My First Trip to CPAC

I recently attended CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) in Washington, D.C. I had never been to either before (CPAC or DC) so I didn’t know what to expect.

We got into DC at night but I was able to see the Lincoln Memorial all lit up along the way.  My first thought was picturing all the pennies I’d held in my life featuring this American history icon and there it was, in real life.

When we got to the Marriott (where the conference was being held) we immediately saw a few more American icons, this time some of the major political pundits of America just hanging out in the lobby.  Some of them included Tony Katz, Kevin Jackson, Dana and Chris Loesch and more.  Just standing around the lobby chatting, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

”Blacksphere” Kevin Jackson, PolitiChicks Exec. Producer Beverly Zaslow and me, lobby


Next morning bright and early, I put on my PolitiChicks shirt and CPAC ID badge, gave instructions to my cameraman Kevin and took off.

First stop was the Marriott Ballroom where South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint was speaking

“We don’t have shared goals with the Democrats. The democrats can’t cut spending. Their whole platform is based on promising more from government,” DeMint told the cheering crowd.  “Every time we compromise with Democrats, we spend more, we borrow more, we grow government,” he said.

Three of my favorite DeMint lines (which I tweeted during his speech) were:

“I guarantee in the Superbowl…that other team wasn’t compromising with Tom Brady!”

“Compromise works good when you have shared goals, but we don’t have a shared goal with Democrats.”

“When you talk about stopping spending with Democrats, it’s like kryptonite with Superman.”

Great start.  As soon as he was finished I grabbed Kevin and we ran downstairs to Exhibit Hall B where all the book signings took place—and where Sen. DeMint was scheduled to sign his book “Now or Never:  Saving America from Economic Collapse”.  PolitiChick Victoria Jackson and I got in line and, with Kevin filming we both got our books signed and briefly spoke to Sen. DeMint.

Sen. Jim DeMint, Victoria Jackson & me


We next had to rush back upstairs to the Marriott Ballroom where Sen. Marco Rubio was speaking.  I got as close to the podium as possible and was simply amazed at how young he looked and also how powerful his words were—especially when talking about the class warfare the Obama administration has been pushing.

“Unlike any leader in modern American history,” Rubio said, “we are led today by a president that has decided to pit Americans against each other. The basic argument he is making to our nation is that the reason why some of us are worse off than we used to be is because other people are doing too well. That the only way for some of us to do better is for some people to do worse.”

After a quick water break we were back in the Ballroom to hear one of my favorite (and funniest) speeches of the day by Rep. Steve King.  He went off on the Green movement like nobody’s business, telling about lighting problems in his capitol office.

“I insisted on having light in there,” King said, “And at night the janitors would come through, which were Nancy’s Stasi-troops, and screw out those light bulbs, those Edison bulbs and give me every once in a while curly cue bulbs.”

King said he went to a hardware store where he found a “mother load of black market light bulbs.” He put them in his office and said this gave him “a little bit of my liberty back a little bit of our freedom back.”  The crowd went nuts.

After Rep. King, Michelle Bachmann gave one of her all-time best speeches.  My thought while she was speaking was that I didn’t remember her being quite as unguarded as she was at CPAC.  Rep. Bachmann was especially vocal about the Obama administration’s lack of foreign policy, especially regarding turning our backs on Israel.

“No president since the modern state of Israel [was formed] has failed to stand by our ally Israel — only President Obama,” Bachmann said.  “The president spurned the president of Egypt when he took his first foreign trip to Cairo… In May he even said that Israel should retreat to its indefensible 1967 borders… Obama’s State Department now designates Jerusalem as an international city and in a bizarre move our State Department will not even acknowledge that Jerusalem belongs to Israel.”

Our lunch break was perfect because I got to meet and interview Alan Goetlieb, Founder of the Second Amendment Foundation.  He gave me some wonderful insight into the Fast and Furious scandal, which he agreed that it was definitely an attempted assault on our 2nd Amendment.

While on my way to hear Texas Governor Rick Perry speak I ran into Andrew Breitbart in the hallway.  My PolitiChicks producer asked him if I could interview him so that’s what I did.  (Sorry Mom, I know you wanted me to represent Texas for you!)

The last event of the day was a screening of my PolitiChick’s executive producer’s movie, “Runaway Slave” (in which she was producer).  While watching the movie in the back, THE Dr. Alveda King quietly came in and sat down.  I covered the Hollywood premier of Runaway but Dr. King wasn’t there—so I was thrilled to see her at the screening.

I got some great interviews and saw some old friend before heading back to my room.  Needless to say, it’s difficult to see and hear everything you want at CPAC; schedules are tight and sometimes the speakers/events are spread out at different ends of the hotel.

Plus, my feet were KILLING me (stupid high heels…)

Next day, I was determined to do something very important and I was a little nervous about it.  I was going to try to ask Muslim “Republican” Suhail Khan a question about his last year’s CPAC statement in which he claimed there is no Muslim Brotherhood in America.  According to the Muslim Brotherhood themselves, they are definitely in America and four federal judges have confirmed this.

So armed with my cameraman and footed with better shoes, I headed for the panel called “Conservative Inclusion 101”.

At the end of the panel I asked my question—and apparently THIS Conservative wasn’t “included” in the Conservative Inclusion panel…

Mr. Khan called me an “Alinsky instigator” and told me my question wasn’t appropriate.  A Hispanic activist on the front row stood up and told me I needed to leave.  It was Crazy Land.

Before I could get out the door a reporter from the Huffington Post asked me why I dared to pose such a question to Suhail Khan.  I told her it needed to be asked and that I thought of all places on earth, a Conservative Action conference would be exactly the place to feel safe enough to ask about our national security.

Once outside the small room a very familiar face approached me—Fred Grandy, former Congressman and/or “Gopher” from the Love Boat.

Since his acting and political days, Grandy had a radio show in which he and his wife were very outspoken about the threat of Sharia and Islamization in America.  They were asked to either stop talking about Islam or leave the show; they left.

Fred congratulated me for standing up to Khan and told me Americans need to be continually warned about the threat of Sharia.

Unfortunately I was so caught up in the Muslim Brotherhood fight that I missed hearing one of my favorites, Ann Coulter, speak.  But I did get to her book signing in time—barely.

Because she was in a hurry, Coulter started going through the line signing as fast as she could.  I told my cameraman to be prepared for anything, ready to film at a moment’s notice so I trusted he was ready to go as Ann Coulter approached me.

“Oh, such a pretty blonde!” Coulter said to me and I said, “Right back at ya!” laughing.  We spoke a few seconds as she signed my book and I turned around to make sure my cameraman caught everything—and that’s when I almost died.  My cameraman wasn’t holding the camera at all–he was instead holding out a book for her to sign.

Sheesh.  If he hadn’t been a starving, struggling young college kid I would have fired him.  But as Doris Day famously sang, “Que sera sera…”

I planned to attend Mitt Romney’s speech but the line was crazy long so I had lunch instead.  There’s not much time to eat at CPAC, so I welcomed the break.  (And so did my feet, which were still upset with me about my previous shoes…)

While Romney was speaking, a major ruckus was happening outside when the icky Occupy people showed up.  Ironically, the poor 99%’ers had VERY expensive signage and banners. Those signs could have paid for at least a few months of student loans, but I digress…

A group of us went outside to try to film some of it but the police wouldn’t let us near them (I’m sure more for our protection than theirs…)

With the crazy protesters behind us (who each got paid $60, by the way) I interviewed author and filmmaker Benjamin Shapiro.  TeaParty.Net also did an interview with Victoria and me about the Occupy protest.

Rushing back inside, I interviewed my friend Frank Gaffney, founder of the Center for Security Policy and Robert Muise, attorney for constitutional law and litigator defending Americans who are attacked by Islam.  I told Frank what had happened to me in the Suhail Khan panel and he basically told me this was par for the course.  Anyone who questions anything about Islam—even at a Conservative Conference—will usually be shut down.

My favorite panel of the day was about the threat of Sharia in America with Pamela Geller, Robert Muise and other experts.  During the Q&A session, I again related what had happened to me earlier that day with Mr. Khan and Pamela not only congratulated me but also asked to speak to me after the panel.  I told her I only would if I could also do an on-camera interview, which she agreed to.

Next my producer Beverly and I had lunch with Frank Gaffney and Robert Muise.  At one point Pamela Geller came to our table and said hello.  You can only imagine the conversation that took place; I was trying to absorb as many details as I possibly could with such great minds surrounding me!

On the final day, I decided to take my cameraman and explore the various booths in the Exhibit Halls.  I found my friend Trevor Loudon and interviewed him, as well as Texas Senate hopeful Glenn Addison.  I was also interviewed by a gigantic German TV reporter who wanted to know what a “PolitiChicks” was.

I was always surprised that more people weren’t in the Exhibit Halls.  That’s where the book signings were—with few people in line to meet greats like Sen. DeMint, Ann Coulter and others.  The Halls are also where “Radio Row” is held, with dozens of Internet Radio bloggers doing live CPAC broadcasts.  I saw Col. Allen West being interviewed there, and also I filmed a little tiff between Andrew Breitbart and a liberal “journalist” who was trying to do slam-pieces on various Conservatives (including Victoria Jackson).

But also in the Exhibit Halls you can get all kinds of free swag, from bumper stickers and t-shirts to books and various chachkies.  In addition to a bag full of free stuff, I also got some of my best interviews just wandering around the Halls.

Finally on the last day, Victoria, Beverly and some of our friends attended a panel that featured actor Stephen Baldwin and others.  It was supposed to be about “Engaging America Through Conservative Pop Culture” but it was unfortunately not very engaging to the audience…(Victoria got caught on camera by a blogger who showed her reading a newspaper while one of the speakers was speaking…)

My favorite part of that particular panel was getting to meet and (quietly) talk to author and musician Chris Cassone, who signed one of his books for me (“Take Our Country Back”).

But by far, the most impactful and important part of the entire conference, in my opinion, was getting to hear Sarah Palin’s speech.

I was late getting in because my cameraman had to leave and I had to put my equipment back in my room—so by the time I got back the line was insanely long.

Luckily one of my journalist friends saw me wandering around and got me in a secret door.  I found Victoria and got settled in.

At least a dozen or so times the room burst into applause during Palin’s speech.  She said exactly what all of Conservative America wanted and needed to hear, and she also reiterated the importance of not allowing the left-wing media to destroy us.

“The far left and their media allies can’t beat us on the issues, so instead, they’ll destroy our records. They’ll smear our reputations. They’ll even attack our families,” Palin said. “Let’s not do the job for them, okay Republicans?”

About halfway through her speech we heard someone yelling in the back.  Before being able to make out what they were saying everyone started yelling “USA! USA!”  Sarah cheered along while the protesters were taken out of the room.  Soon, the “USA” mantra was replaced with the entire room yelling “Sarah!  Sarah!”

It was amazing.

At the end of her speech, the crowd cheered louder and longer than for any other speaker and she did something no other speaker did—she went out into the crowd.  Despite having had liberal infiltrators disrupt her speech, she still made her way to the floor and shook hands with as many people as she could.  Very, very cool.

Victoria Jackson and I were standing on our chairs clapping, watching Sarah Palin interacting with her fans.  I wish we could have gotten closer but there were too many people surrounding her.

That night I got to go out with a couple of Tea Party folks to tour around Washington, DC.  It was the first time any of us had ever seen DC so we unfortunately got lost quite a bit…

It was also FREEZING COLD—colder than I had maybe ever been in my life.

First stop was the White House where I said a silent prayer that Obama would soon have to find another home…

Next was the awe-inspiring Lincoln Memorial, which is beautifully lit at night.

As soon as I had climbed the white marble steps to the top, it started snowing.  There were only a few people inside so it was silent and peaceful as I stood looking up at the giant statue of Abraham Lincoln.  Turning around, I saw the Washington Monument.  Words still escape me, thinking about the history of all I was surrounded by.  More prayers, this time thanking God for all He’s given our great country.

The street was now icy so I slip-slided back toward the car but was distracted by a strange sight—a group of soldiers seemingly lost in the snow.  I wandered over, freezing cold with the snow now blowing sideways and found myself surrounded by statues of soldiers from the Korean Veterans War Memorial.

I hadn’t even known this existed; my father is a Korean War vet so it was especially impactful for me.

It was beyond beautiful and my tears were literally freezing to my face.  Time to go.

My still camera had broken earlier that day so I’m hoping my new Tea Party friends will send me my DC pictures soon.  If not, I have memories that will never leave me of that night.

I highly recommend everyone to attend CPAC.  It’s one way to not only interact with politicians and pundits but it’s also something of a giant Pep Rally for American government.

It reminds you that you’re not alone in this fight—and that together, we can and will win all our elections.


Now excuse me while I go burn some of my high heels.

Ann-Marie Murrell

Ann-Marie Murrell is one of the creators of PolitiChicks and co-owns the site with Morgan Brittany. Ann-Marie is co-author of two bestselling books, “What Women (Really) Want” and "PolitiChicks: A Clarion Call to Political Activism". She has appeared on dozens of television shows including Fox & Friends, CNN, Hannity, the Dr. Phil Show, Huckabee, Lou Dobbs, C-SPAN, One America News, Stuart Varney & Company, Newsmax, MSNBC, and more. In addition to PolitiChicks, Ann-Marie has written for multiple other news sites. You can find Ann-Marie Murrell on Facebook and Twitter: @PolitichickAM E-mail: [email protected]

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