Introduced as a speaker who both bravely opposed Obamacare and supported the effort to court global economic calamity by refusing to raise the debt ceiling, Michele Bachmann received one of the warmest welcomes from the Saturday morning CPAC crowd. Her address was themed around the conservative movement being the movement of "care and compassion."
It was a message, that at times, sounded as if she was being sarcastic. It didn't help that the speech began with Bachmann welcoming attendees to "Washington, the epicenter of care and compassion." Primed with speeches that railed against Washington, and "government dependence" the crowd greeted the remarks with a mocking laughter, anticipating that Bachmann was railing against nannyism. Eventually, everyone figured out that Bachmann was trying to be sincere.
From there, Bachmann launched into outrage over the attacks on the consulate in Benghazi. "A war was raging in Benghazi for hours, and all we know is that our president went A.W.O.L.," she shouted, as the crowd booed lustily.
At CPAC, Bachmann is truly in her element, and she worked the crowd like a red-meat slinging virtuoso -- a contrast to her often halting and hesitant performances in the 2012 primary campaign. Bachmann very effortlessly shifted from the Benghazi outrage, to touch briefly on the effort to curb gun violence, to Obamacare's "war on the young" to a criticism of sequester politics.
"Why are we paying for someone to walk the White House dog when we can't even get a veteran in for a White House tour."
From there, however, Bachmann's "caring" theme got weird. During an extended riff on Jonas Salk and the polio vaccine, she essentially suggested that the government could cure Alzheimer's disease and other maladies by simply taking the cures of kindly inventors and then using the government to distribute them around the country for free. Bachmann suggested that a regulatory regime was to blame for the problem, but there are actually these things called "powerful pharmaceutical lobbies" that frown on just giving things away for free.
Nevertheless, Bachmann said more people should care, and that "we are a movement of love."
She also had this to say: "You can never count on your cat."
Below, a liveblog of the latest updates from CPAC: