February 13, 2011
The conservative movement in the United States is at war – with itself. The battle is over government spending, and for the first time in a generation, the knives are being sharpened for that most sacred cow of the Republican party: the $700bn – and rising – defence budget (pdf).
What had been a relatively low-grade domestic dispute between the Republican party establishment and the libertarian-minded Tea Party movement boiled over into the public arena during this week’s CPAC conference in Washington – an annual gathering of conservative political groups. Supporters of the newly-elected US Senator Rand Paul – a Tea Party favourite and son of the erstwhile libertarian and prospective 2012 Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul – jeered and booed the former defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, as he was presented with a “defender of the constitution” award by former Vice-President Dick Cheney. Amid shouts of “Where’s Bin Laden?” Paul’s supporters staged a walkout during Rumsfeld’s acceptance speech for a prize that, for Republicans, is akin to the lifetime achievement award handed out each year at the Oscars.