Dr. Ben Carson: I don't think Chris Christie and GOProud should be excluded from CPAC

Via the Andrea Tantaros Show, I assume his point here about the urgency of economic renewal will form the core of his CPAC speech so consider this a sneak preview. Interesting little exchange between him and Tantaros: She seizes on his message about opposing political correctness to steer him towards criticizing Christie’s and GOProud’s exclusion on those grounds, that it’s a form of conservative PC. But that’s not really where he takes it. He comes back at her, essentially, with something similar to Mitch Daniels’s idea of a “truce” on social issues. We need a big tent right now because rescuing the country from fiscal unsustainability takes precedence over all other disagreements. There’ll be time later to decide which cultural ideas are “barnicles” on the ship of state after it’s been turned around.

National Review’s a bit more absolute than that:

CPAC’s inviting GOProud to participate again would not now, as it did not at earlier conferences, imply its endorsement of any particular policies regarding gays, just as CPAC’s invitation to Chris Hayes to speak on a panel does not imply its endorsement of MSNBC. Speaking of Hayes, his rebuff of CPAC’s invitation — lodged as a protest against GOProud’s exclusion — has probably had a greater downside for CPAC than its past inclusion of GOProud ever did. Conservatives rightly lament that pro-life Democrats are regularly marginalized in the various organs of the Left. This marginalization rarely breaks through into the mainstream narrative about the Left. But conservatives are not so lucky, and the present case perhaps unjustly, but nevertheless needlessly, fuels a narrative of marginalization on the Right.

The matter of Chris Christie is somewhat different. CPAC’s exclusion of Christie was not an act of commission but rather one of omission. And while the New Jersey governor is certainly not entitled to speak at the conference, we fear the decision not to invite him to do so is illustrative of a potentially unhealthy trend. Organizers told National Review Online they were displeased with Christie’s restrictionist views on gun control and felt he had a limited future in the national party. We, too, have concerns about the governor’s views on guns — and on other issues — but those concerns are tempered by our respect for his handling of New Jersey’s finances and his reining in of the public-sector unions, which for decades had a vice-like grip on Trenton. Our approach has been to praise those of Christie’s policies that we think judicious and wise, and to criticize those that we think provocative and unwise. We do not think the latter requires reading him out of the conservatism movement or the Republican party.

Jonah Goldberg seems to want a more permanent accommodation, too:

Heck, I’d like to hear debates on pretty much any and every issue dividing factions on the right, including gay rights. But CPAC has declared that gay groups can’t even set up a booth this year. It’s one thing to hold firm to your principles on traditional marriage; it’s quite another to say that dissenting gay groups — that is, conservative gay groups — can’t officially hand out fliers on the premises (as they were allowed to in the past).

Some will no doubt see this as CPAC bravely holding the line. But it reads to many in the public as a knee-jerk and insecure retreat at precisely the moment conservatives should be sending the opposite message. Maybe the near third of young Republicans who support gay marriage are wrong, but CPAC won’t convince them — never mind other young voters — of that by fueling the storyline that conservatives are scared of gays.

One thought on Christie, in keeping with my general line that excluding him this year inadvertently does him more good than harm: It sets him up perfectly for a big “return to conservatism” narrative next year or the year after when he starts to shift right again. Once he’s safely reelected governor, he’ll have to make amends to conservatives somehow ahead of 2016. Just as importantly, he’ll need some showy way to get their attention so that they know he’s trying to make amends. A return to CPAC would be just the ticket. He’ll pick a fight with New Jersey Democrats over union pensions or abortion or something, then have his staff cut a few viral vids of him yelling at left-wing old ladies in the audience at a townhall, and before you know it, wham — he’s keynoting CPAC 2015 and enjoying tons of buzz for doing so. That’s one scenario. The other scenario is that I’m right about him teaming up with Bloomberg to form some sort of national No Labels movement for 2016, in which case he’ll actually shift a tiny bit left and end up keynoting the first annual RINOcon or whatever instead.

Update: Uh oh. We have a new candidate for exclusion from CPAC.