The political equivalent of Britney Spears shaving the hair off her head, Ann Coulter made headlines at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) by calling Democrat John Edwards a faggot. Wearing a leather dress and a Christian cross around her neck, Coulter must be a liberal infiltrator whose purpose is to give conservatism a bad name.
I really felt sorry for those Republican presidential candidates who attended CPAC and were forced by the liberal media to respond to Coulter’s remarks. It’s guilt-by-association, but Coulter had to know that making such a remark would put those candidates in an uncomfortable, even embarrassing, position. As a former staffer and contributing editor of Human Events, I can’t understand why this conservative weekly publication continues to feature her on the masthead as a “legal affairs correspondent” and puts her columns on page one. Jed Babbin, the new editor, must be sick to his stomach. Coulter’s columns are anything but legal analysis.
In contrast to Coulter, Michelle Malkin, who was the recipient of one of the Reed Irvine Accuracy in Media awards bestowed at CPAC, is an example of a conservative woman who can be provocative while making legitimate points. At our heavily-attended CPAC event, Malkin told me a fascinating story about how she managed to show some of the controversial Mohammad cartoons on Fox News, when the channel had made an editorial decision to avoid them because they were deemed insensitive by radical Muslims. Malkin had a poster of the cartoons at her feet that she suddenly pulled up and showed on the air when the producers didn’t expect it. A Fox News contributor who regularly appears on the O’Reilly Factor, Malkin can be counted on to keep the channel honest. Her associate, Bryan Preston of HotAir.com, delivered a compelling presentation on the CPAC panel on Internet freedom about the efforts of such giants as Google and YouTube to suppress material critical of radical Islam.
AIM’s other award recipient, Mark Alexander of the Patriot Post, is someone who has been a thoughtful contributor to the public dialogue. His on-line journal advocates individual liberty, constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, free enterprise, a strong national defense and traditional American values.
The challenge is to make this kind of presentation, which is essential to our survival as a free and democratic republic, just as fascinating and attractive as Ann Coulter’s bizarre behavior and utterances. Coulter had assumed “rock star” status on the right, but her latest performance may mean that the rock is sinking fast. AIM has announced that it will be discontinuing sales of books by or merchandise promoting Ann Coulter. We hope that other conservative groups follow our lead.
This columnist led the conservative criticism of Coulter when she maliciously referred to a group of 9/11 widows as women who enjoyed their husbands’ deaths. I wrote that “An apology would be consistent with the Christian cross that Coulter frequently wears around her neck.” No apology was forthcoming, but Coulter still wears that cross around her neck.
There were dozens of policy panels at this year’s CPAC dealing with matters of substance like immigration, the United Nations, entitlements, and Internet freedom, but most of those only drew, at best, a couple hundred attendees. Coulter and the presidential candidates drew the biggest crowds. Indeed, the ballroom was jammed with thousands, including many young people, when Coulter performed her routine of one-liners and insults. The “joke” about Edwards being a faggot was greeted by laughter and some applause. My jaw dropped to the floor as one student, during the question and answer period, seriously asked Coulter for some career advice. Another wanted to know how she could get Coulter to her college campus for a speech.
For her part, Coulter protested the invasion of her personal privacy when a left-wing journalist managed to grab the microphone long enough to ask how she had become an advocate of the sanctity of marriage while breaking off three wedding engagements of her own.
I was hard-pressed to understand why Coulter made the Edwards comment, even if it was intended as a joke, when the candidate has a wife and children and has not been the subject of rumors that he is gay. I can only conclude, once again, that the epithet was intended to shock. Coulter garners attention and makes money at the expense of serious conservatism. In this case, Edwards is using Coulter’s comments to generate sympathy and make money—“Coulter cash”—for his own campaign.
Behind the scenes of this year’s conference was a struggle between foreign policy expert Frank Gaffney and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, involving whether Suhail Khan of the Islamic Free Market Institute would be elected to the board of the American Conservative Union, the host of CPAC. Khan, an engaging and friendly fellow, told me he didn’t understand why Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, had waged a campaign to keep him off the board. Gaffney wrote a piece, “Khan Job,” attacking Khan for alleged ties to Islamic extremists. Khan, with the support of Norquist, won.
We had criticized last year’s CPAC for including Soros-funded pro-drug groups like the Drug Policy Alliance. In a major victory, CPAC organizers expelled them this year. The ACLU, whose presence last year sparked controversy as well, was allowed back in, but was so isolated in the exhibit hall that many conservatives didn’t even notice they were there.
There appears to be growing conservative sentiment to give Coulter the ACLU treatment or worse. Citing Coulter’s comments, for example, Amy Ridenour of the National Center for Public Policy Research says it would be better not to have a CPAC than to have one that presents conservatism as a hostile, people-hating ideology.
Michelle Malkin reacted by writing on her blog that “With a single word, Coulter sullied the hard work of hundreds of CPAC participants and exhibitors and tarred the collective reputation of thousands of CPAC attendees.”
Ironically, Coulter’s “joke” about Edwards was presented in the context of saying that if she used the word “faggot” to describe him, she would have to go into rehab. The idea of getting Coulter some professional help doesn’t sound so funny to me.