Rhetoric reigns as conservatives meet
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama? Weak, a socialist and a liar.
Liberals? Monsters and a cancer.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney? Called a war criminal and a draft dodger - by people in his own party.
Just a month after the Arizona shooting rampage led to bipartisan calls for toned-down political discourse, incivility suffused the year's largest gathering of conservatives.
The brief political timeout is over - if it ever really existed.
"All right, sit down and shut up," a visibly annoyed Cheney said after being greeted by hecklers when he made a surprise appearance at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference. Cheney supporters shouted down the insults with a "U.S.A." chant.
Such incivility kept popping up throughout the three-day affair that ended Saturday. That's not to say liberals would have been any more civil at their own event, and the tone at the conservative gathering was arguably no different from what it's been in the past. On both the left and the right, hard-core ideologues are the ones who attend such conferences.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky set a respectful tone in their speeches. So did many of the Republicans likely to run for president.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who referred to Obama only once, confronted the issue of "the venomous, petty, often ad hominem political discourse of the day." He urged conservatives to be more thoughtful in their rhetoric.
Yet even as he invoked Ronald Reagan's admonishment, "Remember, we have no enemies, only opponents," Daniels slapped at Democrats: "Our opponents are better at nastiness than we will ever be. It comes naturally."
Ex-Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum suggested the president lies. "This is someone who doesn't believe in truth and evil in America," he said.
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann branded Obama's health care law "the crown jewel of socialism."
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said that under Obama "an uncertain world has been made more dangerous by the lack of clear direction from a weak president."
The false rumors about Obama's heritage surfaced. "I'm not one who questions . . . the existence of his birth certificate," said former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. "But when you listen to his policies, don't you at least wonder what planet he's from?"
Andrew Breitbart, who runs a conservative media company, assailed people from liberal groups such as ACORN, Code Pink and unions. "Hate-filled, racist sheep," he called them. "These people I've confronted are monsters," he said.
Pundit Ann Coulter commented, "The way things are goin, Obama may want to look into becoming the president of Egypt. Nobody would complain about him being a Muslim then."