The State of the GOP All-Stars Is Strange

Until Donald Trump's invitation was announced on Tuesday afternoon, this year's Conservative Political Action Conference was mostly in the news for the uninvited guests — their sins were unforgivable. But what do the forgivable CPAC invitees say about the conservative agenda right now? That's where things get weird.

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The Conservative Political Action Conference is a yearly event founded in 1973 to "discuss the future of the conservative movement," its site says. The goal was "to rally conservatives, share strategies and promulgate and crystallize the best of the conservative thought in America." It is "the place to find our nation’s current and future leaders and sets the conservative agenda each year." And what leader will be setting the agenda in 2013 later this month, 40 years since the event's noble beginnings? Donald Trump. As well as Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin, plus no less than five people whose job title is preceded by the word "former."

Until Trump's repeat invitation was announced on Tuesday afternoon, this year's CPAC was mostly in the news for the people who weren't invited. They include:

Uninvited: Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Sin: Raising taxes in a transportation bill.

Uninvited: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
Sin: Saying nice things about President Obama, from the Sandy hug to the Medicaid extension, and mean things about guns.

Uninvited: GOProud
Sin: The gay Republican group was "over the top" at previous CPACs, according to CPAC chair Al Cardenas.

Uninvited: Pamela Geller
Sin: The anti-Islam blogger thinks she's being kept away because she angered anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.

We can all agree that the sins listed above are unforgivable. It's just that it's so hard to figure out CPAC's formula for what is forgivable. This year's high-profile attendees do, in fact, include:

Invited: Trump
Forgivable transgression: Birtherism, transcriptism, tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations to Democrats; endorsement of universal health care, writing Nancy Pelosi to say she's "the best."

Invited: Mitt Romney
Forgivable transgression: Losing the 2012 election; inventing Obamacare.

Invited: Sarah Palin
Forgivable transgression: Losing the 2008 election, quitting her job as Alaska governor, angering Fox News enough to lose her contract.

Invited: Newt Gingrich
Forgivable transgression: Making the 2012 Republican presidential primary take forever, attacking Romney as a robber baron, working as a consultant for Fannie Mae.

In fairness, CPAC will get some fresh ideas from brand-new senator Ted Cruz, who will be the keynote speaker, though he's made a name for himself by using a very old tactic on Chuck Hagel.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.