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On Wednesday night eastern time last week, Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. On Thursday morning, the Conservative Political Action Conference kicked off its annual gathering in Orlando, Florida. Against the backdrop of a real war, the culture warriors at CPAC (which I spent hours watching on the CPAC website) looked even pettier than usual. Republicans were serving up their usual list of grievances while brave Ukrainians were taking up arms to defend their country from Vladimir Putin. Donald Trump, a keynote speaker, is, of course, an unabashed Putin fanboy. Russian troops were preparing to close in on Kyiv as Texas Senator Ted Cruz was rolling into Orlando to ask the CPAC audience to subscribe to his podcast. More than anything, the culture warriors wanted to promote their own brands.
It certainly says something that the competing conference—the America First Political Action Conference, held at the Orlando World Center Marriott—was for white nationalists. Then there was the CPAC audience’s bewilderment over how to respond to Putin attacking Ukraine. The official straw poll of 2,574 attendees revealed that 62 percent believe that “Joe Biden’s incompetence” is the “greatest threat to America’s safety and national security,” while 3 percent view Russia as a threat. Could this have anything to do with Trump and Putin complimenting each other for years?