I'd been wondering how the nine-year old annual Values Voter Summit would adapt to crisis mode. The first two speakers of the day, Mike Lee and Ted Cruz, were the tag team behind the "defund Obamacare" strategy. They shared a stage that still contained goofy barricades meant to shame Barack Obama for the shutdown that resulted from said strategy. "If God is for you," yelled one supporter in the front rows, "who can be against you?"
But the duo only talked a little about the "defund" campaign. Cruz was halfway through his stemwinder, about to ask the House Republicans to stand their ground, when a series of immigration reform protesters started getting up and shouting identical questions. "Senator Cruz," yelled the first of them, "why don't you support a path to citizenship?"
Cruz, at first, thanked his heckler and asked that the president, too, learn to respect free speech. But the disruptions, from at least seven people, kept happening. The crowd kept shouting "USA!" and "shut up!" Cruz deployed every anti-heckler weapon in his arsenal.
The disruptions (from immigration reformers who either left quickly or told reporters that they were not, in fact, with OFA) took the media's attention away from a speech that consisted largely of Cruz lines that preceded his defeat in the Senate, jokes about Joe Biden -- "just say his name and people laugh!" -- and condemnations of the Feds' crackdown on religious speech. Sen. Rand Paul, who followed Cruz, didn't mention the Obamacare wars at all. Like he's done at other gathers of social-cons, he lit into the Obama administration for daring to fund Muslim terrorists.
"American tax dollars should never be used to prop up a war on Christianity," said Paul, working through horror stories of Christians murdered in Syria. "We should not use American arms, American planes, to arm rebels in Syria. Or the Muslim Brotherhood, for goodness' sake!"
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio batted clean-up, joking that he "hoped the protesters left with Ted." The pro-reform protesters would, of course, have been perfectly happy cheering Rubio. But here, in a room of the sort of social conservatives considered to be natural supporters of immigration reform, Rubio talked about "the breakdown of our culture," not about the need to pass a comprehensive bill.