The New York Times covered the latest annual gathering of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) with its usual mix of suspicion, overloaded labeling bias, and anti-GOP doomsaying. The paper's skeptical coverage of the three-day conservative confab, held this year at National Harbor on the Potomac, opened with two stories in Friday's edition, one on the organizers's attempts to put "a less strident face on the convention and the party."
Reporter Jonathan Martin's rundown of the speech by Republican star Sen. Marco Rubio, still in the mix for the 2016 presidential race, contained nine "conservative" labels, which actually makes it a model of restraint for the Times compared to last year's label-heavy reporting. Yet the question remains: Just how many "conservative" labels do you need, when the conference has the actual word "conservative" in the title?
Reporter Michael Barbaro (pictured) covered the surprising success of a speech by another prominent Republican in the news of late: Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, in "Back in Spotlight, Christie Offers G.O.P. Subtle Advice." Christie, an embattled moderate, received a standing ovation from the conservative gathering, perhaps because he's been the target of wall-to-wall scandal coverage among the liberal media. Christie's moderate views and embrace of President Obama after Hurricane Sandy didn't stop the Times and other outlets from treating the gridlock scandal over the Fort Lee bridge in September 2013 like an earth-shattering event.
Barbaro damned Christie with faint praise, emphasizing his stance as a "proponent of pragmatism over ideology" who told the conservative audience hard truths about the party's need to maintain electoral viability.
Barbaro noted how CPAC "organizers seemed determined to put a less strident face on the convention and the party," only to lament that that "gentler message was occasionally clouded by speakers who went on the attack, eviscerating Mr. Obama." As if a conservative gathering would be expected to elicit positive commentary on a liberal president.
And it wouldn't be a Times article on CPAC without talk of a Republican base torn apart by division (emphasis added):
The annual gathering of conservative activists here has long created a conundrum for the Republican Party and its leaders, simultaneously serving as a pep rally for its right wing, an influential bloc of voters in primaries, and representing a political liability for its image with a broader, more moderate electorate. (It was here that Mitt Romney, straining to win over skeptical conservatives, described himself as “severely conservative.”)
This year, organizers seemed determined to put a less strident face on the convention and the party. They stacked its opening day with Republican leaders, like Mr. Christie and Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the former Republican vice-presidential nominee, who have pushed the party to reach out to minority voters and welcome dissent within its ranks.
“A majority party welcomes debate, brings people in,” Mr. Ryan said here on Thursday. “It doesn’t burn heretics, it wins converts.”
But that gentler message was occasionally clouded by speakers who went on the attack, eviscerating Mr. Obama, his health care overhaul, foreign policy and oversight of the Internal Revenue Service. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a rising star in the conservative world, offered up the day’s most searing attack.
“If you have a president who is picking and choosing which laws to follow and which laws to ignore, you no longer have a president,” Mr. Cruz said.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate minority leader, took the stage wielding a rifle and quipped that Mr. Obama was “treating our Constitution worse than a place mat at Denny’s.”