(updated below - updated again)
So Ann Coulter appeared as a featured speaker today at the Conservative Political Action Conference -- the preeminent conservative event of the year -- and called John Edwards a "faggot." Her speech was followed by an enthusiastic round of applause from the upstanding attendees.
Last year at the same event, she warned Arab "ragheads" about violence that would be done to them and called for Supreme Court justices to be murdered -- and received standing ovations. Everyone knows what a rancid hate-monger she is, yet (or rather: "therefore") she continues to be invited to the highest-level "conservative" events, be drooled on with admiration by presidential candidates like Mitt Romney, and have little right-wing warriors wait in line around the corner to get her signature on their copies of the books she wrote.
But that's all fine. There are much more important topics to discuss -- like the anonymous commenters at Huffington Post and the bad words said by the bloggers hired for low-level positions by the Edwards campaign. Those are matters of the gravest importance meriting the most solemn condemnation and righteous outrage from all decent people. Those HuffPost commenters have uttered terrible thoughts, and that shows the anger, venom and hatred on the left, among liberals. It is cause for great alarm -- and for headlines.
But the single most prestigious political event for conservatives of the year is a place where conservatives go to hear Democrats called faggots, Arabs called ragheads, and Supreme Court justices labeled as deserving of murder -- not by anonymous, unidentifiable blog commenters, but by one of their most popular featured speakers.
And after she does that, she is cheered wildly by an adoring conservative movement that has made her bigoted and hate-mongering screeds best-sellers, all while they and their deceitful little allies in the media, such as Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post, write idiot tracts about how terribly upset they are by the affront to decency from HuffPost commenters [in between writing obsequious, tongue-wagging profiles of Coulter's most radical ideological allies, such as Michelle Malkin, who penned a lovely defense of the internment of Japanese-Americans, for which even Ronald Reagan apologized (but, I believe, she never cursed while doing so, which is what matters most)].
This is why I wrote so extensively about the Edwards blogger "scandal" and the Cheney comments "scandal." The people feigning upset over those matters are either active participants in, or passive aiders and abetters of, a political movement that, at its very core -- not at its fringes -- knowingly and continuously embraces the most wretched and obvious bigotry and bloodthirsty authoritarianism. They love Ann Coulter -- and therefore continue to make her a venerated part of their political events -- because she provides an outlet, a venting ground, for the twisted psychological impulses and truly hateful face that drives the entire pro-Bush, right-wing spectacle.
The more delicate ones will claim to repudiate her comments in the most limited terms, but their actions speak far louder than their cursory and reluctant words. Anyone who went to this event -- and that includes Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and Dick Cheney -- knew exactly what they would be getting. Coulter's face was prominently plastered on the promotional material. The right-wing political candidates who accepted the invitations to speak there knew exactly the type of people would be there - namely, the type who continously cheer on Ann Coulter's bigoted and nakedly hateful screeds. Anyone who makes themselves a part of that event is purposely associating themselves with those sentiments. That is what this Conference is for.
None of this is news, particularly. This is a movement propelled by an insatiable hunger for more slaughter and more wars. It is centrally dependent upon hatred of an Enemy, foreign or domestic -- the Terrorist, the Immigrant, the Faggot, the Raghead, and most of all, the Liberal. As John Dean brilliantly documented, that is the only real feature that binds the "conservative" movement at this point, the only attribute that gives it identity and purpose. It does not have any affirmative ideas, only a sense of that which it hates and wants to destroy. So to watch as the crowd wildly cheers an unapologetic hatemonger is perfectly natural and not at all surprising.
But we should, at the very least, be able to have a moratorium on all of the scandals driven by their claims to be so offended and upset when anonymous commenters on a blog say mean things, or when bloggers use curse words, or when Senators transparently botch a joke. The ugliest and most obscene sentiments are openly expressed not by their blog commenters or even bloggers -- though that is true -- but by their most admired and successful political leaders, the ones whom their presidential candidates desperately seek to embrace and for whom their most committed throngs cheer wildly.
That is why it is difficult to refrain from commenting, with increasing disgust, on all of their Decency and "anti-Anger" scandals, abetted by the Howard Kurtzs and Terry Morans of the world who are every bit as much one of them as they are anything else. This is a movement driven by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity -- who, along with Bill O'Reilly, are by far the most popular and successful right-wing pundits. Shouldn't every rational and decent person convulse with anger or at least scornful laughter whenever this movement claims to find offensive or upsetting indecent remarks coming from others or when they accuse others of being angry and hateful?
UPDATE: The Conference attendees who will say that they do not approve of Coulter's "joke" will act as though they found her behavior unexpected or surprising -- just as they did last year and every other time she has made similar comments. But three weeks ago, Coulter was on Fox and made virtually identical remarks -- not about Edwards specifically, just the hilarious complaint that people who say the word "faggot" have to enter rehab.
No right-wing supporter (that I know of) complained when they learned that Coulter would be a featured speaker at this event. No prominent "conservative" (that I know of) refused to be a part of the event because Coulter was a featured speaker. Thus, any claims to find what she said so deeply offensive should be weighed against their much more meaningful actions in attending.
UPDATE II: Andrew Sullivan was (I believe) present at this event, and said this about Coulter's speech:
When you see her in such a context, you realize that she truly represents the heart and soul of contemporary conservative activism, especially among the young. The standing ovation for Romney was nothing like the eruption of enthusiasm that greeted her. . . .
Her endorsement of Romney today - "probably the best candidate" - is a big deal, it seems to me. McCain is a non-starter. He is as loathed as Clinton in these parts. Giuliani is, in her words, "very, very liberal." One of his sins? He opposed the impeachment of Bill Clinton. That's the new standard. She is the new Republicanism. The sooner people recognize this, the better.
She is the face of what the hard-core Republican Party has become, particularly during the Bush presidency. That is why she holds the position she holds in that movement. That's why Mitt Romney was giddy with glee when her name passed his lips. He knows that her endorsement is valuable precisely because she holds great sway within the party, and she holds great sway because the hard-core party faithful consider her a hero for expressing the thoughts which they themselves believe but which other, less courageous Republican figures are afraid to express.
This is not about a single comment or isolated remark. The more Ann Coulter says these things, the more popular she becomes in this movement. What this is about is that she reflects exactly what sort of political movement this is. She reflects its true impulses and core beliefs. If that were not the case, why would she continue to receive top billing at their most prestigious events, and why would she continue to be lavished with rock star-adoration by the party faithful?