Like a star-studded finale of America’s Got No Talent, CPAC kicked off today with a promising line-up of Z-list political celebrities desperate to get their voices heard over meanie liberal cancel culture. Ted Cruz called Joe Biden “Darth Vader”; Josh Hawley claimed “Washington subsidizes Twitter” and reminisced about about growing up in a “working class town in Missouri” (where he went to private school paid for by his banker father and then attended Stanford, the same college as his mother.) But everybody knew the real event to watch tonight, and it was “Reigniting the American Dream”, starring Donald Trump Jr and his indomitable cheerleader Kimberly Guilfoyle.
Now, you might say that having Don Jr present a speech called “Reigniting the Spirit of the American Dream” is a bit like having Rudy Giuliani lecture on how to book a prestigious venue for your next high-profile press conference. But this couple actually has a surprising amount to give — at least in pure entertainment value.
For one thing, despite our obvious ideological differences, there’s a part of me that can’t help but love Kimberly Guilfoyle. She so successfully channels the raw energy of a children’s TV presenter from an apocalyptic wasteland. “I love Florida!” she cried, bouncing out onstage tonight. “What’s not to love compared to California and New York, right?” There was no reaction from the audience, but she didn’t need it. Head down and smile pasted on, she just plowed straight on through.
Yes, Kim likes to bring the enthusiasm, and I respect that. She infamously screamed at the Republican National Convention that “THE BEST — IS YET — TO COME!” just before Trump lost the election, and no one could accuse her of lying. Today, she told us President Biden is “leading from behind. From behind Kamala, that is! Ha! True story!” After a pause for laughter that didn’t come, she added that America is crawling with “socialists and communists [who] want to see our nation burn.” She predicted that ex-president Trump would achieve “more from his desk in Mar-a-Lago than Biden and Kamala will in the next four years.” I suppose that all depends if you count achievements in public policy or personal golf handicaps, but who am I to judge her truth?
The Republican Party will be “reborn as a party of the working class and minorities,” Guilfoyle promised us, on the day minimum wage legislation came to a standstill in the Senate because of a lack of Republican support. President Trump himself, of course, referred to Black Lives Matter as a “symbol of hate” a few months ago. I guess the GOP must be one of those old “double bluff” parties, like how the Communist Party of China is secretly sponsored by Starbucks or how President Rouhani of Iran runs a world-leading feminist party but doesn’t like to boast about it.
Self-referential as they come, Kimberly finished off her own speech with the old catchphrase, “Yes! The best is yet to come!” before turning toward the stage and giving Don Jr a full WWE-style intro that will be scarred into the minds of attendees forever: “Please welcome THE SON OF THE LEADER OF THE WARRIOR MAGA MOVEMENT OF CONSERVATIVE VALUES, DONALD TRUMP JUNIORRRRRR!” And like he believed for a second that he’d been invited onstage at Madison Square Garden, Junior strutted out to booming music and greeted the audience with: ““HOW’S IT GOIN’, CPAC?” A lesser woman would have cringed. Kimberly, instead, glowed.
The jury’s been out for a while on whether or not Don Jr is the actual son of the 45th president or an elaborate piece of performance art, and today didn’t make it any clearer. Chest puffed out like a pigeon on heat, Junior made topical references to quail-hunting and spent an inordinate amount of time attacking “Lincoln Project Liz”, i.e. Liz Cheney, a member of his own party. It didn’t quite land. “There’s competent women and incompetent women,” he rambled at one point, “…but people get away with it by talking about diversity blindly.” What? I don’t know. Nobody does.
The world salad kept on coming. “This month alone, they’ve banned the Muppets and made a gender-neutral Mr Potato Head” (the former, of course, is just straightforwardly not true, and the latter was a decision taken by a private company, though it is endearing to think of Joe Biden immediately getting to work on toy spuds during his first two months in power.) Democrats are “trying to ban Fox News”. Everything these days is down to “liberal privilege”. Something-something-Hunter-Biden, who is “making billions in China right now” and stole his father’s votes, dammit.
Before Kim and Don came onstage tonight, I remarked to my partner that they would be the worst double act since Adam Sandler played himself and his own twin sister in the terrible 2011 comedy Jack and Jill. In hindsight, however, I feel that’s unfair. Kim is one of the most watchable people affiliated with the GOP, and even Don has his moments of unbridled truth. When he said his father’s speech on Sunday would not be “low-energy” and would “solidify all your feelings about Trump and the MAGA movement,” I thought: that’s fair. Does Junior tend to vacuum the charisma out of a room faster than a black hole colliding with a neutron star? Well, yes, but if you’d spent your childhood being fathered by Donald J Trump, you might have developed that coping strategy too. I’m willing to forgive him that.
Sadly for New York’s performance art scene, Kim ’n’ Don are reportedly planning to relocate permanently to Florida. I suspect, however, that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of them. The best is… well, you know the phrase.