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CPAC unwise to snub Christie, gays

| Monday, March 4, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

What can you do with a man like Chris Christie?

The answer, according to many with the conservative movement: throw him overboard. And while we're at it, let's toss the gays over the side too.

The popular governor of New Jersey has angered many conservatives, including this humble scribe. During the crucial final days of the presidential election, Christie didn't merely embrace President Obama, he all but endorsed him.

Then, during the congressional fight over the disaster-relief bill for victims of superstorm Sandy — a bill with more pork in it than a Jimmy Dean factory — Christie denounced Republicans who wanted to move the legislation a few micrometers closer to kosher. Christie not only didn't care that the relief bill contained, among many other porcine baubles, millions for Alaskan fisheries (which are roughly 4,000 miles out of Sandy's path), he acted as if Capitol Hill Republicans should be ashamed for even mentioning it.

And he parroted the gun-control line and flip-flopped on accepting a federal bribe to accept ObamaCare funding to expand Medicaid.

Christie has his reasons for doing these things. Some are pretty defensible, others far less so. But whatever the strengths of his positions, no one attending this month's Conservative Political Action Conference will hear them.

CPAC is the first bottleneck in the Republican presidential pipeline, and at precisely the moment the party should be making every effort to be as open as possible to differing points of view, it's chosen to exclude the most popular governor in the country. Why? Because, a source familiar with CPAC's internal deliberations told National Review Online, Christie has a “limited future” in the Republican Party due to his position on gun control.

Really? The man is going to be re-elected as a Republican. That's a little future right there.

And since when is CPAC an organ of the Republican Party? Christie's future in the GOP is up to Republican voters. I happen to hew closer to CPAC's position on gun control than to Christie's. But I'd love to hear him talk about school reform and his battle with public-sector unions. I'd love to see him debate someone on gun control or on how to cut government spending in a climate where people like Christie are so quick to demagogue crisis-exploiting spending.

Heck, I'd like to hear debates on pretty much any issue dividing factions on the right, including gay rights. But CPAC has declared that gay groups can't even set up a booth this year. It's one thing to hold firm to your principles on traditional marriage; it's quite another to say that dissenting gay groups can't officially hand out fliers on the premises.

Some will see this as CPAC bravely holding the line. But it reads to many as a knee-jerk and insecure retreat at precisely the moment conservatives should be sending the opposite message. Maybe the near third of young Republicans who support gay marriage are wrong, but CPAC won't convince them of that by fueling the storyline that conservatives are scared of gays.

It's not CPAC's fault that the borders of conservatism are shrinking, but it would be nice if at this moment it acted less like a border guard keeping all but the exquisitely credentialed out and more like a tourist board, explaining why it's such a great place to visit — and live.

Jonah Goldberg is the author of the new book “The Tyranny of Clichés.”

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