on a panel, and catching Justin Amash again speak during lunch. We left in the afternoon and walked around on the national mall which neither of us had been to in 15-20 years. While walking around (actually trying to get to the Jefferson Memorial) we stumbled upon the Holocaust Museum and decided to go in. It is even more impressive and powerful than I imagined. Definitely a must see (without young children) if you visit DC. Walking through there and seeing the history, pictures, and stories, makes it hard to imagine what happened and how that could ever happen...
The evening was a return to the RLC again with Peter Schiff and then Governor Gary Johnson. Johnson gave the same speech but longer this time. It was fun to once again meet him and I can confidently say that he is a very genuine and friendly person. No arrogance or phoniness about the guy - he is very relaxed in his own skin and seems truly motivated to run to do the job not fill the office.
(This was taken at a Michigan RLC event about one year ago when Johnson began "making the rounds".)
*As an aside, I agree entirely with Laura's feelings upon meeting one another. It was as if we had known each other for a long time and were just friends catching up who hadn't seen each other in a while. Very odd, yet very cool. The only surprise and thing I didn't expect was Laura's Nebraska accent which I'm sure she'll deny she has.
My next posts will be about my impressions and what I think the implications of the events at CPAC concerning Paul/Johnson/Romney/etc. might be.