Saturday seemed like it was off to a slow start, as tired (and possibly hung-over) CPACers filed into the Gaylord Convention Center for the third straight day of conservative consorting.
The radio and TV news booths that had lined the once-crowded hallway outside the convention center’s main ballroom were now almost all deserted. Jacob Champion, one of the eager Rand fans who was super-psyched to be at CPAC on day one, was still sporting a red tie and jacket adorned with “Stand With Rand” stickers, but by now he looked decidedly dazed. He ambled into the main auditorium, telling me he was exhausted, while Newt Gingrich wrapped up a snooze of a speech.
Everything changed, however, when Michele Bachmann bounded onto the main stage. As the music of tween pop stars One Direction announced her arrival, the audience leapt to its feet to greet her.
“I’m so glad you’re here!” the congresswoman and former Republican presidential candidate proclaimed. “I love you, too!” Love, in fact, was the theme of Bachmann’s speech. She emphasized over and over, her voice growing louder and louder: “We are the movement that wants change! We care about people! We love people!”
Bachmann wasted no time laying into the Obama administration for canceling White House tours—something almost every major speaker has made a point of mentioning over the past few days—and riling up the crowd by shouting that the president’s taxpayer-funded lifestyle had reached a point of excess.
“We believe the president and first family deserves the best security, to live in the White House, and fly on a private plane. But there are five chefs on Air Force One,” she said to resounding boos. “There are two projectionists who operate the White House movie theater and even sleep in the White House in case the first family wants to watch a late show. I hate to be petty here, but can’t they just press the play button?”
Driving the point home, Bachmann cranked up the indignation. “We are paying someone to walk the president’s dog, but we can’t pay for a veteran to go on a White House tour?” And the crowd goes wild.
It wasn’t all hooting and hollering, though. Bachmann lowered her voice and got serious for a second to talk about “one of the most shameful incidents of the American presidency.” She was talking about the September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, of course, condemning Obama for “disappearing” almost immediately after he was informed of the embassy attack. “No one knows yet today where the president was,” she said, eliciting angry jeers from the crowd when she noted that, days after the attack, Obama headed to Las Vegas for a fundraiser with Jay-Z and Beyoncé.
Bachmann used Benghazi to segue from First Amendment rights to the red-meat issue of Second Amendment rights, undoubtedly making Gayle Trotter proud by painting gun control as a women’s issue. “Your sister and your mother should have her Second Amendment rights so she can protect herself,” Bachmann declared to loud cheers.
The Minnesotan continued to raise her voice so that by the end of her speech she was basically yelling, leaving the dedicated day-three audience energized. Coming to the end of her remarks, Bachmann's voice boomed through the hall above the riotous screams: “This is our movement, the movement of love, the movement of care. We do this because we love each other and we love our nation!”