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Ron Paul Supporters Heckle Cheney, Rumsfeld at CPAC

Former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference
Former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

WASHINGTON -- Most of those preparing for the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington this week anticipated a division over social issues, but the real conflict at the convention today erupted between young libertarians and supporters of the Bush administration.

The annual convention has attracted about 11,000 conservatives to the nation's capital, many of them young supporters of libertarian icon Ron Paul. They were ready this afternoon to show their opposition to the Bush administration when former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was presented with the conference's "Defenders of the Constitution" award.

Loud boos resounded through the convention hall as Rumsfeld's name was announced on stage. The numerous young attendees got up from their seats and filed out of the room in protest.

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The commotion only grew when former Vice President Dick Cheney surprised the audience by showing up to honor his longtime friend and White House colleague.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney addresses CPAC. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

The crowd was on its feet, some cheering "Cheney for president!" The boos from CPAC's libertarian contigent continued and at times interrupted Cheney's remarks.

"America is stronger and more secure" because of Rumsfeld's service, Cheney said, prompting one person to loudly shout, "Where's bin Laden at!"

Some of the vice president's supporters shouted, "Shut up!" and started a loud chant of "USA, USA!"

The jeering continued, with some yelling "draft dodger!" at Cheney.

As he accepted his award, Rumsfeld articulated the neoconservative position that has angered libertarians as the United States continues to spend hundreds of billions a year on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Isolationism is a luxry America and the world cannot afford," Rumsfeld said to applause. "Radical Islamists are not cutting back from their recruiting [or other investments]... Neither can we."

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Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for You can read more of her posts here.

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