Ann Coulter, Rudy Giuliani, & the Republican Crossroads

The 2007 Conservative Political Action Conference has concluded, and by now you’ve heard all about Ann Coulter’s joke that she couldn’t talk about presidential wannabe John Edwards because you have to go into rehab if you say “faggot.”

In Ann’s defense, there wasn’t any homophobic intent behind the joke. It was something comics do all the time: insult someone by referencing a recent headline (actor Isaiah Washington’s gay slur). It was as much a commentary on the politically-correct silliness of rehab for simply letting a crude word slip as it was a dig against Edwards. Ann explained this on Hannity & Colmes Monday night, as well as that she didn’t intend at all to suggest that Edwards is secretly gay—rather, that he’s precisely the kind of sissy sleaze that make prime targets for such sophomoric insults.

(And for what it’s worth, the whole affair produced one of the most priceless examples of liberal hypocrisy we’ll ever see—the same guy who tried to hold onto two actual bigots in his employ suddenly pretended to care about bigotry…as long as he could make a quick buck.)

Ann is no homophobe; in fact, half the time she references gays, the context is something like this:

“Curiously, these proponents of tolerance always choose ‘gay’ as their most searing epithet. Joe McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover, Matt Drudge,[Ken] Starr’s prosecutors, Linda Tripp’s lawyer, Christopher Hitchens, Mel Gibson—all these have been denounced as homosexuals at some point by liberals. The New York Times’s Frank Rich (now there’s someone who would never be called a homo) outed David Brock when he was still on the right. Rich favorably cited Christopher Hitchens—who himself was called a fag by liberals when he crossed them—for calling Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ an exercise in ‘sadomasochistic male narcissism.’ Arguing with liberals instantly becomes a game of gay-baiting musical chairs. We just don’t think they should get married. Liberals actually hate homosexuals.” (How To Talk to a Liberal, p. 15)

In Treason, Ann delves into the Left’s fascination with McCarthy staffer Roy Cohn’s sexual orientation, as well as their homophobic smear campaign against ex-Soviet Whittaker Chambers. Furthermore, as Sean Hannity pointed out in the above interview, she wasn’t exactly Fred Phelps when gays came up during the Q&A.

“So Ann’s joke was fine?” Not so fast. Though insensitivity rehab is certainly a worthy target for skewering (I mean, come on: just repeat that phrase a few times: INSENSITIVITY REHAB), Ann didn’t deliver it in a way that conveyed the nuance (probably impossible as long as the word was in there at all). As long as it was about that and Edwards, it was completely eclipsed by “Edwards is a fag.”

Conservatives will always be likened to racists, fascists, and homophobes, regardless of what we say. The Left proved that when they misrepresented Ann’s commentary on the Jersey Girls in Godless. But the insults against them were justified because Ann put together a strong case against their character along with them (to recap, 1: “[The Jersey Girls] first came together to complain that the $1.6 million average settlement to be paid to 9/11 victims’ families by the government was not large enough”—p. 103, emphasis added; 2: the Jersey Girls had selective moral outrage—they weren’t nearly as interested in finding the truth behind, for example, Jamie Gorelick’s actions during the Clinton years).

At CPAC, Ann didn’t have that. It pains me to say it, but in making the joke, Ann was reckless. She should have dropped it entirely (besides, the line wasn’t important enough to warrant a new battle, and Ann is capable of so much better; I’m sure she could’ve had a field day with Bloggergate). Instead, the fallout has overshadowed a lot of good that came out of CPAC—not the least of which was the strong showing of Mitt Romney, perhaps conservatism’s best hope for 2008 (some video here). (Although, to be realistic, the mainstream media never would have given us credit for the good anyway.)

So Ann deserves some criticism. Michelle Malkin got it basically right on the Factor. The GOP Big 3 distanced themselves and moved on. Fine.

Apparently that’s not enough for a segment of the conservative blogosphere. Enter the “Open Letter to CPAC Sponsors and Organizers Regarding Ann Coulter:”

“Denouncing Coulter is not enough. After her ‘raghead’ remark in 2006 she took some heat. Yet she did not grow and learn. We should have been more forceful. This year she used a gay slur. What is next? If Senator Barack Obama is the de facto Democratic Presidential nominee next year will Coulter feel free to use a racial slur? How does that help conservatism?
“One of the points of CPAC is the opportunity it gives college students to meet other young conservatives and learn from our leaders. Unlike on their campuses—where they often feel alone—at CPAC they know they are part of a vibrant political movement. What example is set when one highlight of the conference is finding out what shocking phrase will emerge from Ann Coulter’s mouth? How can we teach young conservatives to fight for their principles with civility and respect when Ann Coulter is allowed to address the conference? Coulter’s invective is a sign of weak thinking and unprincipled politicking.
“CPAC sponsors, the Age of Ann has passed. We, the undersigned, request that CPAC speaking invitations no longer be extended to Ann Coulter. Her words and attitude simply do too much damage.”
We’re not going to let one of conservatism’s most vibrant voices speak at all? (I guess they think a stage full of old guys is good enough to repel the usual stereotypes of American politics.) This is not just rejecting an insensitive joke. This is political grandstanding. “Hey! Look at us! We’re better than Ann Coulter!” These people want Ann gone from the conservative movement. The apparent leader of the grandstanders, Sean Hackbarth seems to have a long-standing grudge against Ann, including peddling lefty plagiarism smears that have been debunked by others. Nice.
Wisconsin’s own Owen Robinson said “Coulter has already lost most mature conservatives. Hopefully [her fans] will grow out of their hero worship of Coulter and begin to take their espoused philosophy seriously…She has no place in the serious conservative community.” It’s curious, then, that this “mature, serious conservative,” this professional, responsible blogger, felt justified in dropping the other f-bomb TWICE just days earlier. Why? He was “ticked off.”
Robinson isn’t the only hypocrite signatory. Kevin McCullough apparently suspended his belief in “mainstream appeal” when he authored such non-inflammatory columns as: “Why Liberals Channel Lucifer”, “Why Liberal Feminists Support School Shootings”, “Why Liberals Love Pedophiles”, and “Why Unions Are Like Terrorists”. Can’t you just see McCullough fume with jealous rage each time a new Coulter book hits the NYT bestseller list?
But there’s a bigger problem here. Listening to these conservatives, you’d think Ann Coulter was the greatest threat to conservatism we’ve ever seen. Hardly. There was a serious threat to the credibility of the conservative movement at CPAC. And you know what, folks? Many of you clapped for him.
Meet Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Giuliani’s liberal stances outweigh his conservative ones. His best appeals to the Right—solid judges and wartime leadership—are trumped-up. He lacks the basic moral comprehension to stand against abortion, the slavery of our day. His choice of personnel shows either incompetence or ethical bankruptcy. If he is our nominee, the Democrats will accuse his Clinton-bashing supporters of hypocrisy on personal morals—and the Democrats will be right.
All this, yet he’s our party’s frontrunner, and he won second place in the straw poll of an event professing to be a conservative gathering. Why? Because he’s “electable,” character and values be damned. And even that assumption is highly dubious. As John Hawkins writes (first link two paragraphs up):
“[Giuliani] offers almost nothing to social conservatives, without whom a victory for George Bush in 2004 wouldn’t have been possible. If the choice in 2008 comes down to a Democrat and a pro-abortion, soft on gay marriage, left-of-center candidate on social issues—like Rudy—you can be sure that millions of ‘moral values voters’ will simply stay home and cost the GOP the election.
“The other issue is in the South. George Bush swept every Southern state in 2000 and 2004, which is quite an impressive feat when you consider that the Democrats had Southerner Al Gore at the top of the ticket in 2000 and John Edwards as the veep in 2004. Unfortunately, a pro-abortion, soft on gay marriage, pro-gun control RINO from New York City just isn’t going to be able to repeat that performance. Even against a carpetbagger like Hillary Clinton, it’s entirely likely that you’ll see at least 2 or 3 states in the South turn from red to blue if Rudy Giuliani is the nominee.”Also, the reason why George Bush’s approval numbers have been mired in the high thirties/low forties of late is because he has lost a significant amount of Republican support, primarily because his domestic policies aren’t considered conservative enough. Since that’s the case, running a candidate who is several steps to Bush’s left on domestic policy certainly doesn’t seem like a great way to unite the base again.”
I would add this: Many agree that President Bush’s mismanagement of the Iraq War contributed heavily to our ’06 loss. So why on God’s green Earth does the Republican establishment think the answer is a candidate whose public statements on Iraq consist of nothing but Bush cheerleading? Consider that we’re being told Rudy-the-Terror-Warrior trumps all his other stances, and it’s even more maddening. Logic like this makes me expect to see Rod Serling pop up any minute now and explain what parallel universe he’s got in store for us this week.
This Coulter letter shows that the blogosphere knows how to get active when it wants to, so why choose this brouhaha to take a stand? Where was the “Open Letter to CPAC Sponsors & Organizers Regarding Rudy Giuliani” demanding that the mayor be disinvited? You guys say you care about the conservative movement, so why is a tasteless joke more important than a presidential frontrunner whose positions are, for the most part, a direct repudiation of conservatism and whose record raises serious character and competence questions? I know some of the signatories have raised questions about Giuliani, but his presence in the party & at CPAC seems tolerated far more than Ann Coulter’s—an obscene misplacement of priorities.
I have a question for all of the conservatives who are open to the idea of Giuliani ’08: Do any of you have the slightest clue what the term “standard-bearer” means? Anyone? It means our presidential candidate sets the standard for our party to follow. He’s our number-one representative. He’s supposed to be among the best our party has to offer—not merely average, and definitely not among the worst. Does anybody want to seriously argue that a liberal Republican leader would not move the party Leftward?
George W. Bush would not be president today if not for the support of religious Americans who saw the chaos wreaked upon society by the secular Left and were crying out for a leader to stand up to it. Many of us devoted countless hours to his reelection primarily in the hopes of stopping the slaughter of defenseless babies, the radical redefinition of marriage, and the ideological rot in our courts—not simply because we wanted another point for the GOP’s scoreboard.
Our efforts have been rewarded in disappointment: Bush has been silent on the Culture War, inept on the Iraq War, and part of the problem for Americans who value our national sovereignty. So to say the conservative base is wary of trusting the Republican establishment again would be an understatement.
What are the odds that a candidate worse than Bush in nearly every way can repair that damaged trust and reignite that squandered passion?
It’s not the Ann Coulters of the world who are guilty of sacrificing the conservative movement in the name of success. The Fred Barnes’s, the George Wills, and the Sean Hannitiys are. Ann’s full CPAC speech doesn’t show some attention whore willing to destroy conservatism for book sales. It shows the same fearless, straight-talking, rambunctious-yet-intellectual, genuine conservative she’s always been. She makes mistakes. She made another one at CPAC (yet some “conservatives” are rewriting history—the “faggot” joke got more than its share of laughter & applause, and Hackbarth’s Hacks probably won’t mention her sincere appeal to gays regarding criminal protection). But her commitment to America’s future and to the viability of conservatism are the real deal—which is more than can be said of many on the “respectable” Right.
This election cycle is a crossroads for conservatism. In this nomination process, we are choosing what kind of entity we want the Republican Party to be: a serious crusader for our Constitution and values, or a cheap cabal whose highest value is power (ironically, power they’ll end up losing, like a Greek or Shakespearean tragedy come to life).
My fellow Americans, make your choice. Just don’t be surprised if the “electable” guy proves instead to be the GOP’s death knell.

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