One of my favorite CPAC moments: Meeting Col. Bud Day, the nation’s most highly decorated soldier since General Douglas MacArthur, and Vietnam veteran Bob McMahon of the Vietnam Veterans Legacy Foundation
The Hot Air team spent the past three, jam-packed days and sleepless nights covering the Conservative Political Action Conference–meeting countless grass-roots activists, catching up with old friends, making new ones, recharging our ideological batteries, working and relaxing with our fellow bloggers, and scrutinizing the GOP presidential candidates. We’ll have video reports beginning later this morning and running throughout next week and you can check out the Hot Air CPAC photo album. We were also inspired at CPAC by many heroes in the conservative movement who will never make the pages of the New York Times. Like these:
Wounded Iraq war veterans honored at CPAC
Wounded Iraq war veteran Josh Sparling receives CPAC’s Defender of the Constitution Award presented by Col. Ollie North.
(L) Matt Sanchez, CPAC honoree, corporal in the Marine Corps Reserve, and a junior at Columbia University; (R) USAFR Major Eric Egland, author of The Troops Need You, America: Six Ways to Help Them Win From Your Living Room
*Update re Matt Sanchez: See here.*
CPAC’s Friday night banquet honored many of these troops, along with modern civil rights leader Ward Connerly (who gave THE best, most eloquent, rousing, passionate, stalwart, and courageous speech of the entire conference), and other conservative leaders. After the dinner, journalist/happy warrior Joel Mowbray quipped to me:
“At left-wing conferences, you leave hating America. At right-wing conferences, you leave loving America.”
That’s exactly how I felt at the end of the dinner after shaking the hands of the disabled vets who came by crutch and wheelchair from Walter Reed to spend a few hours at CPAC.
Enter Ann Coulter.
Her “faggot” joke was not just a distraction from all the good that was highlighted and represented at the conference. It was the equivalent of a rhetorical fragging–an intentionally-tossed verbal grenade that exploded in her own fellow ideological soldiers’ tent.
There are countless conservatives who bring their children to CPAC. It’s a family-friendly event. I brought mine last year and the year before. I met several parents with their kids there this year. We expect CPAC to be a place where conservative role models speak with clarity, passion, and integrity. There are enough spewers of mindless filth, vulgarity, and hatred on TV, at the movies, and in the public schools. We don’t expect our children to be exposed to that garbage at the nation’s preeminent conservative gathering.
I was in the back of the ballroom and did not see any children in the audience during Coulter’s speech. But what if there had been?
Would you want your children hearing the word “faggot” spoken in such a casual and senseless manner? Would you like your first-grader or three-year-old running around the halls of CPAC singing “faggot, faggot, faggot?” Not me. Not anymore than I’d like my toddler singing “gook, gook, gook” or “sambo, sambo, sambo”–favored epithets hurled at conservative minorities by leftist haters groping around in their empty intellectual quivers. There were hundreds of young conservative college students in the ballroom. Would you be proud of your college-age daughter spewing such epithets in her campus debates with leftists?
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. At a reception for college students held by the Young America’s Foundation, I lambasted the substitution of stupid slurs for persuasion– be it “faggot” from a conservative or “gook” from a liberal–and urged the young people there to conduct themselves at all times with dignity in their ideological battles on and off campus.
I made something else explicitly clear: Not all of us treat the communication of conservative ideals and ideas as 24/7 performance art. You can and should use humor to convey your message. You can enlighten and entertain–without becoming a tired old schtick. You can joke without becoming the joke.
On Saturday, Sean Hannity spoke at CPAC. He told the massive crowd that “We have a very pivotal role to play in driving the direction of this country” and urged the attendees to remind the nation “what conservative principles are about.” I wholeheartedly agree. We should remind them that we are not on the same side as Bill Maher, the Huffington Post, and John Edwards’ ex-bloggers who pollute public discourse with shallow, sensational attacks and hide behind the “satire” card when called to account.
Among other things, I asked Sean for his reaction to Coulter’s comments. We’ve posted the video at Hot Air. Partial transcript:
MM: Ann Coulter was here yesterday. She gave a very, mostly funny, speech, and at the end of it, dropped a stinker where she used the term “faggot.” And I’m glad, I have to honestly say, I’m glad I didn’t bring my children here because that’s not the kind of language I would use. What was your reaction to that? Because, predictably, the left is in high dudgeon about it. Howard Dean wants every presidential candidate in the Republican Party to renounce it. Do you think that was a really bad move on her part and should be condemned?
SH: I didn’t hear it. I’d rather see it before I comment on it and whatever. You know, no other person is responsible for what a person says except that person. And so, if they have a problem with what Ann Coulter says, blame Ann Coulter. You can’t blame somebody else for what she said. So I didn’t see it.
MM: Except that we’re all role models here. And there are so many young people they inspire–
SM: –I don’t use that term, so that’s my answer to you if she used it.
GOP presidential candidates were unequivocal, and rightly so:
Mr. Giuliani said, “The comments were completely inappropriate and there should be no place for such name-calling in political debate.”
Kevin Madden, a spokesman for Mr. Romney, said: “It was an offensive remark. Governor Romney believes all people should be treated with dignity and respect.”
I think all the fellow conservatives I met at CPAC will agree that keeping a Democrat out of the White House in 2008 is a goal we will unite behind.
It seems to me that those Democrats would like nothing better than for another Coulter Moment at the pivotal CPAC event in 2008. “Raghead” in 2006. “Faggot” in 2007. What diarrhea of the mouth at the premiere conservative gathering can we all look forward to in a crucial election year with so much at stake in a critical period of American history?
CPAC organizers and co-sponsors ought to think very carefully about the message they want to send next year–and the pivotal role they want to play in the 2008 campaign.
Some defenders think there’s no difference between Coulter’s crude “faggot” remarks about Edwards and Laura Ingraham’s gentle mockery of Edwards’ vanity when she describes him as a “Silky Pony” on her radio show. The latter is witty. The former is witless. That’s the difference.
A reader at Hot Air, where debate is contentious, recommends re-reading George Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Companyand Conversation.
“Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Celestial fire Called Conscience.”
What’s on tap for next year? Will she drop the N-bomb? Will she use the C-word to describe Hillary Clinton? Whatever her plans are, after being burned twice in a row, CPAC shouldn’t invite her back next year.
Some readers are accusing me of not having a sense of humor. Au contraire. I laughed quite heartily at commenters and e-mailers who think my criticism is motivated by “jealousy,” “left-wing tendencies,” or my “need for attention.” Triple-snort-worthy!