WASHINGTON -- First, a word about hecklers: It's awful that they get so much attention. A few bad apples in a room of thousands can create the impression of massive dissent, when it really isn't there.
That said, boy, was there a lot of heckling when Donald Rumsfeld arrived at CPAC to accept the Defender of the Constitution Award. The ballroom for big events fills up many minutes in advance. In this instance, the people who wanted to hear Rand Paul speak at 3:45 had to arrive around 2:30, and stay there. If they did, they sat through a speech from Donald Trump (a surprise to attendees who weren't checking the news frequently), and used every possible moment to yell "RON PAUL" at the Donald. When Trump responded to one of the heckles, and said that Paul "can't win" the presidency, there were loud and righteous boos.
It takes a while to exit the ballroom. This means that hundreds of Paul fans -- recognizably younger and sometimes beardier than the median CPAC attendee -- are in the room or in lines as Donald Rumsfeld is introduced.
"I am pleased to recognize our chairman, David Keene, to recognize Donald Rumsfeld," says emcee Ted Cruz.
There are loud boos.
Keene mentions that this is the "Defender of the Constitution Award." More boos; also, shouts of "RON PAUL! RON PAUL!"
When Rumsfeld takes the stage, the boos keep going, because some anti-war conservatives have stuck around to heckle. When it sees Dick Cheney, the crowd's din drowns out the boos... for a while. I find a place on the floor next to several activists wearing Ron Paul gear.
"Bringing in Cheney made it worse," says Nathan Cox, a Richmond, Va. activist and member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. "I kinda feel like yelling something."
He doesn't yell, but another activist yells "Show us the shekels, Dick! Show us the shekels!" It's a not-so-veiled critique of Israel that gets him immediately kicked out. Another anti-war conservative yells "Draft dodger!" and he's kicked out.
By this point, enough supporters of the last Republican administration are in the room to fill it with cheers of "Cheney 2012!" and to drown out a heckler who yells "Where's bin Laden?"