Behold, the scene at Donald Trump's CPAC speech this morning in the main ballroom. Empty seats were everywhere, although it's not entirely Trump's fault. He was given an 8:45 a.m. speaking slot, the very first of the day. Many CPAC attendees aren't even out of bed yet. Still, Trump was invited not because of his conservative bona fides (he's donated more money over the years to Democrats than to Republicans), but because he's supposedly a crowd-pleasing draw.
"Mr. Trump’s previous CPAC appearance was hugely popular among our attendees and we expect it will be even more popular this year," Al Cardenas, the head of the American Conservative Union, said earlier this month when he announced Trump's invitation.
The speech itself was mildly received. There were a few moments of scattered clapping, some chuckling. The biggest applause came when Trump suggested, once again, that we "take" Iraq's oil and use the proceeds to pay a million dollars each to the families of the American soldiers who died in the war. Trump meandered from topic to topic, but the one unifying theme of the speech was the greatness of Trump. "I've made over $8 billion," he declared at one point, for some reason. Referring to a country club he just bought, Trump said, "I'm going to fix it. I'm going to make it incredible."
"He would have had five more minutes to talk if he had stopped putting 'I' and 'me' in there and came up with some solutions instead of promoting himself," a man in the audience told us afterwards.