Vice President Dick Cheney said he was “certain the next President of the United States” would be speaking at the 35th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) yesterday morning.
Senator John Barasso (R-Wy.) introduced the VP, saying when Cheney first ran for office he walked the town wearing an “I am Dick Cheney” button because no one knew who he was. Barasso said the “C” in “CPAC” should stand for Cheney, due to his “committed, consistent, conservative” values as he leaves office in January 2009.
Cheney helped kick off the event yesterday morning, involving thousands of young conservatives around the nation, some of who will vote in their first presidential election this November.
The three-day CPAC, featuring America’s greatest and most influential conservative leaders, challenges the youth to take grassroots action and grow the movement. They traveled by the busload to Washington DC for the event, held at the upscale Omni Shore Hotel.
Cheney received several standing ovations and claimed his resounding welcome was “almost enough to make me want to run for office again.”
Cheney covered basic conservative bedrocks, lauding low taxes and limited government as the most effective forms of management. He praised President Bush for being a “man of principles and his word” supporting tax cuts, entitlement reform, private pensions and the appointment of “superb” judges.
Cheney said President Bush “guided nation through a time of peril” and was the “right man” for the job.
He spoke of delivering more transparency to government and praised Bush’s promise to veto any appropriations bill Congress sends him that does not cut earmarks in half.
“If Congress is unwilling to vote on a project, we see no need to spend money on it,” said Cheney of requiring all earmarks to be written in bill language.
More importantly, Cheney praised American soldiers who have helped protect our nation in the tumultuous time after 9/11. He said the most solemn duty he and President Bush faced during their administration was national security.
“The absence of another 9/11 is not an accident, it is an achievement,” he said to a loud applause.
He segued, then, to support for extending FISA legislation, admitting that monitoring terrorist communications was a key strategy in keeping America safe. Additionally, coerced interrogation tactics, he said, have protected us as well.
Speaking of terrorists like Khalid Sheik Mohammad (who had planned the 9-11 attacks and was an “imminent threat” against the United States) he said it was “a good thing we had them in custody and it’s a good thing we found out what they knew.”
And when it comes to the War on Terror, he said there is still a long way to go. Despite the criticism the Bush Administration has faced, Cheney settled any doubts on his position.
“Would I support those same decisions again today?” he asked of the actions that lead to war in Iraq. “You’re damn right I would.” A grand applause followed.
He said the new strategy in Iraq is working and the “forces of freedom are winning.” Cheney also maintained that history will document America was good and more prosperous “because George W. Bush was President of these United States.”
The speech was a warm up for this morning’s exclusive speech by President Bush. It is the last time Bush and Cheney will appear at CPAC as President and Vice-President. Cheney’s emergence for the conference could be seen as a sign encouragement for voters to get serious about putting a Republican in the White House in November.
“The US is good and decent…not just a nation of influence but a nation of character,” he said. “[It is] a superpower that has moral commitments and ideals that we not only proclaim but act upon.”
Cheney indicated his desire for a Republican to continue leading the nation and said America will never “lack for inspiration in this fight because we need only look to America’s heroes in uniform.”
The speech was preceded by the introduction of several prominent CPAC board members, including Robert Novak, Ken Blackwell and Al Regnery.
This year’s CPAC is particularly important, as the roots of conservatism have are being tested against the Republican Party’s frontrunner, John McCain — who has received ample criticism from the conservative establishment for his liberal leaning views on immigration, waterboarding and campaign finance.