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The Trump show: CPAC off and running hard to the right. This is your GOP, and it isn’t pretty. | COMMENTARY

U.S. Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas) speaks to a cheering crowd at CPAC at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando on Friday, February 26, 2021.(Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)
U.S. Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas) speaks to a cheering crowd at CPAC at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando on Friday, February 26, 2021.(Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel) (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)

The annual gathering of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) opened this morning with a hard charge to the political right as some attendees booed the organizers for asking them to wear masks in the auditorium and one of the speakers, Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, mocked Democrats for seeking increased security measures at the Capitol in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

And we are still two days away from the greatly anticipated appearance of former President Donald Trump, who will speak at the event on Sunday. It is likely to be the most viewed media event of the weekend.

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Mr. Trump and his allies have already used the gathering to demonstrate his hold on the Republican Party despite his defeat at the polls in November and his widely denounced instigation of the mob attack on the Capitol that led to five deaths and dozens of serious injuries to Capitol Police officers.

For better or worse, even the warm-up acts like Mr. Cruz and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are getting widespread live and video coverage today. Beyond cable TV, many websites such as “The Hill” are offering livestreams and videos of the conference. There should be no problem seeing Trump’s performance live on Sunday. Just Google CPAC and you will be offered an array of choices. The right-wing cable outlets like Newsmax, OANN and Fox News are sure to be all over the speech.

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You might think Mr. Cruz would be booed for having abandoned his constituents for the Ritz Carlton in Cancun during a deadly power outage amid freezing temperatures in Texas last week but he drew cheers when he characterized wearing a mask as virtue signaling.

“Now they’re saying, everybody can get immunized, we can have herd immunity everywhere, and we’re going to wear masks for the next 300 years,” Mr. Cruz said. “And by the way, not just one mask, two, three, four. You can’t have too many masks. How much virtue do you want to signal? This is just dumb.”

Mr. Cruz also alleged that Democrats have an ulterior political motive in asking for more security at the Capitol.

“The Democrats are convinced that political theater helps them.” he said. “Let’s be clear: this is not about security at this point, this is about political theater.”

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David Zurawik is The Baltimore Sun’s media critic. Email: david.zurawik@baltsun.com; Twitter: @davidzurawik

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