It had to be an odd experience for Jeb Bush, who is accustomed to the adoring deference of Elizabeth Taylor entering Rome in Cleopatra, to find his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference received to the sounds of chirping crickets over the weekend.
Memo to the former Florida governor: The next time you chat up the Torquemada wing of the Republican Party, don't be so reasonable.
During his keynote address before the CPAC Ronald Reagan Dinner, Bush committed the heresy of suggesting if Republicans want to win more national elections the party cannot be dominated by grumpy, middle-aged, mostly white males.
"The face of the Republican Party needs to be the face of every American," Bush told the crowd of grumpy, middle-aged, mostly white males.
He might as well have been talking to Clint Eastwood's empty chair. And in a sense, he was.
You could argue the annual CPAC rite of hand-wringing serves a valuable civic service to the body politic. It highlights the party's next generation of extreme candidates likely to haunt the Republican presidential primary season come 2016.
There was Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who if he had his way would turn the federal government into Grand Duchy of Fenwick.
And there was Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who wowed the crowd by simply finding his way to Maryland.
Also there was Sen. Marco Rubio, who has been running for the presidency since he got former Florida House Speaker Johnnie Byrd his first cup of coffee. Rubio extolled the virtues of individual liberty. Who better to make that tea party argument than a guy who has been collecting a government paycheck for virtually his entire adult life?
And of course what would a CPAC mass harrumph be without the attacks on all things Obama?
Ann Coulter, the Frau Blucher of Fox News, warmed up the crowd by joking that the hairstyle of birth control rights activist Sandra Fluke, who was called a slut by Rush Limbaugh, was birth control enough. Great CPAC hilarity ensued.
But for sheer Plan 9 From Outer Space, parallel universe hypocrisy, former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin showed she's still shallower than a petri dish.
Palin was introduced by the Yellow Blowhard of Texas, the very junior Sen. Ted Cruz. She sucked down a Big Gulp, perhaps to criticize New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's attempt to ban large sugary drinks, or perhaps demonstrate to Rubio how to use a straw.
Then Palin said this: "The last thing we need is Washington, D.C., vetting candidates." Is that so? Really?
After all, this was the same CPAC gathering that refused to invite New Jersey governor and likely presidential candidate Chris Christie to speak. Christie had committed the ultimate CPAC apostasy of commending President Barack Obama's handling of disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
And this was the same CPAC that also declined to extend a speaking invitation Bob McDonnell after the Virginia governor promoted a tax increase to improve transportation in his state.
Two rock-ribbed, conservative Republicans shunned by CPAC because of … what? That weren't crazy enough to share a dais with Michele Bachmann?
Christie and McDonnell weren't viewed as conservatively pure enough because one consorted with a president of the United States and the other did his job.
Adding insult to comic relief, CPAC did regard Donald Trump as suitably extremist to lure him to the podium, not that it took all that much heavy lifting to appeal to his ego.
Trump opined that Mitt Romney lost the presidential election because he didn't brag enough about his vast wealth. Now there's some cogent William F. Buckley political analysis for you.
When a substantial subset of a national political organization regards has-beens, vacant wet-behind-the-ears opportunists, science deniers, self-promoting hustlers and proven ballot box killers as its leading intellectual lights and shuns figures who might have a chance of getting elected because they engaged in consensual bipartisanship or called for greater inclusion, is it little wonder the Republicans have become the party of Mr. Dithers?
Good luck turning them around, Jeb. You'll need it.