NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Only at the Conservative Political Action Conference will people tell you that the most dangerous country in the world is Washington, D.C.
BuzzFeed put the same question to dozens of people at the annual conservative get-together over the past three days: "Which country in the world poses the greatest threat to America?"
The diverse responses — which ranged from standard-issue concerns about Iran to less predictable answers — offered a fascinating glimpse at the in-flux nature of current conservative foreign policy.
"My answer is, 'the principality of Washington, D.C.,'" said Republican moneyman Foster Friess with a wink.
"The answer to that would be America itself," said Peter Schiff, a libertarian former candidate for Senate in Connecticut. "Iran is a small thing next to Washington, D.C."
Former Congressman Allen West gave a multipart answer.
"There are three levels of warfare; strategic, operational, and tactical. So on the immediate term, I would say Iran. In the operational, I would say that would be Russia. And in the long term I would say China," said West. "But I would also say that there are non-state non-uniform belligerents that are trans-national that we have to worry about, and that's that radical Islamic terrorism."
"That would be Iran, and Ahmadinejad's desire to wipe us off the map," said William Temple, a fixture at Tea Party gatherings who wears a colonial outfit and carries a "Don't Tread On Me" flag. "But Egypt's becoming more of a problem, with all those Abrams tanks Obama's sending to Morsi."
"Iran, because [Ahmadinejad's] so unpredictable," said Tanya Grimsley, a conservative activist who runs a website called AllenWestRepublic.com. "I mean, if anyone's going to launch a jihad or something...I don't worry as much about China, because if they destroy us, where China's concerned, they hurt where their money is coming from, you know what I'm saying? Iran, they don't care. It's just global jihad."
"Iran. China wants to catch up with us, they don't necessarily want to kill us. An awful number of people in Iran want to kill us," said Barbara Bowie-Whitman, a conservative activist from Virginia.
"Iran. They're going to attack us with a nuclear weapon," said Timothy Finn, another conservative activist from New York.
"I would say Iran, because of their aggressive nature," said Naomi Lubkin, from New Jersey. "North Korea is bad as well, but Iran has the money to do it. And they're working on their nukes."
"Iran. They're radical Muslims and they're working on a bomb," said Virginia Cheezum, of Virginia.
China was also a popular choice.
"China, because they're about to surpass us economically," said Justin Fiehrer, a 23-year-old CPAC event staffer. "And we've been having problems with them hacking us."
"China, because they're communists, because of the way they behave, they want to be the dominant power in the Pacific. Want more?" said CPAC attendee Patrick Spann.
Some respondents were a bit swayed by conspiracy theories.
"Bin Laden and his guys are street punks compared to China," said Gary Laconis, a worker for Rick Santorum's Patriot Voices organization. "Because of their one child policy, for every American man woman and child they have a fighting age man. If they wanted to, if they had a rogue general who decided to come over here and collect their debt from us, we're in trouble. The potential's there. Plus, they don't have the same morals we have. They're using us as long as Obama's giving them free information. Obama just gave them high-level NASA secrets."
And one respondent refused to single out any geographic locations at all.
"Can I tweak the question?" asked Gregg Cummings of Tea Party Patriots. "I would say Islam. Or 'the nation of Islam.'"
Rosie Gray is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C. Gray reports on politics and foreign policy.
Contact Rosie Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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